American Swedish Institute

American Swedish Institute

With its slate-clad volumes, the new Nelson Cultural Center makes a sympathetic counterpart to the Institute’s 1908 mansion.
Courtesy HGA

Architect: HGA Architects and Engineers
Client: American Swedish Institute
Location: Minneapolis
Completion: 2012

The Nordic countries are known for beautifully crafted, place-specific architecture. When the American Swedish Institute was looking to expand its facilities in Minneapolis, they interviewed a number of local firms before settling on HGA Architects and Engineers. “Though I’m not Swedish, we spent a lot of time trying to understand and synthesize the qualities of Swedish architecture,” said Tim Carl, a vice president at HGA. “At the same time, the project needed to be about Minneapolis.”

Between the two buildings, an event space will host outdoor programs.

HGA has designed a thoroughly contemporary addition that defers to the Institute’s 1908 chateau-like mansion, while also alluding to elements of Swedish architecture. The 34,000-square-foot structure, known as the Nelson Cultural Center, includes galleries, an auditorium, offices, a shop, and cafe. Clad in dark gray slate—the mansion is topped in a lighter slate—the building’s roofline is broken up with a wedge-shaped light monitor and a sloping green roof.


The New Lobby.

“Many of the element are domestic in scale,” Carl said. “Swedes have been building green roofs since the 5th century in small rural buildings.” Visitors to the double-height glazed lobby will look back at the mansion. A courtyard separates the addition from the mansion, while also creating a space for outdoor events.

“They would like us to finish the project in time for the King and Queen of Sweden’s visit to Minneapolis in May of 2012,” he said. The architects hope to break ground this winter.