Spotlight on Snow Kreilich, A’18’s Architecture Firm Award Winner

Who is the team behind the AIA win?

The Snow Kreilich tea, receives the American Institute of Architects’ 2018 Architecture Firm Award at Radio City Music Hall.

The Snow Kreilich tea, receives the American Institute of Architects’ 2018 Architecture Firm Award at Radio City Music Hall.

In his acceptance speech for the AIA’s 2018 Architecture Firm Award, Matt Kreilich said, “Our work is less about making a loud statement and more about blending in.”

It may sound like an odd statement coming from someone whose firm had just won an award recognizing at least 10 years of distinguished architecture, but Snow Krelich Architects has built its practice on designing buildings that stand out by blending in.

The Minneapolis-based firm, founded by Julie Snow in 1995, has made a name for itself designing what Kreilich called “everyday building types” like truck stops, factories and offices. Their heavily awarded designs are simple, elegant and fit their surrounding landscape. In a particularly famous example, Straight River Northbound Safety Rest Area has dark cladding on the sides to blend into the surrounding forest, a mirrored front to reflect the sky and a back-facing terrace for weary travelers to enjoy the ravine behind the building.

Snow’s portion of the acceptance speech focused on something just as remarkable and rare as the firm’s architectural designs: its culture.

“We try to balance what we ask of our people so that we try to get things to something relatively unusual in architecture: a 40-hour work week,” Snow said, to applause and cheers from her audience.

For the firm, it’s not just a matter of valuing its members. It’s a matter of creating the best possible designs.

“Unless you have life experiences you can bring into your work, I just think your work doesn’t have the breadth,” she continued.

Despite their commitment to personal time—or, perhaps because of it—Snow Kreilich has lofty design goals.

“For us, architecture is more than just enclosing space,” Kreilich said, during the acceptance speech. “Architecture has the power to transform one’s experience, enhance the lives of its users and create a profound impact on the communities and places we build within.”

Snow Kreilich’s impact on the community goes far beyond the buildings it has designed. Last year, the firm provided $120,000 worth of pro bono services to nonprofits across the globe. Thomas Fisher, director of the Minnesota Design Center at the University of Minnesota’s College of Design, called the firm “a model of how architects can work against the perception that we’re these elites who only do work for rich people.”

Snow Kreilich is, above all, community-focused.

“The firm award is important to us because it recognizes the efforts of our entire studio,” Snow said. “It’s the one award in architecture that recognizes not one or two people, or one or two buildings, but a body of workcreated by multiple dedicated architects.”

In a fitting end to the firm’s acceptance speech, Snow invited the rest of the team onstage with them to accept the award, concluding, “Working with these people makes it an incredible pleasure to come to work every day.”