Director of architecture-housing for Ryan Cos. US Inc.
Veteran architect Todd Novak, 38, has designed everything from Class A office buildings and biomedical facilities to upscale residential lofts and posh hotels. Now he’s been hired to head up the growing architecture-housing division for Minneapolis-based Ryan Cos. US Inc.
Ryan’s local housing projects include the luxury 222 Hennepin Apartments in downtown Minneapolis — set to open this summer — and a mixed-use/residential redevelopment of the Associated Bank site at Snelling and Selby Avenues in St. Paul, which is in early planning stages.
Before joining Ryan, Novak led many notable projects, including the Pillsbury A Mill Historic Lofts in Minneapolis and the Opera House Lofts historic renovation in Grand Forks, N.D. He was also a key team member of the Mark G. Yudof Residence Hall and Target Plaza South Tower, both in Minneapolis. He most recently was the managing architect for the BKV Group in Minneapolis.
Q: Why pursue architecture?
A: My father is an architect. My mother went to architectural school, so I didn’t have much choice but to go into architecture … I grew up going to construction sites and sleeping under my father’s drafting table. I have a sister who works for ESG Architects. Growing up, it was just a very creative environment. We were always painting and drawing.
Q: Do you have that same environment for your kids?
A: We do. They’re amazing. They’re far better than I ever was at that age. They’re 4, 6 and 7 and are my greatest inspiration.
Q: What was your first job in architecture?
A: I was a summer intern with LHB in Minneapolis, and they offered me a full-time job at the end of the summer. I worked there while finishing up my undergrad.
Q: Besides the local projects, what else are you working on at Ryan?
A: We have a very exciting project that’s in the early planning stages in downtown Chicago. It’s a 41-story, rental housing building. It’s a fantastic site and a very interesting city, so there’s a lot of richness to the site and location. We have another project under construction in downtown Davenport, Iowa. It’s a historic renovation of an old Wells Fargo building that will include office and housing.
Q: Do you prefer working on historic renovations or ground-up projects?
A: I like both. The thing I love about historic renovation work is you’ve got such a rich history of the building that you can draw on for inspiration. … It’s also a huge challenge and forces you to be a little more creative. You’ve got constraints because the building is already there, and you have to work with what years have done to it. … In new construction, it’s more of a blank page and offers the chance to create a new piece of urban fabric that serves as the catalyst for growth.
Liz Wolf is an Eagan-based freelance writer. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.