Structural Engineer: Sarah Jorczk, Gina Boogren
Mechanical Engineer: Craig Lemma, Scott Lichty
Electrical Engineer: Helen Peterson
Civil Engineer: Erik Hansen
Interior Designer: Rich Bonnin, Laurie Rother
Landscape Architect: Ross Altheimer ASLA, LEED AP, Erica Christenson
Lighting Designer: Tao Ham, Chrysanthi Stockwell
The Nelson Cultural Center addition at the American Swedish Institute (ASI), designed by HGA Architects and Engineers (HGA), was completed this summer and builds upon ASI’s 83-year history, culture and commitment to the community.
Long a vibrant destination and gathering place for Swedish Americans in Minneapolis’s culturally diverse Phillips West Neighborhood, ASI recently acquired the entire block on which it’s sited, wishing to enhance their mission, broaden their connection to the community, and encourage neighborhood rejuvenation with the addition of the Nelson Cultural Center. The addition supports this rejuvenation with an expanded campus that connects to the neighborhood, unifies the city block, projects a cohesive urban place for community gathering, and reflects ASI’s vision for the future while respecting its past.
The design process was driven by a holistic approach to building sustainable communities, aligned with ASI’s mission to serve as a gathering place for all people, to share stories and experiences around universal themes of tradition, migration, craft and the arts.
Inspired by the distinct beauty of the historic Turnblad Mansion and the unique history of Swedish architecture, the design considers contemporary and traditional Swedish aesthetics while prioritizing the use of sustainable strategies and technologies. The design begins with a traditional Swedish gård– courtyard or farmyard–that serves as a central outdoor “living room” uniting the Nelson Cultural Center with its predecessor- fondly known as “The Castle.” The addition unfolds around the courtyard, opening to the community, and framing views of the historic mansion. This courtyard serves as a central outdoor “living room” for ASI and the greater community, while uniting the new building and its historic predecessor.
The architectural details relate stories of Swedish culture and local history, from the addition’s slate façade that parallels the same slate on the mansion’s roof to the Swedish art-glass inspired entry, custom tile by local craftsmen, large-format trompe-l’oeil textile commissioned for the lobby, handrails wrapped in leather by a local saddle maker, and nautical-themed wood ceiling in the event space inspired by the Stockholm City Hall’s timber roof.
Collaboration with Swedish artists and architects informed the design of the Nelson Cultural Center and grounds, which incorporate contemporary and traditional Swedish aesthetics while prioritizing community sensitivity and sustainable initiatives. These initiatives, influenced by Sweden’s broad commitment to sustainability and recognized by the King and Queen at the recent Royal Dedication Ceremony, include the use of natural landscapes, vegetated roofs, low potable and irrigation water usage, a holistic approach to energy reduction including ground source geothermal heating and cooling, and an exceptional occupant experience. To ensure achievement of verifiable results, the project is pursuing LEED Gold certification, and would be the first museum in the Minnesota to achieve this status.
The 34,000-square-foot, two-level Center complements the Turnblad Mansion—added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1971—with contemporary, sustainable architecture that strengthens ASI’s evolving mission. Designed as an architecturally compatible addition to an historic landmark, the addition has transformed an entire city block into an inspiring urban space and new cultural campus.