Posts by Amy Nash

  1. MSR Design names Jeryl Aman as director of operations and Ben Lewis as design technologies lead

    MSR Design is excited to announce the promotion of Jeryl Aman, AIA, to director of operations and Ben Lewis, AIA, to design technologies lead. As director of operations, Jeryl will lead the effort to run efficient and nimble operational practices, actively monitoring project health across the firm, managing staffing utilization, and overseeing the firm’s administrative functions. As design technologies lead, Ben will lead the development of tools and processes to benefit overall project workflows and elevate design quality.

    “We are delighted to announce the elevation of Jeryl to our director of operations. During Jeryl’s long tenure at MSR Design, he has embodied the values of the firm,” says firm CEO Traci Lesneski, CID, LEED AP, Associate AIA. She continues, “His steady project leadership has made him invaluable to the clients he works with and has resulted in high-quality, inspiring projects, including Mill 19, one of the firm’s AIA COTE Top Ten Award-winning projects. We are excited to have his leadership expand to the firm’s operations in addition to his ongoing project contributions.”

    Regarding his new position, Jeryl states, “Stepping into the role of MSR Design’s director of operations is both an incredible privilege and a humbling experience. I am deeply honored and grateful for the opportunity to lead and collaborate with our exceptional team, ensuring the success of our projects and the continued growth of our vision. With great excitement, I am eager to contribute my skills and passion to our ongoing pursuit of design excellence as we continue to shape spaces that inspire.”

    “Ben’s passion for and curiosity about design technologies are infectious,” Traci states. “His advocacy for tools and processes that help us explore and represent our work has made us better. We are delighted to formalize his efforts with this new role.”

    Regarding his promotion, Ben says, “My foremost goal as design technologies lead will be to nurture and harness the creative potential of our talented team. I’m grateful for this opportunity to continue strengthening our culture of design and making, while also exploring and adopting emerging technologies that will enhance our ability to craft innovative designs and a sustainable future.”

  2. MSR Design wins two national AIA/ALA Library Building Awards

    Two projects designed by MSR Design are being honored with American Institute of Architects (AIA)/American Library Association (ALA) Library Building Awards: Missoula Public Library’s new Downtown Flagship Library and Louisville Free Public Library’s new Northeast Regional Library. Cosponsored by AIA and ALA’s Library Leadership and Management Association (LAMA) committee, the award honors the best in library architecture and design. Forward-thinking library design elements include larger gathering spaces to support the needs of the community and sustainable features to conserve water and energy.

    Designed by MSR Design in association with A&E Design, Missoula’s new, 106,675 square-foot Downtown Flagship Library houses four other community organizations (Missoula Cable Access Television, Families First Learning Lab, SpectrUM Discovery Area, and the University of Montana Living Lab) to create a free, equitable, regional cultural hub. The entire building was envisioned as a community living room. The design focuses on improving the quality of life and equity within the community by supporting good health and well-being through interior finishes and furniture that avoid chemicals of concern on the Living Building Challenge’s Red List; improving nutrition through a teaching kitchen, a seed library, and children’s nutrition programs; fostering resilience through spaces that support skills-building, STEM-learning, artisanship, innovation, and teamwork; supporting inclusion by offering furnishings that can be adjusted to body type and configured for a variety of experiences; and connecting the community to the landscape with expansive views. The Missoula Public Library project was named the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA)/Systematic Public Library of the Year in 2022.

    Missoula Public Library’s director Slaven Lee states, “Missoula Public Library is thrilled to have our central library recognized by national library design experts. The project, a decade in the making, is a bold testament to Missoula’s commitment to making information, learning, and collaboration accessible—in a beautiful public space.” Slaven continues, “Our architects did a phenomenal thing: they took the very best aspects of our community and reflected them back to us in the design of this new library.”

