Here at KOMA we’ve done a lot of work in the city of St. Louis Park and we think it’s a pretty great place. So we thought it was only fitting to sit down with SLP dwellers Kevin Dummer and Cindy Nagel to hear their stories of the city and get the inside scoop on what makes it such a great suburb.
What is your connection to SLP?
Kevin Dummer: I was born in St. Louis Park; in fact I grew up on the same street as Cindy currently lives on, just a stone’s throw away. I lived there until I left for college and my parents still live there.
Cindy Nagel: My husband and I moved there in 1987, about 2 years after we were married. We lived in our first home for 7 years and then moved (a whopping) 6 blocks away into our current house where we’ve now been for 24 years! Our two children grew up in SLP and we have so many fond memories of the city. We were very involved in the community through education and sports activities, so places like the rec center became a second home.
KD: I spent so much time at the rec center! I remember the Olympic size pool with the huge diving boards; I swam in it all the time. I also have many memories tied to City Hall so it’s pretty cool to have worked on that project. When I was young, I would check out video cameras from City Hall to film my mom and sister lip sinking to music for Girl Scouts fundraisers and I would go to City Hall to use their video equipment and edit the videos, then they would broadcast them on the local cable channel. That helped bring more awareness and fundraising to the Girl Scout program, which would not have been possible without the help from the City.
CD: Speaking of… storage was an important element in our design for the 1st floor of the City Hall remodel – there were closets full of old videos – I bet yours was one of those!
What makes SLP unique? Interesting things about SLP
KD: I loved growing up there. It had so many parks and trails and there were always so many events – free concerts, Christmas tree lightings, winter fairs with sledding, fireworks and kite fairs. There was always something to do that was fun for the entire family.
CN: There is a lot of really great green space. I used to spend so much time at Oak Hill Park when the kids were little. (The days before the Splash Pad existed). We had the first Trader Joes in Minnesota which is pretty cool and of course the home of Opitz – because you know how I love my shopping! From a design perspective, Excelsior on Grand is an award-winning development, and of course West End is a fun area too!
Favorite Place to get a bite to eat…
KD: I don’t eat out there much now, but when I was growing up I loved Beek’s Pizza. They went out of business and now it’s Parkway Pizza which has awesome pizza as well.
CN: I’m excited about a new restaurant that just opened, called the Block – I think that will become a much-frequented spot! But I love Rojo in the West End – if you go, get the Cadillac Margarita. It’s the best!
KD: I remember there used to be a Taco Bell that was on the creek bank, and you could stop with your boat and order tacos in the drive through. It’s Taco Bell, but still a cool feature.
KOMA has worked a lot in SLP – favorite project?
KD: For me, it’s the Rec Center entrance we worked on. It’s pretty cool to be able to work on something you spent so much time at as a kid and give back to the city you grew up in. Not everyone gets that opportunity.
CN: City Hall is a favorite of mine. It is a beautiful project and getting to work on the Council Chambers was the cherry on top. It been a great experience to have such a longstanding relationship with many people who work for the city.
Candytopia is an interactive art installation made of colorful candies. Participants journey through 14 rooms and experience everything from Prince’s guitar, to confetti throwing unicorn pigs (yes you read that right!), to a large marshmallow pit.
KOMA’s designers worked with the Candytopia team and their production company, ZH Productions, to provide permit drawings and assist with fitting the installation into an existing MOA space while meeting the mall’s safety and code requirements.
We of course couldn’t miss out on experiencing it for ourselves. Watch as we walk through the wonderful world of imagination at Candytopia. Doors close June 30th and you won’t want to miss this unique experience!
“The world is a university and everyone in it is a teacher. Make sure when you wake up in the morning, you go to school.” ―T. D. Jakes
When you hear the word education, what comes to mind? For many of us images of our first day of kindergarten come to mind, walking up to receive our diploma in our cap and gown or those last few years fine tuning the knowledge of our major before embarking on the real world. Those are the thoughts that come to my mind too. But I also think about something more than memories. I think about what I’m learning now and what I want to learn next. I’m a firm believer that education is not limited to our years in the classroom. Instead, it is a part of our life from the very beginning until the very end. Sure, it looks different in different phases of life, but it is always happening, and we are always learning.
