More than a building, Thor Companies Regional Acceleration Center is a marvel in modern architecture. 

Architecture is continuous.

From caves and trees, to tents and sheds, and igloos and mud huts. Architecture is how we shelter ourselves. Architecture is both visceral and intellectual. Architecture works on both our guts and our brains.

We have all experienced architecture. We have walked around it. Touched it. Gone inside it. And in some cases, even smelled it. All architecture includes buildings. But not all buildings are architecture. Four walls, a door, and a flat roof, does not architecture make. The difference between a building and architecture is sophistication. That is the visual and tactile reality that has evolved from a great deal of worldly experience, knowledge, fashion, culture and implementation, employed in machines, systems and techniques. Human beings are sophisticated. It is who we are. It is how we were created.

Architectural styles have segued from the Egyptian, Greek, Roman, byzantine, gothic, baroque, rococo, renaissance, beaux-arts (Minnesota State Capitol building), classical, and other styles through art nouveaux (Chrysler Building) and art-deco (Empire State Building), down to the current contemporary period that we now know as modern architecture.

This modern architecture was born from the Bauhaus, a German art school operational from 1919 to 1933, the period between the World Wars. Its’ founder, Walter Gropius, envisioned a school incorporating art, design, architecture, sculpture, graphic design, photography, painting and drawing. As an outgrowth of the late nineteenth century’s industrial revolution, the Bauhaus focused on using industrial materials in as much am unadulterated fashion as was possible in both residential and commercial construction. Materials, shapes, and components were purposely freed of the hierarchy of the beaux-arts dictums of formality, style, and ornamentation. This was a deliberate blow to (Roman architect Marcus) Vitruvius’ (Pollio) principle of ‘Firmness (structure), commodity (use), and delight (ornamentation/detail).

Author Tom Wolfe, wrote describing the movement of modern architecture from Europe to the U.S., in his book, “From Bauhaus to Our House.” The premier and foundational examples of modern architecture in America are by a Bauhaus alumnus, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. This can be seen in his Seagram Building on Park Avenue in New York City, and the Farnsworth House in Plano, Ill. (a one story flat-roofed glass house). A collaborator with Meis, and also a designer of his own Glass House, in New Canaan, Conn., architect Phillip Johnson designed one of the most elegant and breathtaking high-rise modern architecture buildings that we can see on a daily basis; the IDS Center.

The Investors Diversified Services (IDS) Center is a complex of four separate buildings, surrounding a centrally located, glass topped, indoor atrium. This 55-story project resulted in a never before realized corporate feature. The expansion of the corner office. Most high-rise office buildings, be they square or rectilinear in plan, typically only have four corner offices per floor. The IDS Center has 32 corner offices per floor. A conservative estimate puts this in excess of 1,200 corner offices. This is a remarkable building in both its response to the owners requirements as well a sophisticated glass curtain-wall exterior. Of course, being a high-rise building, it is located in downtown Minneapolis, with a four-block connection to the skyway system, and so marked the city as an architectural player on the world stage. Modern architecture is pervasive. It is everywhere. And it stands shoulder to shoulder with all the other styles that preceded it and area still being built today.

We now have new modern architecture in North Minneapolis. Thor’s Regional Acceleration Center, located at 1256 Penn Ave. N., is excellent modern architecture.

In the coming weeks I will have more on the architecture at the corner of Penn and Plymouth Avenues in North Minneapolis.

Since July of 2017, architect Randall Bradley has been writing a multi-part series on the construction of the new development at the corners of Penn Avenue North and Plymouth Avenue North in Minneapolis.

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