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Alexandria Area High School

The unique design of the Alexandria Area High School showcases Cuningham Group’s ability to integrate clients’ specific goals into beautiful, functional buildings. The school, which opened in September of 2014, is the culmination of a multi-year conversation between Cuningham Group and the greater Alexandria community. “Alexandria marked a new level in our ability to design with and not for a community,” Cuningham Group Principle John Pfluger, LEED® AP, said. “When we started our three-day discussion and community workshop, everyone arrived as a separate voice with a separate identity. Over the next few days, the 100 or so community members and our team all came to know one another and move closer to a single identity and shared idea. It was really remarkable to watch.” As a result of this co-creative design process, the new school was broken up into four separate wings: sports, performing arts, a 1,013-seat auditorium, and open learning spaces—all of which gather around a three-story Community Commons. The commons, which serve as both an informal gathering space and as the school cafeteria, is a grand, day-lit space intended to create a sense of student belonging and connectedness. According to Pfluger, the creation of this space was a direct result of student voices. “It was the student input in the workshop and in later sessions that first envisioned a strong central commons space that they named ‘Eat, Meet, Greet,’” Pfluger said. “By the end of the three days, the entire group supported this public space as a keystone...

Chelsea Woods

Chelsea Woods is a designed community located off the busy intersection of County Road 6 and Vicksburg Lane in Plymouth, Minnesota. More than 45 years after it was designed, the compact multi-family development remains a thriving community. Situated on 94 acres of dense forests and pristine waterways, Chelsea Woods includes 224 units, 129 of which are attached townhomes and 95 are detached, patio-style homes. All were designed to blend into and take advantage of the surrounding natural setting and provide residents with views of the beautiful environs throughout the year. When the developer purchased the property in 1971, it was considered an unappealing swamp. Surrounded by farmland, it was previously owned by a concrete company and used as a trash collection site that was polluting the wetlands. The site was also considered undevelopable because of a high water table and it served as the watershed for nearby Gleason Lake. However, John Cuningham and his partner at the time, Roger Freidberg, saw this challenge as an opportunity. “Together we made the key decision to make the most that the site lay at the center of that watershed of several hundred acres,” Cuningham said. “Water flowed into and through the site. Working with Barr Engineering we developed a master plan that captured water in lakes and wetlands.” A hydrologist deepened the original swamps, allowing the homes to be strategically placed around connected community ponds. Today, the six waterways and three walking trails are year-round assets for residents. “They didn’t bulldoze the trees...

Arkansas House of Prayer

When Rev. Susan Sims Smith from the Arkansas House of Prayer read an article in the interfaith journal Faith and Form about Cuningham Group-designed Episcopalian retreat house, the House of Prayer Oratory at St. Johns University, she knew she wanted one just like it for her Little Rock congregation. “With very short notice, she showed up at our office in Minneapolis and told John Cuningham that she wanted to ‘buy’ the plans for the building,” Associate Principal Daniel Grothe, LEED® AP said. Cuningham sat down with Smith and explained that great buildings are designed for specific sites and local cultures, therefore he would not sell her the plans for the House of Prayer Oratory. He would, however, design for her a unique house of prayer of her own. Smith agreed and soon work began on the Arkansas House of Prayer. Where the natural world and built world collide Grothe, the project architect, wanted the new House of Prayer to compliment the surrounding area. In order to ensure that the House of Prayer blended seamlessly into the heavily wooded site, the space was constructed with naturally aging materials, such as copper, native Arkansas stone and Cypress wood. The use of these specific materials meant that the appearance of the building would be constantly changing, just like the natural world around it. As a result, the House of Prayer has since melded into the environment, blurring the line between the built world and the natural. Grothe noted that the building’s form is...

Alpensia Resort, Site of 2018 Winter Olympics

Cuningham Group is the designer of the home of the 2018 Olympics in South Korea. Completed in 2009, Alpensia will be the hub of many of the Olympic winter events, including ski jumping, biathlon and cross-country skiing. The firm is both the master planner and the concept architect for Alpensia, which is an already thriving resort community. “It is an extraordinary honor for the community we designed to be chosen by the IOC as the home of the 2018 Olympics Games,” said Cuningham Group Principal James S. Scheidel AIA, LEED AP®, who supervised Alpensia’s design. “Alpensia was conceived as an international resort and recreation destination, and it has thrived as such since its 2009 completion. Now, the eyes of the world will truly be on Alpensia and its many exceptional venues.” Alpensia is situated in two beautiful and adjacent valleys in Pyeonchang in Korea’s Gangwon-do province. A charming Alps-inspired village – the focal point of the resort – will now become Olympic Village. Nestled in the heart of the larger of two valleys, the village concentrates shops, restaurants, entertainment and activity venues as well as many of the resort’s accommodations in a relatively small, vibrant area. At the heart of the village is a retail and entertainment pedestrian promenade. With a grand piazza and five-star hotel and wellness center at one end of the promenade, and a second piazza, family hotel, waterpark and conference center at the other, this pedestrian zone will be the hub of 2018 Olympics activity. Also...