    Designed by MSR Design in partnership with JRA Architects, Louisville Free Public Library’s new Northeast Regional Library is the last of three regional libraries to be completed as part of an ambitious public library system-wide master plan. The library expands next generation services and programming to previously underserved areas of the Louisville metropolitan area. Conceived as a pavilion in a park, the building offers sweeping views of the adjacent park and historic site. It features a special technology-driven classroom, highly flexible reading room, multiple makerspaces with an audiovisual lab and a demonstration kitchen, and a college corner in the teens’ area. A column-free interior, multi-function access flooring, and rooms enclosed by movable furnishings support adaptability to meet perpetually evolving library demands and ambitions. Certified LEED-NC v.3.0 Gold, the project is designed to be net-zero energy ready through passive design strategies such as siting the building to take advantage of natural daylight. The design team preserved nearly all the mature trees on the site, and geothermal heating and cooling with below-floor distribution ensure substantial energy efficiency for seasonal fluctuations in temperature.

    “Here at the library, we have recognized for a long time what an outstanding library facility the Northeast Regional Library is,” says Louisville Free Public Library’s director Lee Burchfield. He continues, “We can see it ourselves, and we hear about it from our library patrons all the time. I’m delighted to see the building and the team that created it getting the recognition they deserve.”

    Libraries are more than learning centers—the best libraries are enduring examples of architectural excellence. The AIA/ALA Library Building Awards program is the only one in the US that recognizes entire library structures and all aspects of their design. MSR Design has received three other AIA/ALA Library Building Awards: for the Louisville Free Public Library South Central Regional Library in 2019, for the Tulsa City-County Library Central Library in 2018, and for the Stillwater Library in 1991.

  3. Mill 19 wins national AIA COTE Top Ten Award

    The RIDC Mill 19 development project has been selected to receive an American Institute of Architects (AIA) Committee on the Environment (COTE) Top Ten Award. Given annually by the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Committee on the Environment (COTE), the COTE Top Ten is the architecture industry’s best-known awards program for sustainable design excellence. Each year, AIA recognizes ten innovative projects that integrate design excellence with environmental performance by meeting COTE’s rigorous criteria for ten measures: design for integration, design for community, design for ecology, design for water, design for economy, design for energy, design for wellness, design for resources, design for change, and design for discovery. The five-member jury evaluates each project submission based on a cross-section of the ten metrics, balanced with a holistic approach to design.

    Mill 19 is a living emblem of Pittsburgh’s transformation from its industrial steel-making past to a future of sustainable advanced manufacturing. In a bold approach to adaptive reuse, the design viscerally interweaves new space for the city’s robotics industry within the industrial ruins of a decommissioned steel rolling mill. A post-industrial promenade welcomes the public through a linked series of compelling exterior experiences framed between the monumental 1,360 foot-long existing steel superstructure and three multi-tenant tech buildings sited within. Key design moves include peeling away the existing mill’s deteriorated sheet metal skin; exposing its dramatic steel skeleton; and installing a sequence of speculative high-tech office, lab, and manufacturing structures within the ruinous frames.

    The design integrates building performance into the project’s experiential engagement with the site’s embedded history. The design team stewarded ambitious energy, water, and daylight performance targets through continuous iterative analysis. The Mill 19 project accomplishes impressive levels of experiential, sustainable performance and public access within the financial constraints of a speculative core and shell commercial development.

    MSR Design received a 2019 AIA COTE Top Ten Award for the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum’s Tashjian Bee and Pollinator Discovery Center.

  4. MSR Design director of sustainable practice Simona Fischer receives a national AIA Young Architects Award

    One of 17 architects nationwide to receive a national American Institute of Architects (AIA) Young Architects Award, MSR Design director of sustainable practice Simona Fischer, AIA, CPHC, is being recognized for her leadership in the critical areas of climate action and sustainability. According the AIA award announcement, “Leading by example, Simona deftly uses her technical knowledge in service of our planet. The solutions she is engaged in developing will continue to bolster a built environment that promotes the health of all people.”

    The AIA Young Architects Award honors early career architects who have demonstrated exceptional leadership and significant contributions to the architecture profession, including environmental advocacy, increasing access to great design, and mentoring future architects. AIA members who are in good standing and have been licensed to practice architecture fewer than 10 years are eligible.

