Minneapolis Public Service Building
Architect: Henning Larsen, MSR Design
Owner: City of Minneapolis
Standing in stark contrast to the stately yet opaque granite buildings of Minneapolis’ Government District, the city’s new Public Service Building proposes a contemporary alternative to civic design. Developed through a close partnership with the city and other public advocates, the building’s openness demonstrates how public spaces can better reflect the communities they serve.
The project began in 2017, when Minneapolis sought to develop a new Public Service Building near City Hall that would update the city’s critical systems and operations and provide a contemporary face for public service. Wrapped in a soaring aluminum and glass facade, the building stands as a welcoming beacon in the quad. Each of its frontages is unique because of the double-height pockets that are carved into the building, breaking up its massing.
Ease of access helps draw the public in, with nearby bus and light-rail stations servicing the building. A large feature stair in the entry foyer is a grand public space that, while not physically connected to the square outside, is visually linked to life on the street. Overarching themes of transparency and connection continue throughout the interior, even as it transitions from an open-to-all space to a secured workplace. Levels three through 10, which house its office floors, gather 10 city departments and more than 1,200 city employees in one building. Once scattered across various buildings, the employees are treated to daylit workspaces, quiet spaces for personal time, improved air quality, and a conference space, cafe, and terrace on the top floor.
In a government building that requires heightened security, the design still supports an open and airy environment throughout. The building’s concept does not take precedence over employee needs, and there are ample spaces for group and private work. Through the open nature of all of the building’s floors and stairwells, light is drawn deep into its core, further connecting employees to the outdoors. The expansive terrace that crowns the building also offers sweeping views of downtown Minneapolis and its twin city, St. Paul.
Recognizing that community-centric design must support an interwoven society and democratic access to city infrastructure, the design team reimagined the building’s connection to Minneapolis’ famed second-floor skyway system, which allows residents to walk in climate-controlled comfort throughout the city’s harsh winters. A large stair on the building’s ground floor serves the skyway, creating a highly visible access point. In emphasizing the link to the system, the building erases the separation between street and skyway pedestrians, connecting them both more deeply to the city.