Minnesota Modern Masters

Oral History Project

“Buildings are not just created for people; they are also created by people and we can never fully understand the ideas that drive our architecture without also comprehending the ideas of the people who designed or critiqued it.”

—Tom Fisher, former Dean of the University of Minnesota College of Design, describing the rationale of the Minnesota Modern Masters Oral History Project.

MNSAH created the Minnesota Modern Masters (MMM) Project as a way to document the careers of architects who brought modernism to Minnesota after World War II. It has expanded to include architects of the next generation as well as journalists, educators and critics who have contributed to Minnesota’s architectural culture.

Joan Soranno and John Cook

Joan Soranno and John Cook

The professional experiences and personal histories documented in the MMM interviews–many of which have not been captured before–provide valuable insights into the development of the state’s built environment. Architects Joan Soranno and John Cook described “the holistic approach of the project, which places significant value on the intersection of history, architecture, community, and our shared sense of places,” as “especially visionary.”

In 2019, AIA Minnesota honored MNSAH with a Special Award for the project.

To date, more than two dozen oral histories have been completed. Almost all interviews were funded by three successive Minnesota Historical and Culture Heritage Program (“Legacy”) grants, awarded to MNSAH by the Minnesota Historical Society.

Interview subjects are chosen by the MMM committee based on professional recognition by peers, such as elevation to Fellow of the American Institute of Architects (FAIA) or being named an AIA Minnesota Gold Medalist. It has also interviewed educators, historians and journalists whose work has had a significant impact on Minnesota architecture. In the case of posthumous subjects, interviewees were selected who could most knowledgeably discuss the work and careers of the late architects.

For each subject, a 90-minute video interview is conducted. All digital interview files and transcriptions are archived in the MNSAH Collection at the Northwest Architectural Archives (NAA) at the University of Minnesota, where they are accessible to researchers and anyone interested in Minnesota’s architectural history.

All interviews are available for viewing on MNSAH’s Vimeo site: vimeo.com/mnsah

Here are the interviewees:

  • Fredrick Bentz, FAIA, AIA Minnesota Gold Medal, 1996; Milo Thompson, FAIA, AIA Minnesota Gold Medal, 2006
  • Su Blumentals, FAIA, and Janis Blumentals, AIA (Interview with Su Blumentals)
  • Elizabeth Close, FAIA, AIA Minnesota Gold Medal, 2002; Winston Close, FAIA
    (Interview with Gar Hargens, AIA)
  • John Cuningham, FAIA, AIA Minnesota Gold Medal, 2018
  • Foster Dunwiddie, FAIA
  • Thomas Fisher, Associate AIA, former Dean, College of Design, University of Minnesota
  • Bette Hammel, journalist and author
  • Beverly Hauschild-Baron, Honorary AIA, former AIA Minnesota Executive Director
  • Thomas Hodne, FAIA; James Stageberg, FAIA, AIA Minnesota Gold Medal, 1991 (Interview with Bill Beyer, FAIA, and Thomas Meyer, FAIA)
  • Vincent James, FAIA, and Jennifer Yoos, FAIA; VJAA, AIA Firm of the Year, 2012
  • Edward J. Kodet, Jr., FAIA, AIA Minnesota Gold Medal, 2010
  • John Lackens, FAIA, and Herbert Ketcham, FAIA
  • Linda Mack, journalist and critic
  • Robert C. Mack, FAIA, AIA Minnesota Gold Medal, 2016; and Stuart MacDonald, AIA
  • Thomas Meyer, FAIA, Jeffrey Scherer, FAIA, and Garth Rockcastle, FAIA
  • Valerius Michelson, FAIA (Interview with John Yust, AIA, David Bowers, AIA, and Daniel Feidt, AIA)
  • Dale Mulfinger, FAIA
  • Leonard Parker, FAIA, AIA Minnesota Gold Medal, 1986 (Interview with Francis Bulbulian, FAIA, Gary Mahaffey, FAIA, and Aaron Parker)
  • George E. Rafferty, FAIA, AIA Minnesota Gold Medal, 1993; Craig Rafferty, FAIA, AIA Minnesota Gold Medal, 2012
  • David Salmela, FAIA, AIA Minnesota Gold Medal, 2008
  • Julie Snow, FAIA, AIA Minnesota Gold Medal, 2014; Snow Kreilich Architects, AIA Firm of the Year, 2018
  • Joan Soranno, FAIA, and John Cook, FAIA
  • Edward Sovik, FAIA, AIA Minnesota Gold Medal, 1982 (Interview with Gary Johnson, AIA, and Pepe Kryzda, AIA)
  • Dennis Sun Rhodes (with Daniel Feidt, AIA)
  • Duane Thorbeck, FAIA
  • Kelly Davis
  • Hammel, Green and Abrahamson (HGA) (Interview with Gary Reetz, FAIA)

View Minnesota Modern Masters videos on Vimeo—MNSAH

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