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Nelson Cultural Center, HGA, American Swedish Institute, leed gold, eco museum, green roof, swedish design, sustainable museum

The American Swedish Institute has long been a destination and gathering place for Swedish Americans in Minneapolis’ culturally diverse Phillips West Neighborhood – and now it has even more to boast about. Completed in the summer of 2012, the new Nelson Cultural Center is a 34,000 sq ft addition that provides space for education and cultural facilities for contemporary exhibitions, administrative offices, collections care, and expanded programs. The project was designed by HGA, who also renovated the historic Turnblad Mansion in which the main exhibition spaces for the institute reside. HGA’s design is both contemporary and historic. It utilizes natural materials like stone, wood and glass, provide an open and welcoming layout, and it incorporates handcrafted detailing.

Sustainability was an important aspect of the design, and the institute anticipates LEED Gold certification for its efforts – which would make it the first museum in Minnesota with such accolades. Well connected through public transportation and a pedestrian-friendly neighborhood, the center is easily accessed by the public. An underground system of 90 geothermal wells, installed beneath the a large landscaped courtyard, provides the buildings with energy-efficient heating and cooling. Natural ventilation, daylighting, white roofs, a high-performance envelope and other efficient equipment help reduce the building’s energy use by 30%. A green roof planted with sedum stores rainfall for plant irrigation. In addition, native, low-water plantings, an efficient irrigation system and low-flow fixtures reduce potable water use. Overall, the building’s sustainable design is coupled with a rich design history to provide a welcoming space to celebrate Swedish Americans. We bet the museum’s gift shop is amazing.

Images © Paul Crosby Photography