2021 Young Architects Award Recipient
Emerging talent deserves recognition. The AIA Young Architects Award honors individuals who have demonstrated exceptional leadership and made significant contributions to the architecture profession early in their careers.
Dagmara Larsen, AIA, holds the conviction that architecture must always be a sustainable, human-centered endeavor and that design is most effective when it is directed at serving people while reflecting their culture. That ethos is evident in all levels of Larsen’s service and leadership, and her integrity has produced a portfolio filled with award-winning educational and library facilities scattered across the nation.
Larsen, who was introduced to architecture at a young age while growing up in Poland along the coast of the Baltic Sea, received her training at the Gdansk University of Technology Faculty of Architecture. Her thesis advisor, Lucyna Nyka, Ph.D, D.Sc. Prof, introduced Larsen to the concept of human-centric design and the responsibilities architects bear when shaping social and public space. Her resulting thesis project, developed for the Mies van der Rohe Foundation’s design competition, was selected for a national review. Larsen also received a Young Architect recognition from the Association of Polish Architects for her work.
During an international scholarship that sent her to work with the São Paulo-based Itaú Plan, Larsen found herself working in a new, racially divided society. In that environment, she found inspiration in the modernist work of Lina Bo Bardi. Later, a job offer for her husband took Larsen to Minneapolis, where she found her first professional home in the offices of HGA. There she worked on the firm’s design for the General Mills World Headquarters and her first LEED-accredited project, the California Department of General Services Office Buildings 8 and 9 in Sacramento.
“Over the past several years, Dagmara has become well known in our community as a champion for design excellence, particularly in the form of regenerative and inclusive design,” wrote Karen Lu, AIA, NOMA, the 2020 AIA Minnesota president, in a letter nominating Larsen for the Young Architect Award. “Dagmara leads by example in her day-to-day practice, her professional work, and her many volunteer commitments.”
In 2005, Larsen brought her passion for sustainability and design to MSR Design, also in Minneapolis, where she was recently named its first female architect principal. At MSR, she has long championed an integrated design approach for every project, which quickly positioned her as a practice and thought leader in the holistic design of libraries and educational facilities. She has shaped lauded libraries in Madison, Tulsa, and Missoula, among many others, and led the collaborative process that delivered the Visual Culture, Arts, and Media (VCAM) building to the campus of Haverford College in the suburbs of Philadelphia. Closer to home, she was instrumental in the design of MSR’s new offices, completed in 2019. Currently, both Larsen and MSR CEO Traci Lesneski have become majority owners of the firm and are certifying it as a women-owned business.
When she first moved to Minneapolis, Larsen connected with professor Andrzej Piotrowski at the University of Minnesota School of Architecture. Since then, she has remained connected to the school and returns regularly to review design studios and jury thesis projects. Larsen is committed to the education of her colleagues, too. To that end, she developed a lecture focused on her firm’s approach to sustainability for AIA Indianapolis, and for AIA Minnesota’s Future of Design Series, she presented on the future of healthy workplaces within the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Dagmara is a natural leader and an excellent human being. She has distinctive international experience, is well read and current with the arts and politics—and has a fine sense of humor with a contagious laugh,” noted Thomas Meyer, FAIA, founding principal emeritus at MSR. “She has the life experience, talent, humanity, and integrity that, together with her architectural accomplishments, make her an exemplary candidate to receive the Young Architect Award.”