1. 2 out of 2: MSR Design receives both the 2023 AIA Minnesota Honor Awards

    MSR Design received both the Honor Awards given out by AIA Minnesota this year: for the renovation and expansion to L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, and RIDC’s Mill 19 adaptive reuse project in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The state’s most prestigious recognition for buildings designed by Minnesota architects, the Honor Awards celebrate projects that demonstrate excellence in two or more of the 10 AIA Framework for Design Excellence measures, which include Design for Integration, Equitable Communities, Ecology, Water, Economy, Energy, Well-Being, Resources, Change, and Discovery. The jury of national architects, which evaluated 40 submissions, included Natasha Espada, AIA, NOMA, with Studio Enée; Adrianna Swindle, AIA, with Lake|Flato; and JoAnn Hindmarsh Wilcox, AIA, with Mithun.

    A 1970s library located in downtown Eau Claire, Wisconsin, L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library had a tight column grid, low floor-to-floor heights, few windows, and limited room for growth. The transformation features new windows that showcase activity happening inside the library and skylights that bring daylight deep into the center of the building. The roof level addition features large spaces for community events and a terrace with expansive views. A new public plaza improves the connection between the library and downtown. According to the jury, “The modernizing of this building was an exercise in craft and restraint. The architects used the relatively small addition to create a more proportioned, beautifully detailed exterior and sculpt light in the interiors. The welcoming indoor and outdoor spaces for learning, reading, cooking, making, and exploring are in daily conversation about what a library can be for a community.”

    Winner of a national AIA COTE Top Ten Award and a Metropolis Planet Positive Best Adaptive Reuse Innovation Award, Mill 19 involved repurposing the steel skeleton of an abandoned steel rolling mill as an outer shell for new high-tech office, lab, and advanced manufacturing facilities. Tenants and visitors navigate this atmospheric mix of new and old via a network of new plazas, elevated walkways, balconies, and gardens. The project also features the largest single-sloped glass solar array in the U.S. According to the jury, “The architects did an amazing job thinking about sustainability and human experience in leveraging the assets that were there. This project makes a powerful statement about reuse. It says, ‘We don’t have to take it all for what it is. We don’t have to take it all apart. But we get to use that carbon. We get to think about the frame differently when we think about reuse.’”

  2. MSR Design wins two Metropolis Planet Positive Awards

    Metropolis Magazine has honored MSR Design with two Planet Positive Awards: the Best Adaptive Reuse Innovation Award for RIDC’s Mill 19 project and the Rising Star Award for Christopher Wingate, LEED AP, CPHC. Now in its third year, the Planet Positive Awards program recognizes the most creative projects and products from around the world that benefit people and the planet, as well as firms and professionals leading the way to a better built environment.

    Mill 19 is an emblem of Pittsburgh’s transformation from its industrial steel-making past to a future of sustainable advanced manufacturing. The project interweaves 263,200 square feet of new speculative commercial space for the city’s robotics industry within the ruins of a historic 1,360-foot-long decommissioned steel mill. The passive design reduces energy demand and improves indoor environmental quality, while a bifacial glass photovoltaic array meets the buildings’ energy needs and helps control solar gain in the summer. Judges for the Best Adaptive Reuse Innovation Award included James Wasley, Professor of Architecture at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee; Paula Melton, editorial director of BuildingGreen, Inc.; and Avinash Rajagopal, editor in chief of Metropolis. Praising the Mill 19 project, Avinash states, “The buildings celebrate the industrial structure and prioritize materials that can be dissembled and reused on future projects.” He continues, “It’s a great case study of not just adaptive, but also adaptable, reuse.”

    The Rising Star Award recognizes emerging professionals who are making a huge mark on the practice within their firms. An associate with MSR Design, Christopher Wingate was initially hired as a student researcher to investigate energy modeling software and recommend the best application for the firm. Since then, he has expanded his work on operational energy analysis to address embodied energy, daylighting, water conservation, and on-site energy generation. Chris has worked on the design of numerous national award-winning projects, including two AIA COTE Top Ten Award winners: Mill 19 and the University of Minnesota Landscape Arboretum’s Tashjian Bee and Pollinator Discovery Center. MSR Design founding principal emeritus Tom Meyer, FAIA, states, “Chris leads with both technical acumen and humanity. He is working every day with passion to make the world a more sustainable, just, and beautiful place.” Avinash Rajagopal states, “[Chris] has played a central role in MSR Design’s focus on high-performance design. Thank you so much, Chris, for everything you are doing for the future of the built environment and the future of humanity.”

  3. MSR Design promotes Lisa Nelson to senior accountant

    MSR Design is pleased to announce the promotion of Lisa Nelson to senior accountant. In addition to performing research and analysis, maintaining the general ledger, performing account reconciliations, and herding architects and designers, Lisa will prepare financial reports, assist with audit preparations, and provide data to inform board-level decisions as part of her new elevated role.

    Reflecting on this milestone for Lisa and the firm, MSR Design CEO and principal Traci Lesneski states, “Lisa’s skill as an accountant, attention to detail, and incredible responsiveness anchor us and make her an indispensable part of the MSR Design team.” She continues, “I admire Lisa’s ability to adeptly juggle myriad responsibilities and competing demands with patience and good cheer. We are delighted to honor her contributions with this promotion.”

    “It has been my pleasure for 16 years to work alongside MSR Design’s great team of designers, who create equitable and sustainable projects and improve communities,” says Lisa. “I am excited to advance my role within the firm and continue to provide support at all levels to further our mission. I look forward to continuing to be inspired to always do my best!”

    Congratulations, Lisa!

  4. 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.”

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.”



  10. 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.