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.

What will the future look like?

Recently MS&R began a discussion about the future of the Library.

I took this to mean "The Library" as place and not the physical physical repository of printed media. The following are some of my thoughts on the matter.

If you want to look at the library of the future, you need to look beyond just their physical contents. It will take an understanding about what the library functions as for community and we can examine that through what the library does now.

You can break that down into 3 major categories.

1) Accessibility:
Libraries are an access point to the digital knowledge and resources available on the web at a HIGH SPEED of access that may otherwise be out of budget for the home.

2) Community Gathering:
Principally the library is a community gathering space for research and acquisition of knowledge. but when you really think about it, they may be the first public social networking site in the analogue world.

3) Community Building
Libraries provide cultural exposure to different societies relevant to the community we are apart of locally. This includes clubs, speaking engagements, book readings, children’s story time, and topical discussions about current issues that provide a forum for discussion. This is the backbone of community building.

One direction of thought

If you want to keep the library relevant you have to look beyond the physical and understand the cultural relevancy of the place. So looking at each category.

1) Accessibility:
If publications move more to digital copies. That doesn’t mean the price of either the devices to access that material or the bandwidth to download it will be be attainable to the public.

2) Community Gathering:
The need for a place that offers publicly accessible gathering will always be there… if we foster it. In an age of Facebook and Twitter, there may be more need than ever to offer something that can’t be done in a virtual world. Perhaps it’s meeting people we don’t know, who share ideas, problems, or interests that are in common or in conflict.

3) Community Building:
While it’s nice to keep in touch and spy on my friends activities on my personal time and from the comfort of my own home. It still isn’t a replacement for in person communication. The relevance of nuance and subtly of intonation is hard to express in 144 characters.

A Final Thought
While I can listen to 20 podcasts about Photography, and I can read and comment on hundreds of blogs about industry news and tips and tricks. There is still something about coming together at my monthly Camera Club, that I can’t get else where. There is a tangible benefit to getting to meet people who share a similar interest at a local happy hour.

You can find the full post on MS&R's blog here.

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?