Scott Helmes, an architect and multifaceted artist, always kept a tidy room, says his sister.

"Even as a little boy, he was building and creating," said Julia Gaskell, Helmes' younger sister. "He was very low-key, even modest. But he was incredibly talented."

That fastidious boy would grow up to be an internationally renowned artist and celebrated architect. Helmes, whose full name was Leslie Scott Helmes, died in January at age 77.

Across the Twin Cities, Helmes' architectural vision is embedded in his redesign for Minneapolis City Hall council chambers, and his visual poetry graces the glass wall at the Rondo Community Outreach Library. As principal at Skaaden Helmes, the Mahtomedi native and graduate of the University of Minnesota specialized in contracts for medical facilities, including the Virginia Piper Cancer Center, extending care for individuals through design.

With an inexhaustible creative gusto and a mild-mannered Midwestern, soft-spoken humility, Helmes pursued other passions. He attained status as a visual poet, as well as a stamp and mail artist. His design firm, S2BH, marketed tabletop artwork in museums, including the Walker Art Center. His automatic writing to musical scores can be found in the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. His visual poetry sits in the Ohio State University's Avant Writing Collection.

"His poetry was sort of traditional, but he really stood out in his visual approach to things," said John Bennett, a retired OSU professor and curator of the collection. "I think it was related to his architectural work, as a kind of drawing that he did using rubber stamps, using inks, using pens and markers. The stuff is really beautiful."

Friends and family say defining Helmes in a singular endeavor risks overshadowing his polyphonic talents.

"I could show him plans that my team had done, and if the city inspector called him weeks later, he could completely recollect them from memory," said Margret Lemkins, an interior designer in Minneapolis.

Helmes constructed a constellation of artists and collaborators around the United States. Eventually these ties, friends say, became conduits for affection and creativity. Friends recounted receiving expert calligraphy in the mail. Gaskell said Helmes wrote haiku for her three grandsons.

"On my birthday, he would call and sing to me," said Wendy Collin Sorin, an artist in Durham, N.C. "He had a great sense of humor."

Helmes spotted beauty in the ordinary and alacrity in the mundane. His rubber stamp collection numbered some 70,000 pieces.

Helmes chased other wide-ranging pursuits, often skiing or sailing with his partner, Kay Arndt. Helmes even organized Frosty Ski School, serving children with disabilities, and served as the Alpine coach for the Special Olympics' 1992 and 1993 international games.

"Creativity for most artists comes in fits and starts," said Harriet Bart, a Minneapolis artist and longtime collaborator. "Not Scott, he was very fluid and enormously generous."

Arndt, his companion for more than 40 years, said Helmes had a studio repurposed from a salvaged garage in their St. Paul backyard, and another studio at the Thorp Building in northeast Minneapolis.

"He believed, and I believe, that art makes life worthwhile," Arndt said. "Some people can play golf and then go to their jobs. That wasn't Scott. That wasn't him at all."

A celebration of Helmes' life is being planned for the summer.