AIA Award features UMD’s Swenson Civil Engineering Building

The Swenson Civil Engineering Building, located on University Drive,  was featured as one of the designs by the firm Ross Barney, recipient of the American Institute of Architect’s 2023 Gold Medal. The building contains multiple distinctive features, which led to the award.

“Engineering on Display,” is a key factor in the design of the UMD building. The firm, led by architect Carol Ross Barney, introduced the concept. Of the six total laboratories, two reach two stories high with full glass walls which provide views from hallways as well as the outside. These "large labs" showcase to viewers civil engineering activity.  The building’s exposed mechanical systems perform an educational function.

The exterior of the building also puts  “Engineering on Display.” Massive “scuppers” move rainwater into cisterns to be used in the laboratories. The distinctive role of Northern Minnesota as a source of both iron and timber is incorporated into the structure. 

David Saftner, associate professor and head of the Civil Engineering Department, said, “It’s an awesome building.” He credits the open spaces and with creating a sense of community. “The building is so impressive and there are so many places to work together, it helps us recruit not only students, but faculty.”

Mary Christiansen, associate professor and the director of graduate studies, agrees. "We are so fortunate to work in such a beautiful and inviting environment. All of the natural daylight helps us get through long Duluth winters, and the exposed structure is great for teaching!"