Meghan Kell Cornell

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Inside View: Meghan Kell Cornell, Kell Architect(s)

  • July 18, 2013 - 4:26 PM

Meghan Kell Cornell

founding principal of Kell Architect(s)

Meghan Kell Cornell, a residential architect and founding principal of Kell Architect(s), was named an American Institute of Architects Minnesota Young Architect for 2013. The award is for architects who’ve been licensed for less than 10 years. Kell Cornell followed in the footsteps of her semiretired father, Duane Kell, founding partner of Minneapolis-based Ankeny Kell Architects. She’s based in his old office space in St. Paul. She designs new-home construction as well as remodeling and additions, and has found a niche in cabins and historic home rehabs. Before launching her practice in 2010, Kell Cornell was with SALA Architects in Minneapolis.

Q: Did you always plan to become an architect?

A: No. I grew up thinking that architecture work is nonstop, all the time. My dad owned his own business, and so he did work nonstop, all the time. That really disillusioned me from getting involved in architecture, but I had lived with it and it has been taught to me all of my life, so it’s in me automatically. When I finally started taking art classes [during college], I decided that this might be the right direction to go. And it was. It’s totally a natural progression for me.

Q: Did you hang out at your father’s office as a child?

A: Yes. I would work alongside him. I’d be given the big fat architectural rendering markers to doodle on the trace paper, which was fun, and now my kids are doing that with me.

Q: Why choose residential architecture?

A: I like the personal client contact. It’s not public or corporate money. It’s personal money and means so much to them. … I also like the level of detail involved in houses. The scale is smaller than commercial design so you can really focus in on special pieces of a home.

Q: Why launch your own firm?

A: The economy was really bleak, in particular for architecture and especially for residential architecture. … Because workloads were so low at SALA, I had an opportunity to take some time off and just be a mom. So I did, or I tried. As soon as I left SALA, I started getting calls from a couple of past clients saying. “We’re ready to start phase two. We need you.” So my firm just started blooming right away.

Q: You design a lot of cabins?

A: Yes. I’m working on an older remodel and addition right outside of Voyageurs National Park [in northern Minnesota]. We’re designing it so it fits with the surrounding environment and takes advantage of views and daylight direction and can accommodate multiple generations of a family.

Q: And you do historic rehabs?

A: I’m working with the St. Paul Historic Preservation Commission on an old home on Summit Avenue that’s getting a renovation/addition. These projects need to abide by HPC’s guidelines but also work for modern-family living. Finding how to marry those two things is really interesting, and finding solutions is exciting.

Liz Wolf is a freelance writer in Eagan. She can be reached at

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