AIA Minnesota’s Guide to Good Design 2015


Top left David Heide Studio, photo by Susan Gilmore Top right Albertsson Hansen Architecture Ltd, photo by Morgan Sheff photography  Bottom left Awad+Koontz Architects Inc., photo by Troy Gustafson  Bottom right Sala architects, photo by Troy Thies Photography

About Us:

The American Institute of Architects (AIA) Minnesota is the professional association for architects in the state. With over 2,200 members statewide, the association is a component of the national AIA. The goal is to help build awareness of architecture, act as the voice of the architectural profession, and serve as a community resource for members.


Above Rehkamp Larson Architects, photo by Troy Thies Photography
Below Smuckler Architecture, photo courtesy of Smuckler Architecture

Smuckler-Architecture,-Inc_XThe Benefits of Working with an Architect

Good architecture is all about function, structure, and beauty. If a home isn’t functional, it’s a sculpture, not architecture. It should be well-built and structurally sound. And if it doesn’t appeal to the senses and evoke some type of reaction, it’s just another building. The people who make this magic possible are architects. The term architect is used only for those who meet rigorous educational requirements, complete an extensive apprenticeship program, and pass a licensing exam. As licensed professionals, they must protect the health, safety, and welfare of the public, while coordinating the multiple parts and systems in the buildings—making them safe for the people who live there. An architect’s training encompasses historic, cultural, construction, material, and aesthetic considerations. They are trained to analyze functional needs, long-term goals, and the economics of a project (your budget), and can balance these elements within the context of building code and zoning regulations. And contrary to popular belief, architects aren’t overly serious or single-minded in their pursuit of the perfect design, says Tim Fuller, AIA, principal, Timothy Fuller Architects. “Architects are exceedingly approachable and open minded professionals who are very good at listening to their clients’ concerns and translating them into a wide variety of successfully realized homes, additions, or alternations. We love the process.” Architect-designed homes were designed for their owners, their sites, and their neighborhoods. The difference is in the design.

Architects Can Maximize Your Investment

Building projects are—by nature—already complex undertakings. If you get it wrong, you could be living with your mistakes for a long time. Get it right and it can be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life. An AIA architect can help you “get it right” by serving to not only maximize your investment, but also provide a more creative, functional, pleasing and lasting environment. An AIA architect acts as your agent, representing your best interests and protecting the integrity of your project throughout the entire design and construction process. An AIA architect will work with you, tailoring the design to suit your personality, lifestyle, needs, and budget. They are trained to see the big picture, speak the sometimes confusing language of construction, and find a balance between function, aesthetics, economics and numerous codes and regulations. They also know how to stretch your construction dollars, designing for maximum energy efficiency and lower fuel bills down the road. They create beautiful environments and high-functioning spaces.

Featured Project: Daniel Feidt, Residential Architect


Architect Daniel Feidt and his wife loved the setting of their 1960s-era home in a charming Lake Minnetonka neighborhood, but the house was long overdue for a major renovation. After exploring the idea of a teardown, they decided on a down-to-the-studs remodel that would rejuvenate the house, make the most of lake views, bring in natural sunlight, and give the space a more welcoming feel.

Dan used his architectural skills to analyze the site, determine the best orientation, then design a creative solution. Butterfly dormers were added to maximize sunny lake views, and high triangular windows were incorporated to the east and west. A screen porch addition now overlooks the water, while another addition offers lake views from the study. The open layout between the living room, dining room, kitchen, and study provides a seamless flow between interior spaces, creating a welcoming ambiance.

The house has a unique history, too, having survived a tornado that devastated the neighborhood 50 years ago. Now it’s ready to “weather” the future for generations to come.

Architect: Daniel Feidt, AIA


The Design Process in Five Steps

Step 1: Programming

Designing a new home or once-in-a-lifetime renovation should be an exciting experience. The first step in working with an architect is programming, or the process of discovery. The initial conversation and work focuses on identifying the homeowner’s vision, goals, and priorities (how many rooms? What size? Who will use it? How will it be used?), while being sensitive to the site, the surrounding area, and the natural environment. The site can determine the form the home takes (and costs). An architect can help you find a site that fits with your vision. This is also the time to talk about budget expectations.

Step 2: Schematic Design

Schematic design—or the rough sketches—is focused on defining the direction, the goals, and the scope of the project. The sketches illustrate the general arrangement of rooms and of the house on the site. The sketches aren’t “finished” construction documents, they’re meant to show potential options. This phase also includes identifying challenges and opportunities. Typically this will include plans, exterior views, and other work that explores the overall design ideas of the project. The active engagement of you, the client, is critical so that you and your architect are on the same page about what you want. AIA architects have the training and skills to develop and refine a vision of the completed project that you can see and understand. They’re experts not only at visualizing the big picture, but also the smaller steps necessary between concept and completion.

Step 3: Design Development

This phase is all about refinement, exploration, and researching the components required to satisfy the project goals. The finer details—finishes, mechanical, lighting, electrical, and structural systems—are clearly illustrated, as well as exterior and interior elevations. They know how to strike a balance between aesthetic beauty and structural safety. Before going on to the next stage, the architect will ask for your design approval.

Step 4: Preparation of the Construction Documents

Construction documents are the graphic drawings and written specifications of how things are to be built—these are the drawings that will be submitted for permit approval and to actually build the project. These documents define the quality and level of craftsmanship.

Step 5: Hiring the Contractor (Bidding Phase)

Architects can help a client find qualified contractors—they’ve had experience working with different builders and know firsthand the quality of work they do. Selecting a contractor may occur during an earlier phase, or after the construction documents are completed. Prospective contractors will need bidding documents, which the architect can help you prepare. The key to a successful project is good communication and a team effort between the client, architect, and builder. In this phase, the architect helps the client evaluate bids, clarify questions, define schedules, and coordinate contracts.

Contact AIA:

275 Market Street, Ste. 54
Minneapolis, MN 55405

This was a special advertising section published in Midwest Home. 

By Chrissy Sarinske, Special Sections Editor
Presented by AIA Minnesota

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