1. MSR Design announces two new associates

    Emilie Kopp, Associate AIA
    “Emilie is becoming an influential designer in the firm, taking on complicated projects and getting involved in our pro bono and affordable housing work. As a member of the AIA Minnesota Culture Change Initiative Committee and ambassador for MSR Design’s initiatives around equity, diversity, and inclusion, she focuses on ensuring that our projects benefit the individual residents and neighborhoods they are designed for. I truly enjoy working with Emilie. She challenges us to do better in our work, she’s creative, and she has a very good design sensibility. She is a positive, delightful colleague, and I am thrilled that she is part of MSR Design.”
    —Paul Mellblom, Principal, MSR Design

    Lauren Gardner
    “A passionate and talented designer, Lauren has played an essential role in developing MSR Design’s healthy materials initiative. Her enthusiasm for responsible design that positively impacts our lives is infectious, and her contributions extend beyond project work and our practice. Lauren is currently associate vice president of advocacy for the IIDA Northland Chapter and an active participant in other local nonprofit organizations. We are delighted to have Lauren be an important part of MSR Design and congratulate her on her promotion to associate.”
    —Dagmara Larsen, Principal, MSR Design

  2. MSR Design promotes Kristilyn Vercruysse to senior associate

    MSR Design is pleased to announce the promotion of Kristilyn Vercruysse, AIA, LEED AP, to senior associate. MSR Design CEO and principal Traci Lesneski, CID, IIDA, LEED AP, Associate AIA, states, “As natural leaders, MSR Design senior associates contribute not only to individual projects, but also to the success of our practice. Kristilyn has deep passion for the making of architecture and dedication to honing her craft and the processes that improve our project work. This passion and her ability to shepherd a project to success—by every definition—inspire confidence in our teams and clients.”

    For Kristilyn, the best projects combine her two passions: rehabilitating existing buildings and creating designs that support and anticipate the needs of the ever-evolving library. She has served as project manager or project architect for a wide mix of award-winning projects, including the transformation of the Tulsa City-County Central Library, winner of an American Institute of Architects (AIA)/American Library Association (ALA) Library Building Award, and the Urban Outfitters Corporate Campus in Philadelphia’s historic Navy Yard, winner of a national AIA Honor Award, among other national honors.

    “Kristilyn is one of those leaders who diligently moves all aspects of her work forward to great outcomes,” says MSR Design principal Matthew Kruntorád. He continues, “She combines intense professionalism with an engaging and bright personality. Kristilyn’s gift of listening perceptively and translating what she has heard into quality work benefits MSR Design, our clients, and the world around us.”

    “Over the course of 15 years, MSR Design’s dedicated, inspiring team of designers and the innovative projects we have worked on together have helped me grow tremendously,” states Kristilyn. “I am excited and honored to be able to contribute to firm leadership as a senior associate and look forward to continuing to advance forward-thinking design together to make a more equitable world.”

    “While tenacious in her pursuit of excellence, Kristilyn brings innate joy and good cheer to every interaction,” says Traci. “She’s an absolute pleasure to work with. I am so proud and pleased to welcome her as a new MSR Design senior associate.”

  3. MSR Design principal Dagmara Larsen receives AIA Minnesota Young Architects Award

    One of three architects to receive an American Institute of Architects (AIA) Minnesota Young Architects Award, MSR Design principal Dagmara Larsen, AIA, LEED AP, is being recognized for her commitment to designing equitable, sustainable, and human-centric, award-winning projects for a wide range of organizations and individual clients. The jury celebrated her excellence in design and strong voice in library and higher education design, which has a significant impact on communities, and her role as a firm leader. The AIA Minnesota awards program honors individuals who have shown exceptional leadership and made significant contributions to the profession within the first 10 years of being licensed to practice architecture.

