JS: Diverse. Focused. Respectful. We strive to create a workplace where people don’t have to sacrifice their personal life for their professional life. People do interesting things in their private lives that will bring interesting things into their professional lives. We strive to maintain a 40-hour work week for all, understanding that sometimes there will be crunch times on projects, but allowing for time off when that extra time is spent. TZL: In your opinion, what’s one of the most inspiring architectural designs in the world and why? JS: I’ve been thinking a lot about social dimensions of public space. A great building space that is a model for howwe do this is the Stoa of Attalos in Athens. It’s a sort of middle space between architecture and outdoor public space that accommodates conversation and encounters. “We strive to create a workplace where people don’t have to sacrifice their personal life for their professional life. People do interesting things in their private lives that will bring interesting things into their professional lives.” TZL: Have you had a particular mentor who has guided you – in school, in your career, or in general? Who were they and how did they help? JS: Mentorship comes from all directions – academic, professional, and clients. I think you need to learn from everyone. I’ve learned a great deal from clients over the years. Constant learning is what keeps things – including our firm – interesting. TZL: What skills are required to run a successful practice? What do you wish you knew starting out that you know now? JS: When I first started the business, I ran it much like my checkbook. I didn’t want to be overextended. I think I would take more calculated risks. I would also have hired more senior leaders. I had one senior leader and all the rest were young grads. I spent my time teaching and managing at the same time. TZL: Since founding the firm in 1995, what’s the most significant event/technology that made a solid impact on how the company does business?
JS: There have been many events, but three that spring to the top of mind: ■ ■ When we got the contract for the General Services Administration U.S. Land Port of Entry in Warroad, Minnesota. A Land Port of Entry project must span the distance between design excellence aspirations for architecture that represents “the finest in contemporary American architectural thought” and Customs and Border Protection’s pragmatic goal of securing our national borders. The Warroad LPOE design is attentive to the safety and comfort of CBP officers, providing a canopy that continuously covers their work area, while also providing a warm welcoming portal to the United States. The design concept began with creating a black shell which anchors the building in the vast landscape, with portals through the port lined in warm heartwood. Building volumes are inflected, increasing officers’ visual site surveillance. This is the first U.S. LPOE to employ a ground source heat pump system, which reduced the government’s purchase of energy by 50 percent. This project really made us think about public work and what it means in terms of its political, social, economic, and cultural context. Public buildings simply must represent our highest ideals of democracy. ■ ■ The murder of George Floyd. This was a moment when we had to face how inequitable our society has become. It made us look inward and outward at the professional work that we do. Among our many equity initiatives, we’re now in the process of working toward being a JUST organization. The JUST Label is a voluntary disclosure tool for organizations to measure and share their commitment to equity and social justice. Some of the metrics include ethnic diversity, employee engagement, living wage, and community engagement. ■ ■ Climate change. Architecture is playing an extraordinary role here. The studio signed on to the AIA 2030 Commitment to achieve net zero emissions by 2030, and we’ve been developing our toolkit to get closer with every project. We are thrilled to have collaborators both in and outside the studio to explore building envelope, siting, low- and no-carbon structural systems, innovative mechanical systems, and renewable energy.
HEADQUARTERS: Minneapolis, MN
NUMBER OF EMPLOYEES: 40
YEAR FOUNDED: 1995
OFFICE LOCATIONS: 1
MARKETS: Diverse portfolio of both public and private work SERVICES: Full-service architecture and design studio
■ ■ Chicago Athenaeum American Architecture Award ■ ■ Design Distinction Award from I.D. Magazine ■ ■ National AIA Honor Award
■ ■ Progressive
■ ■ Holcim Bronze
Award for sustainable construction
■ ■ GSA Design Award
■ ■ AIA Architectural Firm Award
See ASKING QUESTIONS, page 8
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PRIL 25, 2022, ISSUE 1438
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