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Shelter's History


While in graduate school in 1997 Shelter’s Founding Partner, Kurt Gough began working for John Barbour as his first full time employee at Barbour/LaDouceur Design Group (BLDG). Founding Partner Jackie Millea joined BLDG in 2000 after finishing her Master of Architecture Degree at the University of Minnesota. This was the start of second careers for both Jackie & Kurt. Jackie had practiced Interior Design and Kurt had worked as a theater scenic designer and prop master before pursuing architecture. Under the mentorship of award winning architects John Barbour and Janis LaDouceur they honed their skills as architecture interns on projects such as the Hotel Donaldson, Science House and Dodge Nature Preschool. In addition to commercial projects BLDG occasionally designed houses. Kurt designed a home for his parents in Chippewa Falls, WI and found a passion for residential design.

By 2004, Barbour/LaDouceur was growing, both in staff size and the size of projects coming into the office. The majority focus for BLDG at that time was the design of a proposed skyscraper on Nicollet Avenue in downtown Minneapolis. Kurt and Jackie felt the entrepreneurial itch and the desire to focus on smaller scaled, sustainably-geared residential projects. Partnering with classmate John Dwyer, they set out to form just such a practice. In October of 2004, Shelter Architecture officially set up a studio on the third floor of a renovated Minneapolis mansion just south of Loring Park.

From the beginning, the guiding belief at Shelter has been that design is a powerful tool that can make people’s lives better. That core belief led to working with groups like Habitat for Humanity and a close association with Architecture for Humanity. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Founding Partner John Dwyer moved to New Orleans to establish a Shelter studio — which was the first architecture firm ever to be set up in the Lower Ninth Ward. John Dwyer worked with neighborhood organizations to assist in the massive rebuilding efforts. Meanwhile up North, Kurt and Jackie provided support to the New Orleans office while continuing to focus an ever growing studio on sustainable residential design practices.

In 2008 Shelter’s ever expanding staff moved to a larger studio on Harriet Avenue in Minneapolis’ Uptown neighborhood. By then we had become known for designing award-winning, environmentally-sensitive homes. We an early adopters of LEED criteria and designed the first LEED-H Platinum certified home in Minnesota, dubbed 5ive based on the project’s single digit address. Shelter continued to explore environmentally sensitive design practices and began to expand the firm’s focus to a limited range of commercial projects. As the economic pressures of the recession began to force many architecture firms to downsize Shelter stayed the course, maintaining a slow but steady roster of renovations and remodels.

Back at Barbour/LaDouceur, the residential skyscraper project (now named The Nicollet) was tabled indefinitely due, in no small part, to the economic downturn. Barbour/LaDouceur reorganized and John Barbour founded Barbour Architects. In 2010, Shelter and John Barbour begun discussing opportunities to collaborate on projects. By the end of that year, Founding Partner John Dwyer departed from Shelter to take over his family’s construction business and eventually focus his attentions on the establishment of an Architecture program at Dunwoody College of Technology. The time seemed right to “get the band back together” and John Barbour became a Partner at Shelter Architecture.

Since 2010 Shelter has expanded its focus by incorporating the partners’ love of entrepreneurship and the design of experiences outside the home. Along with sustainably and accessibly designed residential work our portfolio began to include a wide range of commercial ventures. More and more of our work was with like-minded entrepreneurs who are passionate about what they do, which resulted in amazing spaces including Icehouse MPLS, Bauhaus Brew Labs, Hot Indian Foods, and The Oxbow Hotel in Eau Claire, WI.

In 2014 Shelter needed more space and moved the studio to NE Minneapolis. The old Crown Center steel factory space at 1229 Tyler Street reflected the creative, enterprising culture that Shelter internationally fosters. From this new Nordeast base of operations Shelter’s commercial designs have flourished. Recent projects of note include: MN Women’s Clinic, CREED Interactive and Bent Paddle Brewing. Rise Bagel, Black Coffee & Waffle Bar, The Hangar (at the MN State Fair), Modern Love Veterinary Clinic, and The Backyard Steakout (at the State Fair of Texas). Following the move to NE MPLS, we expanded our practice to include a permanent office in Wisconsin. In partnership with entrepreneurs passionate about revitalizing Eau Claire, Shelter found itself involved with ever expanding list of creative pursuits in the Chippewa Valley. In addition to The Oxbow Hotel the WI work includes both residential and commercial projects such as Skill Shot Coffee & Pinball, the Eau Claire Visitor’s Experience Center, and a new headquarters for River Prairie Wealth Partners.

Shelter continues to ground all of the firm’s pursuits in sustainable building science practices and has recently committed to Architecture 2030. Since the beginning we have focused on creating environments that are as comfortable and beautiful as they are functional, healthy, and good to the earth.