expertise

We make existing buildings work for modern times and changing uses.

 

Sometimes this is straightforward. More often, it's not. From esoteric original building techniques to hard-to-match stone to mysterious sources of water, existing buildings offer all kinds of riddles. We love solving them. No matter the age of the structure—whether it's centuries old, from the Modern era, or the last few decades—we apply the same rigorous approach:

RESEARCH the building's origins and evolution to understand its materials (which are sometimes old and obscure), construction methods (ditto!), and overall history.

 

INVESTIGATE the existing conditions using the latest technology and best practices along with time-proven techniques developed over our four decades of experience.

ANALYZE our findings, in collaboration with the client and other team members, to determine underlying problems and map out the best path forward.

 

Most important, DESIGN for the building's next era, making it work for present-day needs while allowing the original architectural character to shine.

  • Restoration
    Restoration
  • Restoration
    Restoration
    Restoration is the art of returning a building to an earlier, historic appearance. It requires careful sleuthing and a keen eye for detail. Do nailing patterns show us where windows and doors were added or removed? What were the paint colors? What details can we find in the historic record or archival photos? We use all kinds of tools, both high-tech (laser scans, drones) and low-tech (microscopes, Munsell color books) to understand a structure’s past and evolution as we seek to restore its earlier details. And we work closely with contractors to ensure that all restoration work is done with proper methods and care. It requires meticulous research, thorough knowledge of specialized technologies, and careful detailing. Preservation keeps a building and its details in excellent shape. It identifies character-defining features and other components that should be saved even as other things may change.

    SAMPLE PROJECTS
    - Purcell-Cutts House
    - Christ Church Lutheran
    - Pierre Bottineau House
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  • Preservation
    Preservation
  • Preservation
    Preservation
    Restoration is the art of returning a building to an earlier, historic appearance. It requires careful sleuthing and a keen eye for detail. Do nailing patterns show us where windows and doors were added or removed? What were the paint colors? What details can we find in the historic record or archival photos? We use all kinds of tools, both high-tech (laser scans, drones) and low-tech (microscopes, Munsell color books) to understand a structure’s past and evolution as we seek to restore its earlier details. And we work closely with contractors to ensure that all restoration work is done with proper methods and care. It requires meticulous research, thorough knowledge of specialized technologies, and careful detailing. Preservation keeps a building and its details in excellent shape. It identifies character-defining features and other components that should be saved even as other things may change.

    SAMPLE PROJECTS
    - Purcell-Cutts House
    - Pierre Bottineau House
    - Redeemer Missionary Baptist Church
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  • Adaptive Reuse / Rehabilitation
    Adaptive Reuse / Rehabilitation
  • Adaptive Reuse / Rehabilitation
    Adaptive Reuse / Rehabilitation
    Adaptive reuse/rehabilitation allows buildings to take on a new life, one that is often wholly different from the original use, while respecting their historic appearance. We've helped convert courthouses and schools into museums, historic churches into condos (really), farmhouses to coffee shops, and even an old mining town to a new world-class scientific research center.

    SAMPLE PROJECTS

    - Smith-Douglas-More House (Now Rustica Bakery)
    - Pioneer-Endicott Buildings (now retail and residential)
    - Minneapolis Grain Exchange Trading Floor (including CoCo space)
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  • Investigation / Assessment
    Investigation / Assessment
  • Investigation / Assessment
    Investigation / Assessment
    Assessing a building involves a forensic examination of the structure, including its current condition and its evolution over time, allowing us to identify underlying problems, not just surface symptoms. It's like CSI: Historic Preservation, a meticulous process using all manner of technology and expertise--for example, we use boroscopes to look into cavity walls and we examine paint scrapings under microscopes. We also use laser scans, drones, and good old fashioned detective work and informed conjecture to figure out what’s going on.

    SAMPLE PROJECTS
    - The Soap Factory
    - Washburn-Crosby A Mill
    - Going-to-the-Sun Road
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  • Historic Structure Reports / Research
    Historic Structure Reports / Research
  • Historic Structure Reports / Research
    Historic Structure Reports / Research
    Buildings don’t often tell all their own secrets—to understand the full story, we conduct both an investigation of the structure and archival research about its origins, occupants, evolution, and historic context. Who built it and what was that person’s story? Was the style broadly popular at the time, and are there other similar examples still standing? What role has this building played in the broader history of the area? We conduct deep research, seeking out any relevant documents at architectural archives and local historical societies, and conducting interviews with building users and others who may have useful details to help us learn the secrets and stories. For Historic Structure Reports, we use the format and protocol set out in the National Park Service Preservation Briefs, combining a narrative history with a building assessment.

    SAMPLE PROJECTS
    Our archival research helped us understand ...
    - the original construction techniques of the Pierre Bottineau House
    - the underlying cause of failing masonry at Christ Church Lutheran
    - the sequence of construction for the various parts of the Riley Bartholomew House in Richfield, Minnesota
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  • Preservation Planning
    Preservation Planning
  • Preservation Planning
    Preservation Planning
    Sometimes it’s unclear what, exactly, needs to be done to make a building work better—but something needs to happen. Time for some master planning! We work closely with clients to understand short-, medium-, and long-term needs and goals. We investigate the building and ask lots of questions: How will the building be used? By whom? What core features must be preserved as the structure and its use evolve? Are there any safety, energy, or accessibility issues that must be addressed? Could some of the concerns be addressed in a phased fashion or Careful planning serves as the springboard for future action, allowing later projects to proceed more efficiently and with superior end results.

