The Nelson Cultural Center for the American Swedish Institute acknowledges the historic character of the Turnblad mansion while creating a distinct architectural presence that considers contemporary and traditional Swedish aesthetics and landscape. Accommodating ASI’s growing programs and audiences, the addition incorporates natural wood, glass, stone and textiles; an open and welcoming layout; handcrafted detailing; and sustainable solutions designed to meet LEED Gold.
The 34,000 SF, two-level addition includes a glass-enclosed reception lobby, gift shop, new gallery space, offices, second-floor event space, pre-function space, and a landscaped courtyard. In addition, renovation to the Turnblad mansion creates community meeting rooms, new classrooms, and improved visitor accessibility and circulation.
HGA designed the Nelson Cultural Center as a complementary architectural companion, allowing the Turnblad mansion to remain the site’s centerpiece in a symbiotic play of traditional and new architectural elements. Occupying a vacant lot west of the existing mansion and carriage house, the addition unfolds horizontally through a series of modular architectural forms sheathed in dark slate tiles and punctuated with large windows and light monitors. Visitors approach from Park Avenue along a landscaped path toward the entrance lobby highlighted in art-glass panels, forming a visually light base from which the second level seemingly floats above.
A landscaped courtyard between the addition and mansion provides green relief that further reflects Scandinavian influences and sustainable strategies. The team chose such materials and plantings as birch trees and blue-stone pavers, among others selections, for their sustainable qualities, low maintenance, and appropriateness in both Minnesota and Swedish landscapes. A sloping green roof and terrace, also reflective of traditional Scandinavian architecture and landscape, will help reduce energy cost and rain run-off.
The main lobby is light and airy, with two-story windows visually aligning with the Turnblad mansion and original entrance. Materials again reinforce Scandinavian aesthetics, from theart-glass entrance to the white-oak paneling and finishes, and porcelain-tile floors resembling limestone. The second-floor event room has a ribbed wooden ceiling, reminiscent of the timber roof of the Stockholm City Hall.
From the lobby, a glass corridor connects with the main mansion and carriage house. Here, the vertical circulation tower between the mansion and carriage house to make all levels of the mansion accessible. The mansion’s lower level will showcase a renovated gallery and provide much-needed classrooms and a community hall.