Locus Architecture creates eco-friendly office on Nicollet

Locus Architecture staff designed their building at 4453 Nicollet Ave. Submitted photo
Locus Architecture staff designed their building at 4453 Nicollet Ave. Submitted photo

Locus Architecture doesn’t plan to go unnoticed on Nicollet — staff hosted live music during Open Streets and commissioned a giant mural of the City of Lakes by Sara Herman.

“Hopefully this won’t be a forgotten corner anymore,” said co-founder Wynne Yelland.

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Locus Architecture’s new office on Nicollet places windows to provide passive solar heating. Photo by Michelle Bruch
A view of the building at 4453 Nicollet prior to Locus Architecture's redesign, formerly home to a party supply store and Anderson Cleaners. Submitted photo
A view of the building at 4453 Nicollet prior to Locus Architecture’s redesign, formerly home to a party supply store and Anderson Cleaners. Submitted photo

Locus has been in business since 1995. One of the firm’s first projects involved designing and building co-founder Paul Neseth’s house in East Harriet, where they used reclaimed wood, exterior insulation and radiant floor heat.

“It felt a little cutting edge at the time,” Neseth said.

The architects say they practiced sustainability 10 years ahead of the curve. They have a few words of advice on the topic:

“The least exciting thing I can think of, that actually does the most, is insulation,” Yelland said.

People should insulate well beyond what code requires, he said. He also recommends using glass industriously to conserve a home’s energy.

At their own office building, they aligned windows to the south to allow passive solar heating.

“Oddly enough, this is the best view we’ve had in 20 years,” Neseth said

Locus replaced the asphalt parking lot with native grasses and aspen trees, and captured the roof’s rainwater in a 250-gallon tank. The siding is thermally modified ash that is less susceptible to rotting over time. The countertops in the kitchen are made from recycled glass.

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Photo by Matt Munson

All of the Locus staffers live within two miles of the office. The founders said they like the low-stress aspect of living close to home, where the commute is exactly the same every day. The office includes a shower for those who bike or jog to work.

Local public projects by Locus include Sandcastle, Birchwood Café, the lobby of Circus Juventus and the Food Building in Northeast. Staff have designed several church spaces, including the White Bear Universalist Church expansion in Mahtomedi. Their residential work ranges from urban home additions to cabins with incredible mountain views.

“Good projects are not driven by high budgets,” Neseth said.

One house for a longtime Minneapolis client features a meditation room and a secret door between kids’ bedrooms. Another house that won a local BLEND Award was designed with housecats in mind, with a motion-activated drinking fountain, cat-sized nooks and sunny spaces, and a motion-activated litter box with ventilation and lighting.

A side project called RAW — they call it “architecture bootcamp” — brings their design work to locations across the world. They brought University of Minnesota students to Biloxi to build a park pavilion. And they recently returned from Tanzania, where they led another Real Architecture Workshop that built housing for an orphanage.

Locus Architecture staff lead RAW, a Real Architecture Workshop, in Oaxaca. Pictured (l to r) Adam Jonas, Wynne Yelland, Paul Neseth and Justin Merkovich. Submitted photo
Locus Architecture staff lead RAW, a Real Architecture Workshop, in Oaxaca. Pictured (l to r) Adam Jonas, Wynne Yelland, Paul Neseth and Justin Merkovich. Submitted photo

Locus staffers are also traveling out of the office to the Fulton Farmers Market, where they host a “creative kids zone.” The next kids’ zone date at the market is Oct. 1.

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