Renewing a Brutalist Landmark

Arvonne Fraser Library

Arvonne Fraser Library

Minneapolis, Minnesota

We celebrated this public library’s Mid-century Modern design while making strategic modifications to better serve the community’s needs. Designed by renowned architect Ralph Rapson, the building opened in 1964. Our renovation preserves the unique geometry and Modernist details that defined Rapson’s original design.

The most dramatic intervention involved reopening the dark and windowless basement, which had not been used for many years due to water damage. We cut through the first floor to create double-height space at the heart of the building. Aligned to the original skylights, the opening floods the lower level with natural light and lends views from the lower level up to the building’s distinctive waffle slab ceiling.

Renewing a Brutalist Landmark
The library is so beautiful, it’s one of the most transformative renovations we’ve done. It exceeds all of our expectations.
A photo of the stairs leading up to the restored entrance of the Arvonne Fraser Library.

From Endangered to Inspired

Due to its deteriorating condition, the building was once included on the Preservation Alliance of Minnesota’s list of Ten Most Endangered Buildings. Our comprehensive renovation restored the exterior, reimagined the interior, reclaimed the basement, improved public access, and revamped exterior public spaces.

A photo of the Rapson's playful "light scoops" that were restored and now a beloved feature of the children's area.

From the Basement Up

The long-abandoned lower level retained very little historic fabric, giving our team wide leeway in creating inviting spaces for children and teens. The exception is the former board room, where Rapson’s playful “light scoops” were restored and are a beloved feature of the children’s area.

A photo of people in a library.

Increasing Accessibility

The existing building suffered from the same accessibility issues that plague many historic structures. We seamlessly integrated an elevator next to the existing stair and modified the front entry with an unobtrusive ramp so that people of all abilities share the same user experience.

A photo of the original Brutalist architecture of the library designed by Rapson.

Reimagining Rapson

Renewal of a Brutalist work of architecture requires managing change sensitively. Through sustainable stewardship we were able to give new relevance to this important public building. Our renovation respects Rapson’s original design while renewing the building for a new generation.

A photo of where the rooms all intersect, an area which contains an interesting ceiling design that has a concrete grid-like appearance.
A photo of teens working from a laptop at a round table with a partial wall divider.

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