Every year, the American Institute of Architects Minnesota — the professional association for the state’s architects, with 2,300 members — announces its Honor Awards, which “recognize outstanding architecture and urban design” by AIA Minnesota members and firms.

For 2019, seven recipients were selected from 69 projects; all were evaluated for their “degree of design invention, attention to detail, achievement of sustainable design and other factors.” The projects range from a wayside rest stop to a lakeside cabin to a college arts complex.

Janet Wallace Fine Arts Center, Phase III: Theater and Dance, Macalester College

St. Paul/HGA Architects and Engineers, Mpls.

Description: When the $32 million theater/dance wing opened this past spring, it marked the conclusion of a three-step transformation that expanded and modernized a 1965 multiuse complex. A music/commons area opened in 2012, the studio arts segment debuted two years later and this third phase features classrooms, rehearsal spaces and performance venues that emphasize flexibility and cross-disciplinary work.

Jury comments: “The black box theater was rendered poetically on both the interior and exterior. The fixed element of the exterior screen evokes the kind of drapery and theatrics you will find in the interior. The attention to detail throughout the project was exquisite, and there was a cohesive quality to the project that brought all of the spaces to life.”

Foraged Boathouse

Togo, Minn./Kara Hill Studio, Mpls.

Description: This portable, self-built storage structure was crafted from an abandoned shipping container and finished with scrap recycled steel, glass samples from previous work projects and cedar trunks foraged from nearby rotting trees.

Jury comments: “This project is an act of love; even on such a tiny scale, it felt like a personal, intimate expression of environmental values. There is so much detail in a project with just three materials: a cargo container, cedar stumps and glass. The contrast between the ‘found’ object of the cargo container against the wood and glass was highly refined but lacked pretension and preciousness.”


Minneapolis/Christian Dean Architecture, Mpls., and CityDeskStudio, St. Paul

Description: The Glenwood corridor, just west of downtown Minneapolis, is moving away from its light industrial past. This urban metamorphosis is exemplified by this expansion of an existing building, which serves as the dynamic workplace of a full-service creative agency.

Jury comments: “The custom corrugation of the zinc exterior skin creates a sense of animation in the pleating that feels almost like it could be expanded or contracted like a curtain. Each phase of the day brings a new experience with the building’s skin, helping it come alive. The ideas of the exterior were carried through the interior of the project, with a great deal of restraint and methodical application of the palette.”

Rothe Amundson cabin

Cornucopia, Wis./Salmela Architect, Duluth

Description: The primary structure — with plentiful windows that supply both sunlight and cross ventilation — is a good neighbor to a restored log cabin. The main cabin’s interior walls and ceilings are locally milled aspen, and the heated floors are black slate.

Jury comments: “This is a residential design with a strong personality, that takes its cues from the site itself. The simple forms and pops of color create a strong character for the house but allow it to weave itself into the forested site; it resonates with ‘understated funkiness.’ Even with a great deal of glass, we get the sense of being surrounded by the forest in a soft, inviting way.”

Minnehaha Academy Upper Campus

Minneapolis/Cuningham Group Architecture Inc., Mpls.

Description: A 2017 natural gas explosion killed two people, wounded nine others and gutted two campus buildings. This addition and renovation project maintains a strong visual connection to the adjacent Mississippi River valley and features student commons, a library, lounges, a prayer chapel and a mix of learning spaces.

Jury comments: “Once we understood the history behind the project, we saw how the architecture spoke to the history of the site while reorienting the school to the landscape, with new academic wings that connect to nature and views. The commons area powerfully recognizes the history of the tragic explosion, and the historic and new materials coexist beautifully to create a new vision for the future while connecting to the past.”

Goose Creek Safety Rest Area

Harris, Minn./VJAA Inc., Mpls.

Description: Located about 50 miles north of the Twin Cities on Interstate 35, this scenic freeway rest area dates to the 1960s. This remake preserves the original design’s circular patterns and its features include trails, picnic pavilions, seating and the primary rest area building.

Jury comments: “The loop program of this building connects the experience of the building strongly to its place. It is playful, allowing those on the loop path to feel as though they are walking in the forest, offering an opportunity for exploration and discovery at a building with a very utilitarian purpose. The openness of the buildings also increases the feeling of safety and security for travelers.”

Derby Line I-91 Land Port of Entry

Derby Line, Vt./HGA Architects and Engineers, Mpls.

Description: At this gateway for those entering the United States from Canada, the emphasis was on combining a welcoming environment with state-of-the-art security, screening and inspection systems. Features include visitor lobbies, inspection areas and exterior canopies.

Jury comments: “This project organized a very complex set of station programs in a clear and architectural way. There’s a cohesive formal strategy and materials strategy that go hand in hand and that work at all scales. We were really impressed by the materials dialogue between the concrete and wood, the cuts and incisions into this gate or box, and the integration of all the equipment and function of a border station and all the screens and security that can really get bogged down.”