2013 Architecture Honors
Each year, Midwest Home magazine teams up with American Institute of Architects (AIA) Minnesota to honor two residential architects: An Architect of Distinction, an AIA member and licensed architect who has been practicing for at least 15 years; and an Emerging Talent winner, an AIA member and licensed architect who has been practicing for 10 years or fewer.
Rosemary McMonigal, AIA, is this year’s Architect of Distinction. In recognition of her award-winning work as founder of McMonigal Architects in Minneapolis, Midwest Home and AIA Minnesota will contribute funds for a scholarship in her name to the University of Minnesota’s School of Architecture. Ben Awes, AIA, co-founder of CityDeskStudio is the winner of this year’s Emerging Talent award.
Bryan Anderson, AIA
2012 Emerging Talent
Jennifer Yoos, AIA
Todd Rhoades, AIA
Vice President, Cermak Rhoades Architects
Midwest Home magazine
2013 EMERGING TALENT:
BEN AWES, CITYDESKSTUDIO
In cherishing everyday moments, the ordinary becomes a delight
Ben Awes never planned on becoming an architect. He didn’t play with Legos as a child. There weren’t any architects in his family, or any of the other usual factors that inspire a desire to design and build. Awes went to college to become a child psychologist. He worked for the business consulting company BI Worldwide, traveling around the globe to manage performance reward programs.
Awes then took a job as the house manager at Orchestra Hall, a position that changed the course of his career. The funky, populist structure fascinated Awes, and sparked his interest in design. He began studying Frank Lloyd Wright and the Prairie School and collecting Arts and Crafts furniture. “You can’t go far in that direction without discovering those designers had an architecture background,” he says. “And they took great care in ridding things of excess decoration in order to build simply and with high quality.”
One Sunday at church, Awes’s pastor shared a Shaker quote: “The first step in the path to human redemption is in the making and eating of good bread.” Awes had an epiphany. “I decided I had to do what I love to do, and do it well,” he recalls. And it was architecture. He went home and registered for Leon Satkowski’s architectural history class at the University of Minnesota.
After graduating in 1996, Awes worked for Julie Snow Architects for seven years. In 2004, he started CityDeskStudio with two architects he met at Snow’s firm, Christian Dean and Bob Ganser. Today, Awes describes his work as “contextual modernism.” He explains: “I’m not a pure modernist, and I don’t enter into a project with preconceived design solutions. I see what’s going on around the project, and how that will influence the building. The design comes out of appreciation and understanding of the client, site, budget, and whatever other issues are involved.”
Awes designed his own house in St. Paul—which he shares with his wife, Rachel, two teenage sons, and several desert tortoises—on a slim lot surrounded by classic four squares. In this case, he says, contextually modern means that the scale, proportions, and materials of the house fit into the 1920s neighborhood. He anchored the house’s simple narrow shape with a broad set of welcoming front steps, and expanded it to the west with a porch that runs the full length of the house.
Awes’s work reflects his interest in placemaking, on a micro-level. “I try to find moments in homes that have intimate scale, where a small, yet meaningful, experience is explored.” His family cabin, which uses vertical log siding as a modern translation of the north woods vernacular, offers a fine example. Its curved plywood ceiling is a structural element, but also a playful gesture to the waves on the lake.
When designing a modern, boxy home clad in Cor-Ten steel for the Taylor family in Roseville, Awes worked intimate spaces into the open design, including a projected window box that provides visual connection to gardens. “Ben was open to our big concepts, like wanting a modern home that’s open but not cold, with places in which we could feel cozy,” says homeowner Matthew Taylor.
For Awes, residential architecture is about “enhancing the rituals inherent to ordinary moments”—cherishing the everyday acts that can often become rote, or go unnoticed, when moving at the modern world’s harried pace. “Making bread is a ritual,” Awes says. “Waking up in the morning is a ritual. Many rituals today occur in our built world, in our homes, and are moments to be celebrated. You should love walking in your front door everyday.”
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Architectural Style: Maybe I would call it contextual modernism. I’m drawn to modern that recognizes where it is and who it serves.
Public Building (local): I’m a sucker for the earlier modern stuff so I love Christ Church by Saarinen in south Minneapolis. For current projects, I think the new Lakewood Cemetery Mausoleum is a great building.
Inspiring Neighborhood (local): Merriam Park, I guess because I live there—it’s hard not to be very interested in the place you live—but I also really love University Grove in Falcon Heights.
