While taking the time to sit down and reflect on all that 2023 had in store for Architecture Advantage, there was one word that was consistent throughout – GROWTH. You will see both tangible and intangible examples of how growth has positively impacted our team this year and we are diving right into 2024 with great enthusiasm and pride for what we get to do each and every day!
To all of our team members, clients, consultants, partners, and supporters – a sincere thank you for your commitment and belief in the quality and service we provide. Every one of you has had such a tremendous impact and helped us navigate 2023 with strength and courage.
There is always a great sense of accomplishment when completing projects that have been years in the making and this year a couple that we were able to celebrate included the 5th and final phase of the Student Services Renovation at Minneapolis College. We had the opportunity to drastically impact and improve the departments that the students rely on such as advising, career services, one stop, and transfer center, among others. Increasing visibility and access in a welcoming environment with a natural progression from front of house to back of house provided more clarity with wayfinding and use of the space for all students.
This project started in 2018 with a phase of construction each year, navigating all that the COVID years brought us and was a testament to the owner-contractor-architect team being able to change gears and work together to keep the project on schedule and on budget.
Another rewarding project completed this year was the rehabilitation of the St. Louis County Depot Canopy. A drive lane off of Michigan Street was incorporated, providing full accessibility to the Depot. The structure and roofing were restored and replaced to bring more life to this gem in our community. This was one of those projects where when it was completed, we were thrilled when we could step back and say that it looked like it had always been that way!
A few new projects that were kicked off in 2023 – with both new and repeat clients – include a wide variety of projects at UMD under our annual small projects contract, renovation of the Lincoln Park Community Center with Ecolibrium3, student services renovation at Central Lakes College, and a new space for the Minnesota Zoo Foundation offices at the former IMAX Theater Lobby.
We had a lot to celebrate this year! Some highlights include:
- Time flies when you are having fun! It has already been 5 years since the RRTL acquisition and addition of our St. Paul office, carrying forth the legacy of over 60 years in our commitment to our clients and passion for our projects.
- Tiffany completed her WELL-AP exam to become a WELL Accredited Professional and also graduated from Leadership Duluth. She is the fourth member of our team to go through the program.
- Royce graduated with his Master of Architecture from NDSU – go Bison!
- Sexton Commons at St. John’s University received the AIA-Minnesota 25-year award at the annual conference.
- The firm was once again recognized as an Emerging Professional Friendly Firm for 2023-2024. The program is aimed at celebrating firms that create nurturing environments and professional development opportunities for emerging professionals and we are proud to be one of them!
COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT AND SOCIAL IMPACT
Being active members of the communities where we live and work is a vital part of our team and translates into how we approach our projects. It is important that we all do our part and share our strengths to continue to learn and grow from one another. As a woman-owned business, we have put more specific intention behind our passion for equitable, diverse, and inclusive design and made it known to our community, partners, and clients and it has been so rewarding.
One such intention was a shift in our 6th annual Design Expo with a theme this year of Buildings + Belonging: Empowering Social Change Through Design. Sara Cole, President & CEO of the Duluth Area Family YMCA led our keynote with a very engaging and thought-provoking presentation. We are deep into planning our 2024 event and you will be seeing and hearing more on that soon!
Architecture Advantage was the Engage Sponsor at Northspan’s 3rd Annual Equity Summit, and we had three team members attend the all-day session. Those who attended came back with valuable information to share with the team and bring to our projects.
In addition, our team donated time to various non-profits in our communities focused on homeless shelters and transitional housing. A number of us also continued our support by donating our services to the Global Volunteers Reaching Children’s Potential program in Tanzania. Construction began on the 5th building there providing an operating suite to the campus.
TEAM AND CULTURE
We kicked off 2023 with our first annual team workshop day bringing our Duluth and St. Paul offices together at the Braham Event Center. It was a very powerful day celebrating our accomplishments and looking forward with intention for our year ahead. We are in the final stages of preparing for our 2nd annual team workshop day together!
Our most significant growth over the past year beyond building the team, has been through our culture change initiative work and EDI efforts. Building off of the Culture Change Initiative platform through AIA Minnesota, we hold quarterly team sessions which focused this year on creating work style guides, implementing new standards and practices throughout the office, deep diving into real-life scenarios and defining terminology around such scenarios. The individual effort that goes into this and the increased awareness, communication, and openness that has come from this is beyond gratifying.
LOOKING AHEAD TO 2024
The team is ready to take on 2024 with the continuation of our projects and the recent award of some new and important projects that we are eager to share with you over the coming year. I encourage you to browse our website and follow our social media platforms to keep up to date with the team, and if you have any questions or are interested in collaborating, we would love to hear from you! Wishing you all a happy and healthy 2024 full of new opportunities.