Honor Goes to Swenson Civil Engineering Building

swenson civil building
November 1, 2011

Swenson Civil Engineering building featured on cover of Chicago Architect magazine

UMD's James I. Swenson Civil Engineering Building building was awarded a Distinguished Building Honor Award by the AIAChicago, the American Institute of Architects, Chicago chapter. A photo of the building depicting the oversized scuppers that channel storm water was featured on the cover of November/December 2011 Chicago Architect magazine. The Chicago architecture firm, Ross Barney Architects, designed the building. Carol Ross Barney, who spent a significant amount of time on site during the design and construction process, is the founder and principal of Ross Barney Architects. Stanius Johnson Architects of Duluth served as the associate architecture firm.

About the Award 
AIAChicago established the Distinguished Building Award in 1955 to recognize significant achievements in the planning, design and execution of recent building projects designed by Chicago-area architects. Categories include Distinguished Buildings, Interiors, Regional and Urban Design, and Unbuilt Design. The winners of the 56th Annual Design Excellence Awards can be viewed on the AIAChicago website.

About the building 
James I Swenson Civil Engineering Building 
Design Architect: Ross Barney Architects 
Associate Architect: Stanius Johnson Architects 
Contractor: Shahl Construction 
Consultants: Dunham Engineering, MBJ Consulting Structural, Engineers, Oslund and Associates, Terra Engineering, MSA Professional Services

What the AIAChicago and the Jurors Said
When designing a building for the study of civil engineering, it’s wise to incorporate techniques that relate to the course of study. They’ll notice. Here, the architects highlighted construction and site systems that students will find familiar, including oversized scuppers that channel storm water from the roof to the large French drains, a precast structural lab with installation materials left in place for learning and other touches. Jurors noted all this and the use of locally available materials that tie the building to the region’s mining and excavation industries, but they were also drawn by its distinctive look. Combining wood, glass, and pre-cast concrete in innovative ways, the building is a showcase container for a new academic program and an instant landmark on its campus. “It’s a standout, really fine work,” one juror commented.

About Jim and Susan Swenson 
In September 2007, generous new donations by James I and Susan Swenson and Swenson Family Foundation were announced. Those gifts include $7.7million for science and research scholarships, along with $3 million toward the construction of a new civil engineering building planned for the UMD campus.

Jim (’59 Chemistry) attributes much of his outstanding success to the education he received at UMD. And he and his wife, Susan, have given back generously, with gifts totaling over $21 million.

In 1999, the Swenson Family Foundation donated $10 million to UMD, previously the largest single gift the campus has received. Of that $10 million, $7.5 million was committed to construction of the James I. Swenson Science Building, and $2.5 million was designed for chemistry and biochemistry academic scholarships. The Swenson Family Foundation has supported numerous additional programs and activities at UMD and has awarded over 200 scholarships and undergraduate research fellowships to UMD students.

Their name now adorns both the UMD science building and the Swenson College of Science of Engineering. James Swenson, a University of Minnesota Duluth Alumnus, has donated more than $21 million to the school, with his most recent donation of $10.7 million toward the College of Science and Engineering. $3 million of this was dedicated to the new civil engineering building and the remaining $7.7 million was given as scholarships for students in science and research programs. This donation helps to continue to support the scholarship programs the Swenson family started in 1994. Since the program began, UMD has awarded scholarships to over 200 students.[79] Because of his generous donations over the years, the school renamed the College of Science and Engineering to be the Swenson College of Science and Engineering. “It’s nice to have our names on buildings, but there’s a lot of gratification in helping these young people,” said Swenson. The Swenson’s are natives of northern Superior, Wisc. and have since relocated to California. James completed his bachelor’s degree in chemistry in 1959 at UMD. He then worked in the computer industry with his circuit shop Details Inc., which he sold in 1997.