    As MSR Design’s director of sustainable practice and a firm associate, Simona is known nationally for her commitment to advancing sustainable architecture through design, education, research, and political advocacy. She is passionate about developing and testing processes to integrate building science and sustainable design into the workflow of architectural practice. In addition to her professional experience, she has presented at national conferences and served as a guest lecturer and research fellow at the University of Minnesota. Simona is cochair of the AIA Minnesota Committee on the Environment (COTE) and serves as the liaison to the AIA Minnesota Government Affairs Committee (GAC).

    “Simona has demonstrated through testimony at the state legislature, service on a critical state task force on building codes, and her one-on-one meetings with legislators and government officials that architects make a difference when they share their expertise in service to the greater good,” states AIA Minnesota executive vice president Mary-Margaret Zindren in her nomination letter.

  5. Minneapolis Public Service Building wins national AIA Architecture Award

    The American Institute of Architects has honored the City of Minneapolis Public Service Building with a 2023 Architecture Award. The AIA Architecture Awards program celebrates the best contemporary architecture designed by architects licensed in the United States. Demonstrating the range of outstanding work architects create, the selected projects highlight how buildings and spaces can improve our lives. These projects demonstrate design achievement, including a sense of place, purpose, history, and environmental sustainability.

    One of 16 projects to receive the prestigious national award, the City of Minneapolis’s Public Service Building offers a new model of civic design, as well as a new face of public service for the city. The building completes Government Plaza to create a cohesive urban space that brings together seven city departments, 1,100 employees, and the public into one welcoming environment. The lobby’s floor-to-ceiling glass and the use of warm wood and stone convey a sense of openness, transparency, and public accessibility. Developed through a design collaboration between Henning Larsen, MSR Design, the City of Minneapolis, and other public advocates, the building demonstrates how public spaces can better reflect the communities they serve.

    In 2019, AIA adopted its Framework for Design Excellence as a set of guidelines and requirements to assess project performance. Climate action requires a holistic approach to address the interdependence of people, buildings, infrastructure, and the environment. While awarded projects do not need to address all the measures included in the framework, they do need to highlight how they perform within this context through relevant narratives and metrics when applicable.

    This year’s seven-person jury included Ashley Wilson, FAIA, Ashley Wilson Architect; José Leo Arango, Associate AIA, EYP; Randy Deutsch, FAIA, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign School of Architecture; Gabriel Ignacio Dziekiewicz, AIA, DesignBridge; Teresa Jan, AIA, Multistudio; Luis Nieves-Ruiz, FAICP, East Central Florida Regional Planning Council; and Zakiya Wiggins, AIA, LS3P.

  6. MSR Design renews its Just 2.0 label to advance social justice and equity goals

    As part of MSR Design’s vision to enrich lives by designing a better future, we have renewed our Just 2.0 label. A nutrition label for socially just and equitable organizations, Just marks the beginning of a new era of corporate transparency. ILFI invites organizations everywhere to evaluate themselves through this social justice and equity lens and become a Just organization.

    MSR Design was the first Minnesota architecture firm to have a Just 2.0 label and is currently one of only three firms in the state to have one. Participating in the program helps us nurture a culture that values diversity, equity, and inclusion.

    “We strive for continual growth in every aspect of our practice,” says MSR Design CEO Traci Lesneski. “When we adopted the label in 2020, we committed to using it year over year as a roadmap for improvement. It’s gratifying to see evidence of our efforts reflected in higher scores for this renewal.”

    We have made notable progress in our efforts to embed social justice and equity in our policies and practices since signing onto the program in 2020. The Just label documents our level of performance in six different areas: diversity and inclusion, equity, employee health, employee benefits, stewardship, and purchasing and supply chain. Specifically, our scores increased in the gender diversity (where we achieved a level 4, the highest score possible), ethnic diversity, and inclusion subcategories under diversity and inclusion; in the training and education subcategory under employee benefits; and in the animal welfare subcategory under stewardship.

    We continue to maintain the highest score (level 4) in several subcategories, including employee engagement under diversity and inclusion, which calls for organizations to work proactively to advance a culture where employees feel inspired, motivated, and engaged. In the equity area, we again achieved a level 4 score in three subcategories: full-time employment, pay-scale equity, and gender pay equity. For employee health, we scored another level 4 for well-being, and for stewardship, we achieved another level 4 for charitable giving.