    Promoted to MSR Design firm principal last year, Dagmara champions an integrated design approach on every project. She believes that an architect needs to evaluate each project through different lenses in order to bridge aspirational, programmatic, and performative goals as part of the design solution. An example of this holistic approach in her work includes the transformation of Madison Public Library’s Central Library in Madison, Wisconsin (certified LEED Gold). Dagmara is committed to design excellence and achieving project success in terms identified by individual users, as exemplified in the Tulsa City-County Library Central Library renovation project (winner of an AIA/ALA Library Building Award) and Haverford College Visual Culture, Arts, and Media (VCAM) Building (winner of an AIA CAE Education Facility Design Award of Excellence and AIA Minnesota Honor Award).

    This year’s winners of the AIA Minnesota Young Architects Award (including Jennifer Christiaansen, AIA, and Daniel Yudchitz, AIA, as well as Dagmara) have demonstrated deep commitment to public service, advancement of the profession, and design that improves communities and user experiences, all of which align directly with AIA Minnesota’s core values and the future of the architecture profession. The recipients will be recognized at the annual AIA Minnesota Awards Celebration in December.


    Learn more about the award.


  4. Sensory library design: responding to a pandemic’s impact on built environments

    Read full article.

    As the world works toward establishing the new normal, we must also turn our attention to the next normal. Interventions in the built environment—where we spend over 90% of our day in the best of times—are necessary to ensure healthy public and staff spaces in both the short- and long-term. Using a building engages the five primary senses—touch, sight, smell and taste (through breathing the air), and hearing. Each of these engagements with a building is impacted by COVID-19.

    Library buildings are social equalizers and critical nodes of community connectivity. Today’s libraries offer a wide range of resources and services dedicated to fostering learning, curiosity, and discovery in all the literacies required to thrive. Open to all community members (academic or municipal), library buildings must support users in a full range of activities, from solitary, focused work to large meetings and social gatherings—and everything between. Prior to the outbreak of COVID-19, many discussions about library design centered around human interaction: increasing space for community gathering and collaboration; creating spaces that promote exploration through hands-on learning; supporting learning about health and nutrition through community kitchens; housing tools and physical items as an extension of the sharing economy; and bringing staff members together in collaborative, flexible workrooms.

    We still need these things to happen. Humans are inherently social and need one another to flourish and thrive. The built environment brings us together to connect with other community members. Erik Klinenberg writes in his book Palaces for the People that, “social cohesion develops through repeated human interaction and joint participation in shared projects.” The world’s complex problems (e.g., pandemics, racism, food insecurity, global warming, and homelessness) require systems thinking to solve. Shared spaces such as libraries provide spaces to practice the bridging skills needed to work across political lines, cultures, and countries. Talent is distributed equally, but access and opportunity are not. The pandemic has magnified inequality. We need the built environment and especially spaces that are open to everyone. Libraries are connective tissue in fractured communities, offering places where relationships can develop, and people learn to deal with difference, density, and diversity.

    Yet the risks associated with gathering in public places while the pandemic is still ongoing are real. We have quickly gotten used to meeting online. In lieu of in-person programming, libraries have pivoted to online programming and podcasts. Curbside and remote holds pickup services have reinstated much-needed access to resources and entertainment. Even some volunteering at the library has moved online. These necessary adaptations and extensions of service do not, however, replace the real need to be in proximity to others and feel part of a community, even if only to be alone together.

    As libraries plan to reopen their buildings, the onslaught of information about how to do so safely can be overwhelming. The opportunity lies in supporting health and well-being, while allaying fears associated with returning to buildings used by many. Considering our senses and how we interact with one another offers a helpful organization of the many issues and options.

    What We Touch
    We are familiar with the repeated urging of public health experts, medical professionals, and the CDC to avoid touching our faces and wash our hands frequently and properly. Yet libraries are by nature high-touch environments with shared resources, which has implications for how we design for safe use of library buildings.

    What We See
    Actual and perceived cleanliness will be important for the health and well-being of visitors and staff. Views to nature can help with focus and peace of mind. What we see impacts our comfort level in a shared public place.

