In a virtual ceremony held Dec. 4, seven Honor Awards and three Framework for Design Excellence Commendations were announced by the American Institute of Architects Minnesota.

The annual awards program dates to 1954 and recognizes "outstanding built projects by AIA Minnesota members, or firms that are owned by AIA Minnesota members, that practice professionally in Minnesota."

The commendations, new in 2020, recognize submissions that excel in one of 10 categories: integration, equitable communities, ecosystems, water, economy, energy, well-being, resources, change and discovery.

Fifty-nine projects were evaluated by a jury of three architects: Andrea Love of Payette in Boston, Patricia Rhee of EYRC in Los Angeles and Barry Alan Yoakum of Archimania in Memphis. AIA Minnesota has a mission of "advancing a vital profession, vibrant communities and architecture that endures." The organization was founded in 1892 and has nearly 2,300 members.

Honor Awards

510, Minneapolis

Firm of record: MSR Design, Minneapolis.

Description: The 39-year-old architecture and interior design firm was its own client for the design of its new 14,400-square-foot studio, which is located in a historic downtown office building.

Comments: "The jury was impressed by this ultra-sustainable workplace, and felt it was a great example of sustainable corporate design."

Bell Museum, Falcon Heights

Firm of record: Perkins + Will, Minneapolis.

Description: Minnesota's nature museum, established in 1872, has a new $79 million home that features a planetarium, the museum's famous three-dimensional dioramas (which include their original 1940s painted backdrops) and a wide range of interactive exhibition areas. The 90,000-square-foot facility is on a 5-acre site on the University of Minnesota's St. Paul campus.

Comments: "Beyond the impressive list of sustainability measures, this project was noted for its beautiful details, materiality and engagement with the site and the community."

Countryside Community Church, Omaha, Neb.

Firm of record: HGA, Minneapolis and Alley Poyner Macchietto Architecture, Omaha.

Description: In 2019, this United Church of Christ congregation relocated to a new church in Tri-Faith Commons, a 32-acre interfaith campus that also includes a temple and a mosque. The 65,000-square-foot facility features a sanctuary, a chapel, classrooms, a banquet hall and a coffee shop.

Comments: "The jury noted the church's synergy of vision, program and artistry, and its overall feeling of inclusivity, accessibility and beauty, and embodiment of the spirit of worship."

Second + Second, Minneapolis

Firm of record: Snow Kreilich Architects, Minneapolis.

Description: Located in the North Loop, this six-level, mixed-use development includes 158 apartments plus ground-floor retail space. The building's footprint is organized around a landscaped, open-to-the-public courtyard.

Comments: "The jury appreciated the economy of this multifamily residential building and the way it integrates into an overall contextual harmony while still feeling fresh and to human scale."

St. Paul Academy and Summit School Upper School Addition and Renovation, St. Paul

Firm of record: HGA, Minneapolis.

Description: A new addition features math and science classrooms and labs, and existing structures were renovated to create humanities classrooms as well as study and social spaces. HGA also designed the private K-12 school's performing arts center, which opened in 2015.

Comments: "The jury felt this project represents a successful response to a difficult design challenge of designing within the context of buildings of different historical eras. The result is a timeless yet modern, well-scaled design complex."

St. Paul Residences, St. Paul

Firm of record: Snow Kreilich Architects, Minneapolis.

Description: A pair of residences occupy a single site. The larger of the two was designed as an aging-in-place home for a married couple, and the smaller house was created for a family member and his caregivers.

Comments: "Sophisticated and refined, this project was noted for its modern look that took inspiration from its residential context, and the way it accommodates a range of lifestyles, from alternative care to remote working to aging in place."

Westwood Hills Nature Center, St. Louis Park

Firm of record: HGA, Minneapolis.

Description: This 13,500-square-foot interpretive center, which features a series of multipurpose education and exhibition spaces, embodies the city's sustainability strategies. It replaced an aging facility and is the centerpiece of a 160-acre nature park.

Comments: "The jury was impressed by this zero-energy nature center, which they felt was well aligned with its goal of the building being a teaching tool itself, and recognized it as a great model for nature centers in the future."


Electric Bungalow, St. Paul

Firm of record: Salmela Architect, Duluth.

Award: Commendation for Excellence in Design: Energy.

Description: A three-bedroom, solar-powered, sustainably minded residence, designed for an aging-in-place ownership.

Comments: "The jury highlighted this project's exemplary job fusing sustainability with design, with a focus on reducing the project's embodied carbon. They also appreciate the whimsical yet intentional fenestration, and detailing that feels modern yet respects the home's residential context."

Spring Creek Residence, Northfield

Firm of record: VJAA Inc., Minneapolis.

Award: Commendation for Excellence in Design: Economy.

Description: The house and garage of this solar-powered home, which is located in a recently developed subdivision, are connected by a private courtyard.

Comments: "Lauded as a great model for future residential design by building only what is needed and will be used most on a daily basis, this project was recognized by the jury for its stark simplicity, beauty, pragmatic design and the way it 'quietly minds its own business' in its new residential development."

X House, Marquette, Mich.

Firm of record: Snow Kreilich Architects, Minneapolis.

Award: Commendation for Excellence in Design: Integration.

Description: Plentiful floor-to-ceiling glass allows this minimalist, single-family retreat (with its X-shaped layout) to take full advantage of its wooded and rocky site, which overlooks Lake Superior.

Comments: "The jury felt this project was extremely well crafted in its detail, representing a unity of design and sustainable, high-energy performance. It balances its context with a refined character in form and materiality, and nestles beautifully into its site."

Rick Nelson • @RickNelsonStrib