    “The label isn’t an end-game—it’s an ongoing process,” Traci adds. “The Just 2.0 program provides a framework to put our firm’s values to work. The renewal has helped bring more intentionality to key efforts, in turn creating meaningful impact.”



  7. MSR Design Cofounder Tom Meyer Receives the 2022 AIA Minnesota Gold Medal

    MSR Design cofounder Tom Meyer, FAIA, is the recipient of the 2022 American Institute of Architects (AIA) Minnesota Gold Medal—the highest honor bestowed by the association. The Gold Medal recognizes those who have made lasting contributions to the field of architecture. Gold Medal candidates are nominated by their peers and evaluated on the degree to which they have demonstrated great depth and breadth, having a cumulative effect on the profession of architecture in Minnesota; addressed the future of architecture while honoring its tradition; transcended or united specific areas of expertise; and become widely known—by architects, designers, educators, and the public—for the quality of their work.

    The jury noted the exponential impact Tom has had on the architecture community through his work as a firm leader and as an educator at the University of Minnesota College of Design. In addition to an important legacy of innovative, award-winning design work, Tom has significantly influenced and guided current and future generations of architects. His design of the Mill City Museum complex has been nationally recognized with numerous awards, including an AIA Honor Award for Architecture and National Trust for Historic Preservation Honor Award. Tom’s work to cofound a sustainable design centered practice and create a strong transition to second-generation, woman-owned leadership are standout contributions to Minnesota’s architecture community. Tom was elevated to the AIA College of Fellows in 2006 and is a past president of AIA Minnesota.

    “For a field too easily criticized for the ego of some of its most visible practitioners, Tom Meyer serves as the antidote to that sometimes-unfair characterization,” states nominator Tom Fisher, Associate AIA, who is director of the Minnesota Design Center at the University of Minnesota. “His openness to new ideas, his unpretentious acceptance of diverse points of view, his ability to evolve and remain relevant, and his willingness to serve the community in which he lives and works make him a superb architect and an ideal candidate for the Gold Medal.”

    “I am deeply grateful to many people: the teachers, mentors, students, clients, and colleagues I have had the privilege of learning from and working with,” says Tom Meyer. “I am especially indebted to my loving and supportive family and to my highly talented MSR Design partners of 40 years, Jeff Scherer and Garth Rockcastle. I am also grateful that architecture became for me not only a wonderful career, but also a form of art through which to experience a meaningful life.”

    Tom’s career is threaded with a strong interest in the correlation between old and new, resulting in work with historic district planning, building rehabilitation and restoration, adaptive reuse projects, new construction in historic districts, and museum and interpretive center design. Speaking about the Mill City Museum project collaboration between MSR Design and the Minnesota Historical Society, Nina Archabal, director emerita of the Minnesota Historical Society, states, “With Tom’s leadership, we delivered a building that is the jewel of the Minneapolis riverfront, providing a historic context for the Guthrie Theater and the reuse of the nearby mills and new construction in the area.”

    Tom served as a member of the University of Minnesota’s College of Design Advisory Board, cochair of the University’s School of Architecture 2013 Centennial Committee, and as a faculty member in the University of Minnesota College of Design for 25 years. In partnership with Renée Cheng, FAIA, Malini Srivastava, AIA, and others, Tom helped develop the Consortium for Research Practices, which supports student research and collaboration with working practitioners, continuing today as the Master of Science in Architecture Research Practices (MS-RP) program.

    The 2022 Gold Medal jury included AIA Minnesota president Alicia Belton, FAIA, NOMA; AIA Minnesota president elect Sam Olbekson, AIA; AIA Minnesota Committee on Design cochair Doug Bergert, AIA; AIA Fellows Michelle Mongeon Allen, FAIA, and Rebecca Lewis, FAIA; and 2020 AIA Minnesota Gold Medalists James Garrett, Jr., AIA, NOMA, and Nathan Johnson, AIA, NOMA. Tom will be celebrated at the AIA Minnesota Awards Celebration on December 2nd. AIA Minnesota is dedicated to strengthening our communities, improving our built environment, and providing exceptional design.