    What We Breathe
    COVID-19 spreads most easily through droplets released when we talk, cough, sneeze, and sing, which has implications for the air we breathe in public buildings. Adjustments to HVAC systems are critical.

    What We Hear
    Acoustics are always a key consideration for library buildings. Library users expect to successfully engage in a wide range of activities, from solitary and quiet to highly interactive (and potentially noisy) ones. The pandemic may exacerbate user expectations around acoustics.

    How We Interact
    New behaviors will be required to keep the public safe as we reactivate public spaces. People will need visual cues to ingrain these behavioral changes. Library interiors will need to support physical distancing and be responsive and flexible.

    Read the full article here, or request a copy:

    About the Author
    Traci Engel Lesneski, CID, IIDA, LEED AP, ASSOCIATE AIA
    CEO and principal of MSR Design, Traci focuses on design for libraries and learning. She promotes an integrated design approach—equally valuing human well-being, building performance, aesthetics, and delight. Recent building projects Traci has led include the award-winning VCAM building—a 24/7 visual culture, arts, and media creative hub for Haverford College in Pennsylvania—and Missoula’s new library and culture house (opening in summer 2020 in Montana). Traci regularly contributes articles to library publications and lectures nationally and internationally about the built environment’s role in fostering well-being, promoting learning, and creating inclusive and cohesive communities. Traci is chair of the American Library Association’s Architecture for Public Libraries Committee and a member of IFLA’s Library Buildings and Equipment Section Standing Committee.

  5. Message for racial justice

    As Minnesotans and, beyond that, as human beings, we are heartbroken by the brutal killing of George Floyd. We honor him and the countless other Black lives lost so cruelly and senselessly. We condemn all forms of racism and social injustice. Change is long overdue—more than 400 years overdue. MSR Design commits to listening to, learning from, and supporting the communities that suffer as a result of racism so that we can accelerate real and sustained societal transformations.

    As AIA Minnesota’s “Broken” statement articulates, “Before rebuilding, the architecture community must join with others in rethinking, reimagining, and redesigning what’s next.” In a call for solidarity against racial injustice, National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA) president Kimberly Dowdell declares, “We must all leverage our positions of privilege to help our most vulnerable citizens, neighbors, and colleagues strive for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. I urge you to consider what’s happening right now as an American problem that we must all face together.”

    We wholeheartedly agree with Kimberly Dowdell. “As architects,” she states, “we are professionally responsible for protecting the health, safety, and welfare of the public.” In response, we have pledged to donate $115,000 in design services through a 50% match in paid time to encourage our staff to volunteer their planning and design skills to organizations that assist and empower communities in need. This pro bono effort aligns with MSR Design’s overall commitment to designing truly inclusive buildings for entire communities to do our part to build a more just world and eliminate racial inequity. 

    Organizations to Support

    Black Lives Matter

    Black Visions Collective

    Campaign Zero

    Friends of the Hennepin County Library Local Library Equity Fund

    Lake Street Council | We Love Lake Street

    Neighbors United Funding Collaborative for Midway and Union Park

    Project for Pride in Living

    West Broadway Business and Area Coalition (WBC) in partnership with Northside Funders Group






  6. MSR Design COVID-19 response

    Clients and Colleagues:

    To do our part to curb the spread of COVID-19 and to protect the health and welfare of everyone in all of our communities, MSR Design has made the decision to institute the following policies as we continue to operate and serve our clients:

    1. Working remotely. Effective immediately, all staff will be working remotely, using technology to stay connected and productive.
    2. Travel. We have suspended all business-related travel until further notice and will hold meetings through an online platform.
    3. Conferences. All conference attendance has been suspended.
    4. Meetings. We are requesting that all meetings be held virtually. If that is not possible, we are limiting attendance to 10 people or less.

    For up-to-date information about COVID-19 and precautions we can all take, please visit the CDC website. We are taking these steps to practice social-distancing and do our part to flatten the curve.

    Be healthy, safe, and smart!