Right now a main source of my learning involves studying for the Architect Registration Examination (ARE) . This piece is probably a little more traditional in the sense that it is the final piece of formal education and an integral part of becoming an architect. It is an intensive process that involves gaining a really in-depth look at every angle of each design phase.
Beyond my exams there are a number of ways that I can increase my knowledge and grow in my trade here at KOMA. Design team meetings are one of those ways. In our office, collaboration is a key element in our approach to design. Working as a group gives a detailed understanding into how each individual views design – because we all approach it so differently. We learn new ways to look at things and see them through a vantage point we may not have otherwise. Collaboration also goes a step further by meeting with outside consultants to coordinate the building systems and ensure the best design solution. Whether that be mechanical engineers, electrical engineers or other members of the design team. Learning how those members of the team do their part brings a furthered understanding of integrated building design.
The annual AIA conference, coming up in early November, provides a great opportunity to gain some additional education. The seminars are incredibly informative, and the workshops are a way to develop skills while networking with peers. It provides a week of exploring new ideas and innovative construction systems which can be utilized to achieve design goals in practice. It provides a week of exploring new ideas, new products, new approaches and new trends in the industry and it is all done with peers. Similar to the AIA convention but on a smaller scale are continuing education seminars. These provide a look at new products, their performance characteristics, how they are tested and where they can be used. Products and codes are two things that are ever-changing in this industry and it is a lifetime of education in and of itself to stay current.
These are a few of the ways that I continue to educate myself on architecture and design day in and day out and how I stay inspired to grow and challenge myself. There is an endless amount of information and countless opportunities to grow, you just have to pursue them!
It’s time get inspired! With all creative professions there is value in exercises that encourage vitality, enliven our minds and spur on our imagination. There is value in getting out of our desks, getting face to face and getting those creative juices flowing. Here at KOMA, when we hear about opportunities to come together as a team and step outside of the daily grind, we do our best to take it! Kimball Hospitality, the largest North American furniture supplier in the hospitality furniture industry, presented a “Create A Chair” competition open to all designers in the industry. The contest allowed designers to sketch or create in Revit a custom chair. Below are some of our ideas – maybe they’ll inspire you, designer or not, to find something that fuels your imagination – enjoy!
How long have you been at KOMA and how did you land here?
I began working at KOMA 7 years ago. Time flies by!
I was living in New Jersey at the time and was wanting to move back to Minnesota, so I began to research firms in the Twin Cities and came across KOMA. I ended up getting a job at another architecture firm when I first moved back to the cities but always kept in touch with Brady and shortly afterwards made the move. I knew that I wanted to be at a smaller firm, one where I could experience a project beginning to end and one that offered a wider range of involvement.
What led you to put some roots down at KOMA?
The values and the environment were absolutely factors. But another thing that I really appreciate about the firm is that there is a great meshing of collaboration and individuality. I always had an entrepreneurial spirit and I feel as though working at KOMA is the best of both worlds. There is definitely a sense of project ownership, but I also get the benefit of other designers and engineers right next to me when I need the insight.
How did you choose architecture as a career path?
As a kid I would build a city out of paper for my matchbox cars to drive-thru. I even made a metrodome out of paper, but it fell over. Maybe that is why I didn’t go into structural engineering. I was always doing home improvement projects as I grew up and knew I wanted to do something in the construction industry. When I found out how much I loved creating 3D models of buildings in the computer, I decided being an architect was my goal.
What keeps you growing, learning, inspired in the industry?
We are privileged at KOMA in that projects and clients are not always the same day to day, week to week. As a result no two days are the same and there are new challenges that arise regularly. Things are always changing in our industry so there is always room to grow and learn as new ways to model or new building codes are integrated. What inspires me as an architect is the ability to simply create spaces for people that makes their everyday life better without them even knowing it. If something I design makes someone smile, relax, save energy or makes something they do more functional they I have accomplished my goal.
Tadao Ando has always been one of my favorites. I have had the privilege of seeing some of his work in Asia in person. The emotions his buildings can pull out of you when you are just standing in them is inspiring. I sat in the Church of the Light and walked around the Naoshima Contemporary Art Museum. I will never forget the feelings I experienced just being there. It was like stepping into a work of art and exploring it from the inside. The simple shapes he uses and the logic of how he allowed the elements to interact with each other are only things a master architect could achieve. If you have never been to one of his creations, I highly recommend you put it on your bucket list.