  8. MSR Design director of sustainable practice Simona Fischer receives an AIA Minnesota Young Architects Award

    One of three architects to receive an American Institute of Architects (AIA) Minnesota Young Architects Award, MSR Design director of sustainable practice Simona Fischer, AIA, CPHC, is being recognized for her dedication to advancing sustainable architecture through design, education, research, and advocacy. Jurors noted her commitment to education and sustainable design, as well as her work in public policy, as outstanding contributions to the profession. The AIA Minnesota Young Architects Award honors individuals who, in the early stage of their architecture careers, have shown exceptional leadership and made significant contributions to the profession. AIA Minnesota members who have been licensed to practice architecture less than 10 years are eligible for nomination.

    As MSR Design’s director of sustainable practice, a firm associate, and a registered architect, Simona is passionate about developing and implementing processes to integrate sustainable design seamlessly into the workflow of architectural practice and sharing what she learns with members of the profession and the public. In addition to her professional experience, she has presented at national conferences and served as a guest lecturer and research fellow at the University of Minnesota. Simona is a member of the Healthy Building Network HomeFree Champions advisory group, which works to build momentum in selecting healthier materials for affordable housing, and cochair of the AIA Minnesota Committee on the Environment (COTE).

    “It is critical that policymakers and the public become better informed about the principles and practical application of sustainable and resilient building design in the context of a changing world,” says Simona. “Sustainable design experts have a responsibility to share their knowledge with a broader audience through the avenues of public policy and beyond.”

    “Simona is a national expert in healthy materials and a valuable sustainable design leader for all architects and society,” states Richard Graves, AIA, director of the University of Minnesota Center for Sustainable Building Research, in his letter nominating Simona for the award.

    This year’s winners (including Kyle Palzer, AIA, and David Wilson, AIA, along with Simona) demonstrated excellence across all criteria and leadership measures: design excellence, practice, education, service, and contributions to the profession. The diversity of their built projects and mentorship of the next generation of designers make them standout leaders in our state and the profession. This year’s Young Architects Award recipients will be recognized at the AIA Minnesota Awards Celebration on 2 December 2022.

  9. Missoula Public Library is the world’s best new public library

    The International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) and Danish software company Systematic have named the new downtown Missoula Public Library, designed by MSR Design with local Montana firm A&E Design, as this year’s Public Library of the Year. The first library in the United States to receive the award, Missoula Public Library offers its citizens a truly unique place where they can meet for play, learning, and experimentation. The magnificent natural surroundings that serve as a backdrop to the library are impressively reflected in its construction and interior. Serving a multifunctional role as a library and knowledge, learning, and community center, the building houses four other organizations to create a cultural hub for gathering, interacting, and innovating. Consequently, the library could not avoid catching the jury’s attention, and Missoula Public Library can now lay claim to being the world’s best new public library.

    “Missoula Public Library has it all,” says jury chair Jakob Guillois Lærkes. He continues, “The building stands out for its beautiful architecture that pays homage to the surrounding landscape, while functioning as a library with a wealth of offerings and possibilities, which also serves as a meeting place for the community. It’s a library that you would relish having in your own local area. It’s a library built for the future.”

    The Public Library of the Year award is presented each year by IFLA in collaboration with Systematic, which also sponsors the $5,000 prize awarded to the winner. This year, 20 libraries from 17 different countries were in the running for the recognition. In addition to Missoula Public Library, three other library projects were shortlisted. The announcement of Missoula Public Library as the winning library was made at the IFLA World Library and Information Congress (WLIC) in Dublin, Ireland, on July 26th.

    “We are delighted to be the recipients of this important award, which elevates the intersection of library service and architecture,” say Honore Bray (recently retired director of Missoula Public Library) and Traci Engel Lesneski (MSR Design CEO and principal in charge of the project). “Thank you to the jury for this honor, and congratulations to our fellow shortlisted libraries. It is inspiring to witness all the great work happening around the world.”