    Traci Engel Lesneski, CID, IIDA, LEED AP, Associate AIA
    CEO | Principal
    MSR Design

  7. Traci Engel Lesneski to lead architecture firm MSR Design as new CEO and president

    Effective immediately, Traci Engel LesneskI, CID, IIDA, LEED AP, Associate AIA, will assume the role of chief executive officer (CEO) and president of MSR Design. Following the retirement of the founders and recent move into a new studio, this leadership shift marks the beginning of the next chapter in the 39-year-old firm’s history. Jack Poling, FAIA, LEED AP, who has led the firm for 16 years, will continue his role as principal, now having more time to devote to leading design teams.

    Jack states, “I am very grateful that we have the right person at the right time to lead us forward. Traci has the design vision, temperament, and drive to help us achieve in the coming years more than we have in the past. I look forward to experiencing what I already know will be great things to come.”

    With 24 years at the firm, including 14 as principal and head of interiors, Traci promotes an integrated design approach—equally valuing human well-being, building performance, aesthetics, and delight. Her design leadership has resulted in more than 55 awards, including an AIA CAE Education Facility Design Award for Haverford College’s VCAM Building. Traci regularly contributes articles to library publications and lectures nationally and internationally about the built environment’s role in fostering well-being, promoting learning, and creating inclusive and cohesive communities.

    “It’s an exciting and challenging time for the architecture industry,” says Traci. “MSR Design is well positioned to thrive by advancing an alchemy of design leadership, client aspirations, and advocacy for the environment to create transformative outcomes with every project. I’m delighted to lead the firm into its next phase.”

    Founding principal emeritus, Tom Meyer, FAIA, states, “All of us are deeply grateful for the innate integrity and steady dedication Jack has brought to his stewardship of the firm. Now with unanimous support of MSR Design’s principals, Traci will assume overall leadership bringing her natural good cheer, grace, and articulate voice to the task. The firm is in good hands.”

    Given that only three women hold the top position within the world’s 100 largest architecture firms (according to a recent Dezeen survey), Traci’s leadership also represents a crucial milestone for women in the design profession.

  8. Tulsa City-County Library’s Central Library named a New Landmark Library by Library Journal

    The third Library Journal New Landmark Libraries roundup focused on public libraries has recognized the Tulsa City-County Library’s Central Library as one of its six winners. The series focuses on libraries that successfully work with their individual communities to inform building design. This year’s jurors included Eva Poole, executive director of Virginia Beach Public Library; Mar González Palacios, associate director of special collections for Yale University’s Robert B. Haas Family Arts Library; Misty Jones, director of San Diego Public Library; Matthew Bollerman, chief executive officer of Hauppauge Public Library; and Aude Jomini, senior associate with Pelli Clarke Pelli. Along with New Landmark Libraries project coordinator Emily Puckett Rodgers, they evaluated candidate projects based on five key criteria:
    1. Community engagement in design
    2. Sustainability
    3. Functionality
    4. Innovation
    5. Beauty and delight

    Describing the Tulsa City-County Library’s Central Library renovation, Emily Puckett Rodgers states, “A variety of design, programming, and infrastructure interventions, led by Traci Engel Lesneski at MSR Design, created a building that is exemplary in the field of generative design: The focus was to maximize the health and well-being of its occupants and to minimize the long-term effects of its operations on the environment.”

    The Tulsa City-County Library’s Central Library urban renewal project contributes to the revitalization of a second-tier city’s struggling downtown core by transforming a dated central library and inhospitable civic plaza into a prized community destination for active learning and creative engagement. Key features of the reimagined library include a revitalized civic plaza and new public garden for programming and community events; new parking garage with an enclosed two-story link to the library building; clear, secure entry sequence in which all ways of entering the library collect into one main lobby area; restored access to shade-giving balconies; full-service café; interactive education center for research and development of learning practices; makerspace with recording studio and flight simulators; destination children’s library with direct access to the garden; and a wide mix of spaces in which people can meet, collaborate, study, work, and play.

