Minnesota State Capitol Restoration
Owner: State of Minnesota
Location: St. Paul, Minnesota
Having withstood more than 100 years of the region’s harsh winters, “The People’s House,” as the Minnesota State Capitol is affectionately called, was in desperate need of a thorough restoration. Recognized as a Class Gilbert masterpiece built between 1898 and 1904, the building faced significant water infiltration, dangerous stone conditions, and long-delayed preservation efforts.
The design team was originally hired in 2006 to conduct studies for a restoration, but the project failed to gain political traction and was ultimately suspended two years later. The condition of the building continued to deteriorate, with pieces of stone falling off the building and rain water damaging its historic interior. It became increasingly clear that piecemeal efforts would be insufficient to preserve the building, and planning efforts resumed in 2012 with bipartisan support to fund the $310 million project followed shortly after. The sweeping restoration included exterior stone repair, a new accessible approach and entrance, comprehensive infrastructure replacement, and a new elevator and historic glass elevator restoration.
Phased over four years, the project was completed in 2017 and the building was occupied for two of those years. The complex restoration spanned the terms of two governors and many commissioners, requiring the input from a diverse and ever-changing group of stakeholders. Eleven town hall-style workshops were held to gather input and discuss goals for the project. The workshops provided clear direction for the team and bolstered the level of political dedication for the stakeholder. From the state’s perspective, it was imperative that the capitol continue to live up to its moniker and welcome nearly 350,000 people every year for business and tours.
To construct the preservation framework the team included a specific treatment approach to each area within the building. Each area was assigned a historic zone designating its importance based on architectural integrity and remaining historical material. While the project needed to preserve the historic building, it also sought to improve the function of the building and provide a modern-day work environment to meet the needs of the people and state employees.
Balancing innovative solutions and high-impact interventions, the team was able to seamlessly blend modern systems into the existing historic fabric. Today, the capitol is a true state-of-the-art government building ready to serve the people for another century and beyond.
"A masterful preservation project following all the textbook preservation design steps – historical research, programming, design, systems integration, and highest levels of workmanship. This project transformed the 1905 Minnesota State Capitol, an architectural masterpiece designed by Cass Gilbert, back to “The People’s House” that it was originally designed to be. Integrating architecture, art, community, government and technology, the project may be appreciated on many levels." - Jury comment