    Check out our video of the Missoula Public Library, created by Snack Media Group:


    Photo Above: (left to right) recently retired MPL library director Honore Bray, MSR Design CEO and principal Traci Lesneski, and IFLA president Barbara Lison. Photo credit: Julie Broch-Mikkelsen

  10. MSR Design elevates staff as part of an initiative to become a more nimble and transparent practice

    As part of a larger initiative to lead a more nimble and transparent architecture and interior design practice that generates opportunity and supports design excellence, MSR Design has elevated six staff members to newly created firm roles, including directors, discipline leads, and marketing and communications manager.

    Firm CEO and principal Traci Engel Lesneski, CID, LEED AP, Associate AIA, states, “At the heart of these promotions is support for individual and firm-wide growth and redoubled intentionality related to strengthening design, ensuring successful project outcomes, and enhancing our ability to serve clients.”

    The firm’s new directors will act as a common point of interaction between strategic practice-oriented initiatives. They will provide a bridge between the firm’s goals for the practice and individual expertise needed from the entire staff. Our new directors include:

    Brendan Gill Sapienza, AIA, CSI, CDT, LEED AP | Director of Technical Practice
    “Brendan has led technical research and development for many projects. As director of technical practice, he will continue to lead development of our technical expertise, focusing on technical research, documentation, and quality control of project deliverables. Brendan brings his extensive life experience to mentoring younger staff and shaping our culture.”—Dagmara Larsen, AIA, LEED AP | Principal

    Kate Michaud, AIA, LEED AP | Director of Project Delivery
    “Kate gains confidence with her clients and colleagues with ease. Her innate ability to see the big picture and move projects forward saves time so that project team members can focus on design excellence. This rare leadership trait is an inspiration to me personally, and I’m thankful for what it means for our work and clients.”—Matthew Kruntorád, AIA, LEED AP | Principal

    Simona Fischer, AIA, CPHC | Director of Sustainable Practice
    “Simona brings a true passion for sustainable design: enthusiasm, lived experience, and a willingness to step in and organize herself and others around things she believes in. She advocates deeply for sustainable design and connects people who can help others become more knowledgeable about sustainable design. Simona lives her values in her daily life.”—Paul Mellblom, FAIA, LEED AP BD+C | Principal

    Discipline Leads
    MSR Design’s new discipline leads will identify and advocate for ways of working that ensure an integrated practice and design excellence across all projects. Our new discipline leads include:

    Veronica McCracken, CID, IIDA | Interior Design Discipline Lead
    “Veronica has a keen sense of how to integrate interior design and architecture. Her ability to think spatially and articulate her thinking during the design process leads to the design of richer, more experiential spaces. This talent advances MSR Design values and encourages all of us to create places that people are deeply connected to.”—Matthew Kruntorád, AIA, LEED AP | Principal

    Tom Haller, RA | Architecture Discipline Lead
    “Tom has a deep passion for all aspects of the architectural profession—from concept design through construction. His vast interest in design tools and technical project execution has propelled many projects forward. We are excited to watch Tom’s energy and leadership shape MSR Design.”—Dagmara Larsen, AIA, LEED AP | Principal

    Marketing & Communications Manager
    Firm associate Amy Nash will serve as the firm’s new marketing and communications manager. Working closely with the firm’s principals and design staff, she will manage all marketing efforts, from developing and preparing proposals and other marketing materials to internal and external communications celebrating the firm’s work, achievements, initiatives, and goals.

    Amy Nash | Marketing & Communications Manager
    “I’ve worked with Amy for more than 20 years and have always found her to be highly precise and completely reliable in her work—which is top notch. She consistently presents our firm in the best light and is willing to help guide our successes in any way she can. I enjoy working with Amy and appreciate the poetry—literally and figuratively—she brings to our firm.”—Paul Mellblom, FAIA, LEED AP BD+C | Principal

    “We are grateful to work with these outstanding, talented individuals and excited about what these new roles will mean for our practice,” says Traci. She continues, “We are already seeing positive changes that will surely unlock latent potential across the firm.”