Inspiring City (international): Florence, Italy is a dream, it feels almost medieval and in the midst of that there is art and architecture that still lifts the human spirit to a whole new place.
Room to Design: Borrowed space: I love designing rooms that borrow space either from the outside or other rooms to expand living, especially in Minnesota where we live half the year indoors.
Material/Design Trend: I think we are on the verge of lots of new options for residential siding, which has not seen much change over the generations. Composite materials like Richlite, Trespa, Parklex have been around and more are coming out, but they are now finding their way to residential projects—and hopefully the prices will begin to come down with them.
2013 ARCHITECT OF DISTINCTION:
ROSEMARY MCMONIGAL, MCMONIGAL ARCHITECTS
Collaboration & Community
A client-focused, eco-conscious approach
In high school, Rosemary McMonigal read a career book that advised, “If you like math and art, be an architect.” She loved both, so she attended the architecture school at the University of Minnesota, which was then under the direction of legendary architect Ralph Rapson. One day, McMonigal met with an adviser who told her, “You’re a woman. Go into interior design.” She refused. After graduation, she also said no to residential architecture, because, “as a woman, the perception was that I’d do houses,” she recalls.
Instead, she worked for Cenex, the agribusiness/energy conglomerate, designing computer centers, offices, and industrial sites, including an oatmeal plant. She then spent several years in Finland, focusing on commercial projects. A few years after she returned to the Twin Cities, she joined Charles Levin Architects and designed offices and retail buildings.
In 1984, she started her firm, McMonigal Architects. A commercial client in Brainerd asked, repeatedly, if she’d do their house, and after much hesitation, McMonigal finally relented. “So I designed their home and fell in love with residential design,” she recalls. “The detail and personality that infuse homes, energize residential spaces and engage the homeowners are so much more exciting than in a school or office project.”
Since then, all of her work has been residential and “100-percent client driven,” she says. “My philosophy has always been about collaborating with people to figure out their vision of home. Sometimes I wonder how different the practice might have been if I’d developed a design signature or a single architectural style. But that never even entered my mind.”
Cindy and Jay Ihlenfeld have worked with McMonigal on four projects that have transformed their White Bear Lake home. “Our house has great bones, but didn’t have a lot of character,” Cindy explains “After the first remodeling project, Rosemary showed us what a significant difference she could make. Still, instead of imposing some preconceived ideas, Rosemary always adapts to the style we prefer and enhances it.”
Since the early 1980s, when a client asked her to design a child-care center with passive solar energy systems, McMonigal has incorporated sustainable strategies and materials into projects wherever she can. “It’s become the essence of my practice, our standard of care,” she says. With one residential client, she underwent a three-year design process that included testing almost every building material for off-gassing and chemical reactions before including it in the project. With another client, McMonigal was able to remodel their home with many re-used materials, including exterior siding, interior millwork, cabinets, appliances, and plumbing salvaged through the Green Institute.
In her spare time, McMonigal is actively involved in community outreach. From organizing the first Minneapolis/St. Paul Home Tour, to participating in the Block Kids Program with Women in Construction, to building houses with Habitat for Humanity, she’s determined to give back. Through publishing and speaking, she educates the public about the value of architects. “When you’re a residential architect, you realize how few people know what architects do, the difference we can make,” she says. “Especially when we engage with them on their vision for their home.”
Camille LeFevre is an arts journalist and the author of Charles R. Stinson Architects: Compositions in Nature.
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Architectural Style: Architecture that is livable, functional and beautiful.
Public Building (local): Our iconic State Capitol, designed in 1905 by architect Cass Gilbert. The Beaux-Arts building has beautiful and historic spaces, materials, and ornamentation—as well as a vast art collection.
Inspiring Neighborhood (local): Northeast Minneapolis continues to be a microcosm of our world in terms of diverse ethnic background, businesses, and housing. The concentration of talented artists and the three new brewpubs are fun too!
Public Building (international): Saynatsalo Town Hall by Alvar Aalto is an incredible building set in the natural landscape on an island in Finland, rich with natural materials and perfect scale. My husband and I eloped and were married there.
Inspiring City (international): Wherever I’ve last visited.
Room to Design: Everyone gathers in their kitchen, which reflects family life and individual cultures.
Material/Design Trend: Made in the USA!
To see more photos of projects by Ben Awes and Rosemary McMonigal,