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Shelter's History


While in graduate school Shelter’s Founding Partner Kurt Gough began working for John Barbour at Barbour/LaDouceur Design Group (BLDG) in 1997 as their first full time employee. 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 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 new passion in 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 shop on the 3rd 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 office — which was the first architecture office 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 design practices.

In 2008 Shelter’s ever expanding staff moved to a larger studio on Harriet Avenue in Minneapolis’ Uptown neighborhood. By then Shelter had become known for designing award-winning, environmentally-sensitive homes. The firm was an early adopter 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 called 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, the firm’s portfolio began to include a wide range of commercial ventures. The firm began to work with like-minded entrepreneurs who are passionate about what they do, which resulted in amazing spaces including the founders of Icehouse MPLS, Bauhaus Brew Labs, Hot Indian Foods, CREED Interactive and Bent Paddle Brewing. Shelter continued to ground all of the firm’s pursuits in sustainable building science practices, creating environments that are as comfortable and beautiful as they are functional, healthy, and good to the earth.

In 2014 Shelter moved the studio to NE Minneapolis. The old steel factory space at 1229 Tyler Street reflected the creative, enterprising culture that Shelter internationally fosters. Following that move, Shelter expanded their office to include a Wisconsin branch. Lead by a group of passionate entrepreneurs revitalizing Eau Claire, WI, Shelter found itself involved with ever expanding list of creative pursuits, both residential and commercial, in the Chippewa Valley.