    Tulsa City-County Library CEO Kimberly Johnson explains, “We’ve adapted to the world around us and helped propel our community forward, further moderating inequities in areas such as access to information, educational achievement, and economic opportunity.”

  9. MSR Design announces five new associates

    Simona Fischer
    “Simona is truly inspiring in her ability to shape multiple dialogues within our firm, and in the greater professional sphere, around sustainability. She is passionate about the values of sustainability and equity, and she gets deeply involved leading efforts to make the world a better place for all. It fills me with pride to see her fiercely press us to always do more good in the world, in any way we can, through design.”
    —Paul Mellblom, Principal

    Ben Lewis
    “Ben has demonstrated exceptional design leadership on his projects and brings a wonderful rigor to his work. His insatiable curiosity and willingness to take on new project roles and test new design tools have been a huge benefit to our firm. In addition to a very deep talent, Ben demonstrates a thoroughness and attention to detail—all with a positive spirit and collegiality. We congratulate Ben as a new firm associate and look forward to his continued growth and contributions.”
    —Traci Lesneski, Principal

    Patrick Lynch
    “Patrick brings a thoughtful and deliberate perspective to design thinking, continuing an MSR design tradition rooted in an academic approach. This focus is exemplified by the connections he has made within academia, as well as the professional community. Patrick’s use of new technologies and traditional methods in design exploration positively influences design excellence within the office. I always enjoy discussing his ideas and the possibilities they inspire.”
    —Matthew Kruntorad

    Beth Roloff
    “Beth is a talented architect who elevates every project she is involved in. Both her positive attitude and her commitment to design excellence have been recognized and prized by our clients. A passionate and driven individual, Beth is also a delight to work with. Her dedication and attention to detail can be seen in every aspect of her work. We are very pleased to acknowledge Beth’s contribution and her importance to our firm by promoting her to an associate.”
    —Dagmara Larsen, Principal

    Jacklyn Vollema
    “Jacklyn has continually demonstrated a rigorous approach to our profession and a maturity beyond her years. She has taken on leadership roles on several projects and has led them with inspiring clarity and thoroughness. In addition to her excellent project stewardship, Jacklyn brings her very steady and pleasant personality to her work, adding to the joy of our office. I look forward to seeing her continued growth as an architect and the great work she will continue to bring to our projects.”
    —Jack Poling, Principal

  10. MSR Design promotes Kate Michaud to senior associate

    We are pleased to announce the promotion of Kate Michaud, AIA, LEED AP, to senior associate. MSR Design president Jack Poling, FAIA, LEED AP, states, “MSR senior associates are those who possess exceptional design and creative skills, have the ability to lead those designs through to fruition, and contribute more broadly to the success of our firm. Kate is fiercely dedicated to the firm and profession. She has led numerous very complex projects to success and has done so with a calmness and aplomb that inspire confidence in our project teams and clients.”

    Kate believes that everyone can benefit from good design and that buildings should positively impact their occupants and surrounding communities. As the recipient of the 2016 Scherer Travel Scholarship, she traveled to Bogota and Medellin, Colombia, to see firsthand how urban design has brought hope and increased opportunities for residents. Kate’s work has received numerous awards, including an American Institute of Architects (AIA) Chicago Distinguished Building Award.

    MSR principal Paul Mellblom, AIA, LEED AP, BD+C, adds, “I have had the great pleasure to work with Kate on multiple projects. She brought a rigor to each project that quickly convinced me that the project was in the right hands. Kate is both a talented designer and a good leader. How fortunate we all are to work with Kate.”

    “I firmly believe that good design can make a difference in people’s lives,” says Kate. She continues, “I have spent much of my career working on community-based projects, including libraries, affordable housing, and spaces for nonprofit organizations. MSR consists of dedicated, passionate designers who are invested in doing better for our communities and our environment. I’m thrilled to be part of this group and honored to be named a senior associate.”

    “Kate is a joy to work with, always steady, positive, and focused,” says Jack. “And she has an amazing sense of humor. I couldn’t be happier or prouder to welcome her as a new MSR senior associate.”