    SAMPLE PROJECTS
    - The Gale Mansion
    - Saint Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral in Minneapolis, Minnesota
    - Delano Village Hall in Delano, Minnesota
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  • New Construction
    New Construction
  • New Construction
    New Construction
    Existing buildings are our focus, but we also provide full services for new construction projects and building additions. We're particularly adept at designing in period styles and/or to complement a historic context. Our new designs always take cues from their surroundings—size, massing, materials, and other key features—so that they fit and converse with what’s already there without simply mimicking it.

    SAMPLE PROJECTS
    - Providence Academy
    - Smith-Douglas-More House addition
    - Excelsior Public Library in Excelsior, Minnesota
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  • Worship Spaces
    Worship Spaces
  • Worship Spaces
    Worship Spaces
    Each congregation and denomination has its own particular needs, traditions, and values, all of which relate to the design and function of the space. We strive to ensure that this spirit of place is preserved and enhanced even as the structure evolves. Many of our church clients hire us again and again, over the course of decades, to continue assisting with projects.

    SAMPLE PROJECTS
    - Redeemer Missionary Baptist Church
    - Christ Church Lutheran
    - Wesley United Methodist Church
    - Saint Augustine Roman Catholic Church
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  • Modern Era Projects
    Modern Era Projects
  • Modern Era Projects
    Modern Era Projects
    The collective understanding of what’s “historic” is ever changing—it’s not just about centuries-old buildings and "traditional" styles but also the more recent past, including structures of the mid-century Modern era. From glass curtain walls to Brutalism’s hulking concrete forms, the materials and techniques that distinguish these buildings require specialized expertise. Our firm is particularly passionate about these structures and we have a deep understanding of their unique and often subtle problems. Members of our firm were instrumental in organizing and hosting the 2015 "Modernism on the Prairie" symposium, which drew hundreds of participants from around the USA and the world.

    SAMPLE PROJECTS
    - Christ Church Lutheran
    - Parkside Professional Building, Minneapolis
    - Avalon Theater, Minneapolis
    - Uptown Theater, Minneapolis
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  • Nonprofits / Legacy Grants
    Nonprofits / Legacy Grants
  • Nonprofits / Legacy Grants
    Nonprofits / Legacy Grants
    We appreciate the importance of creating a distinct sense of place for cultural groups, museums, and similar organizations. Members of our firm have served on a variety of nonprofit boards, so we're familiar with challenges such as budgeting, consensus-building, and scheduling meetings. Minnesota's Arts and Cultural Heritage Grants (a.k.a. Legacy Grants) are a wonderful asset for the state's historic resources. We've been pleased to work on a wide range of Legacy Grant projects, and we're well-versed in the best practices, procedures, and documentation required.

    SAMPLE PROJECTS
    - Valley Grove
    - Sons of Norway Lodge, Lanesboro, Minnesota
    - Riley Bartholomew House, Richfield, Minnesota
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  • Consulting / Collaboration
    Consulting / Collaboration
  • Consulting / Collaboration
    Consulting / Collaboration
    We play well with others and love partnering with other architecture and historic consulting firms. We enjoy the collaborative process and look forward to working with you—our unique skills will complement yours. We’re not here to poach your project, we’re here to help make it a success, embodying your vision. For us, what matters is results, not ego. We've teamed up with some of the nation's largest firms, because we offer expertise they simply don't have.

    How can we help you? By filling in the gaps. It’s not just about archival research. It’s not just about mimicking old-fashioned design. It’s about the complex overlap between history, historic design, and best practices for restoration and rehabilitation this requires a nuanced understanding of how buildings were originally put together and fastidious investigation to pinpoint tricky, underlying problems rather than simply addressing superficial concerns. We bridge history and design, ensuring that nothing is missed.

    SAMPLE PROJECTS
    - Deep Underground Science & Engineering Lab (DUSEL) (former Homestake Mine) with HDR

    - Jackson Street Shops / Minnesota Transportation Museum with Snow Kreilich Architects

    - Washington Pavilion of Arts & Sciences with Architecture, Inc.

    - Going-to-the-Sun Road, Glacier National Park with Parsons Brinckerhoff

    - Saint Paul Central Library with MSR
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  • Historic Tax Credits
    Historic Tax Credits
  • Historic Tax Credits
    Historic Tax Credits
    Both the state of Minnesota and the US federal government offer tax credits for qualified historic preservation expenses. The state program is administered by the Minnesota Historic Preservation Office and the federal program by the National Park Service. The savings can be considerable, and the application process is rigorous, requiring detailed documentation and explanation of the proposed work. MacDonald & Mack assists clients in preparing tax credit application—we know the process, the people, the questions to ask, and how to put together the strongest possible application.

    For information including process and benefits of applying for tax credits, please see the Minnesota Historical Society’s tax credit page.

    SAMPLE PROJECTS
    - North Branch Library (EMERGE)
    - Minneapolis Grain Exchange
    - Pioneer-Endicott Buildings
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