Beyond the Still Image: Maple Grove Library

Maple Grove Library, designed by MS&R, is one of the first projects selected to engage readers and the general public with subject matter that goes beyond the print edition of Architecture MN Magazine.

Architecture MN successfully dived headfirst into the online world with their short film competition "Videotect" which is where I caught the eye of editor, Chris Hudson (and about 1,000 others).

I've wanted to explore this side of architecture since I first saw My Architect in 2003. About the life of an architect and his work, this film showed me that the experience of Architecture is more powerful when motion is made within a space or through it by others. Motion provides a sense of depth, character and and texture to a place that still images rarely achieve. Not only that, film can give context to the place and time from which a project is created.

Maple Grove Library, is part or my journey to grow in the ability to tell the story of architecture.

The material I produced is intended to be split into 4 bite sized pieces that in whole tell the story of Maple Grove Library. Below are those four parts. While we have titled them "Part 1-4", the order in which you watch them, like all things online, isn't critical to enjoying or understanding a single segment.

Part 1: Maple Grove Library - A visual tour through the completed project set to music.

Part 2: Site & Vision - Get to know more about the context of the library's location

Part 3: Defining "Library" - Understand more of the philosophy behind the design decisions.

Part 4: Integrating Sustainability - "Green" isn't just a word with this project. The goals of sustainable design have been fully integrated not only seamlessly throughout Maple Grove Library, they give form to function.

For those interested in the process behind this feature:


I conducted 4 interviews with members of the design team from MS&R Architects and Interior Designers, as well as Hennepin County officials and project staff. This couldn't of been done without the coordinating efforts of Traci Lesneski and Ligeia Cholensky from MS&R, Carla Biermaier and Kathryn Zimmerman from Hennepin County Staff, and Chris Hudson, Editor of Architecture MN.

Film Schedule

3 Days of filming was conducted over the course of 2 weeks to coordinate both interviews, weather, and location availability. Planning and coordination for those days took approximately 8-16 hours of time over the course of time previous to filming.

Over the course of that same 2 weeks, approximately 30-40 hours were spent editing and developing content.

This isn't too dissimilar to the timeline for a full production still photography schedule. Each project is unique however. The amount of content that is generated for the film can also be split by other parties within a production team or members within a design firm.


  • Filming, editing, and a steep learning curve effort of audio engineering was all produced by just myself.
  • This project couldn't of come together without the coordination efforts mentioned above.
  • Special credit also goes to Chris Hudson, Editor of Architecture MN for volunteering as my assistant for a day to gather model releases and ask for volunteers.
  • There were also additional Image Contributions from MS&R and Photographer Lara Swimmer. Her images are featured in the print edition of this article and used for portions of the interviews to give context to their words.


For those interested in the investment made to produce a film like this:

  • 2 Nikon D7000 DSLR Bodies
  • 2 Tripods
  • Manfroto Video head and Induro PHQ-3 Pan Head  
  • Tokina 11-16mm Wide angle Lens
  • Nikkor 24-70mm (However some prime lenses may be used)
  • 2 Audiotechnica Lavaliere Microphones
  • Promaster LED Studio Light
  • Light Stands
  • 50" Reflector for bounce light
  • 27" iMac, Final Cut, Lightroom, Quicktime 7pro, Drobo & LaCie External Storage.

Lessons learned

Every project has something to learn from, this is what I took away from this.

  • An assistant can make or break your production. 
    • #1 If my assistant wasn't there to collect signatures, it would have increased my production time by a few precious hours.
    • #2 Not having someone else to manage Audio and Lighting can create complications quickly for post production.)
  • Record Audio for interviews from at least two locations. A shotgun microphone on camera and lavaliere microphone on your subject, can save your bacon if one of them fails in mid interview.
    • Audacity is amazing tool for repairing audio if all else fails, but there is a steep learning curve.
  • Filming interviews from two locations provides versatility for editing that is less noticable than condensing clips from a single source.
  • Stormy days, make for fantastic clouds.
  • Studio LED lights need a fresh change of batteries more often than my children.

Chicago Safari

So in my downtime, I try to find things that inspire my vision both architecturally and photographically. While at the University Oregon, I used to walk around downtown Portland for hours, just observing (I used to walk 2 miles to my Studio from the Pearl District routinely).

My most recent safari to hunt for inspiration took place in just a portion of downtown Chicago. Here are 11 Images from the walk that I'd like to share. I'm not familiar with these buildings so it will be an adventure to dig up the names. If you have insights on any of these, I'd love it if you left a comment or sent me an email.

#1 Old Faithful

The bridge near Calumet Photo looks like it could use a little Rust-Oleum

#2 Old/New Chicago

Part of the struggle of fitting into the fabric of a city with so much diversity in styles, this new building is trying to capture both the scale of the old while using some very contemporary elements. Hence why I rendered this image into something that feels like it has a little more history.

#3 Wall Street

A 180 degree turn from the last shot. This streetscape was wonderfully scaled for the size of the buildings on these two blocks. This is combined with a street that seemed over sized for it's traffic load provided for a great vantage point of this very flat facade leading to the intersection.

#4 Lady on the Corner

Photo walk Tip #1 Look for Parking Ramps. They provide great vantage points. It may not have the versatility of renting a cherry-picker, but it can still provide some surprising shots.

#5 K.I.S.S.

This cylendrical portion of seemed stylistically disconnected from the rest of the building it was connected to. Perhaps an addition trying to distinguish a change from past ideology?

#6 Subtle Curves

This row home caught my eye for two reasons. #1 It was the best looking car on the street. #2 The balcony and facade give the impression of barrel distortion in the camera, but they are actually bowed out to the street. I'm sure if I caught this house earlier, some morning, there'd be some great tonality cast by subtle shadows to accent the curve.

#7 Tower of the Times

A residential tower just completing construction, just off a park on the Chicago Canal. One can only hope their prices match this economy.

#7 Standing Apart

This spire just jumps out at you. It's just far enough away from many of the other towers, that it must provide some great views from all sides.

#8 Simple and Subtle

The same tower as #7. The form of this tower is actually very simple, but it's subtly detailed in a way that reveals much more as you focus.

#9 British Invasion

Have you ever been to Vancouver B.C.? Change the glass to green, shift the concrete to grey, and your there. I love how the balconies break up the mass of the north side.

#10 Above the past.

I am fascinated by the way the old and the new intersect, overlap, and weave together. The challenge is how much do you acknowledge the past or do you simply give it new definition by separating yourself from it.

#11 The Commute.

Which do you prefer: 20 minutes in the car, or 20 minutes in the train?

Model Shmodel - Who needs glue?

I'm always on the look out for cool tools for Architecture. This morning on Twitter, Alan Rapp posted a link to this video about Holographic Imagery for Architectural Presentations. The product is from Zebra Imaging and it is SWEET. What an impressive technique for representing ideas in 3D space in presentations to clients.

Holographic Architectural Imaging by Zebra from Core77 on Vimeo.


Will this change the needs for physical models?

How do the costs compare?

What will interns do for architects, if they can't get their fingers stuck together in high strength glue?

What are your thought? I'm curious.

Oakdale Nature Center

I've recently completed some initial processing for two photo shoots.

This is Oakdale Nature Center, in Oakdale, MN. These will eventually be reduced to the final selections. Which would you choose?