Urban Currents

John Cuningham has great pride and love for the Twin Cities. In 1999, he launched a monthly community forum, Metro Matters, as a way to discuss important local issues. Now called Urban Currents, it’s has been a way to ensure the Minneapolis office – regardless of where our projects are located, remains a local office with a local impact Eighteen years later, we have hosted more than 150 events, over 200 speakers and a few thousand attendees and participants. Events have included panel discussions and fishbowl discussions; topics have been wide-ranging and have included healthcare, transit, education, and citizen engagement.

Heinävaara Elementary School opens

Juhani Rouvinen, the mayor of Heinävaara, Finland, and architect Antero Turkki attended a conference in Helsinki where they listened to a representative from Cuningham Group speak about the latest research on how children learn in different ways and what that meant for school design. They immediately envisioned the possibilities for their new school in Heinävaara and commissioned Cuningham Group to lead the process. Cuningham Group met with community members to help them understand how the learning landscape was changing. “We asked a lot of questions and we listened,” says Principal Judy Hoskens. “Together, we created a vision for their new school. Once the community understood that we shared their values and priorities for their children, you could feel the tide turn. The most vocal adversaries became our strongest advocates. The experience was exhilarating!” Educational “houses” in the 26,000-square-foot school open to a central gathering space with media center, performance area and cafeteria that are available to the community in the evening. A focal point of the gathering space is a 10-foot-high, soapstone fireplace used by students for activities such as baking traditional Karelian pies. To boost the local wood-products industry, Heinävaara used the school project to learn North American wood platform-framing. Contractors from the United States worked hand-in-hammer with the Finns for a month, teaching the technique, which is faster than traditional Finnish building methods and reduces lumber waste up to 30 percent. “It’s been nearly 20 years since I collaborated on Heinävaara School’s planning and design, but I can...

STAR TREK: The Experience at the Las Vegas Hilton

The entertainment attraction featured a state-of-the-art simulator ride based on the Star Trek television and motion picture series and a 200-seat restaurant featuring Quark’s Bar and a retail promenade based on Deep Space Nine. The attraction included an exhibit of authentic Star Trek props, as well as the Bridge of the USS Enterprise allowing visitors a 24th-century experience. STAR TREK: The Experience™ was the winner of a Themed Entertainment Award for Best Attraction and the Casino Executive Gold Medallion Design Awards.

Los Angeles

“In 1995 Walt Disney Imagineering embarked on a plan to design and build a new theme park adjacent to Disneyland in Anaheim. Disney’s California Adventure was to be a tribute to the rich history of California. Cuningham Group was selected to join the Imagineers in delivering a significant part of this theme park experience. The reputation and relationships that resulted from our involvement on DCA ultimately led to Cuningham Group working on every Disney theme park in the world, firmly establishing Cuningham Group as the “go to” firm for the undisputed leaders of the Entertainment Industry.” –Chairman of the Board, Jim Scheidel, AIA, NCARB, LEED AP

Breck School Chapel of the Holy Spirit

After fire destroyed Breck School’s chapel at its campus on River Road in Minneapolis, the school decided to move the campus west to Golden Valley, and hired Cuningham Group to design the new Chapel of the Holy Spirit. Breck desired a simple and strong chapel to serve as a focus for its campus community. The design serves multiple uses and includes a music room, lecture hall and study area in addition to the worship space. A gallery, located in the back of the Chapel, serves as gathering space before and after events. Special attention was given to design flexibility, lighting and acoustics to accommodate the multipurpose nature of the facility. During the comprehensive planning process, John Cuningham and the team visited all of the classrooms and the staff. “In 1980, when we got to the second-grade classroom, they had many suggestions but two stuck with me,” Cuningham recalled. “The first one was to slope the floor so they could see and the second was to arrange the seating in sort of a semi-circle so they could see the seniors. I asked them why, and they said ‘because that is what are we are going to be.'” “There were many other suggestions, including making the windows clear so we can see the seasons change, put in an art gallery so we can see student work, make it the center of the campus so we can see it from everywhere,” he continued. “Make it feel reverent and comfortable.” When it opened in...

First Major Education Award

Cuningham Group was honored for its design of Oak Point Intermediate School in Eden Prairie, Minnesota. “Thanks to a visionary client, we stretched the boundaries of space and educational delivery, and the connections between them to create a new model that would be emulated around the country,” says Cuningham Group Principal Judy Hoskens. “It was successful because the client, the community and the architect shared a vision for learning. We took the time to better understand teaching and learning, and teachers took the time to better understand how architecture can improve a student’s performance.”

Firm Wins IFRAA Award

In 1992, the House of Prayer Retreat Center, designed by Cuningham Group and led by John Cuningham, won the Interfaith Forum on Religion, Art and Architecture (IFRAA) Design Award for Religious Architecture and the Minnesota Society of the AIA Honor Award. The Episcopal House of Prayer Retreat Center, designed in 1990, sits on five-acres of land surrounded by woods in Collegeville, Minnesota. Grounded in the practice of Christian contemplative prayer—the 4,000-square foot retreat center rests on the grounds of Saint John’s Abbey and University. Cuningham Group brought the retreat center to life using natural elements found in Minnesota including stone and granite. The center includes about 12 bedrooms, a kitchen and dining room, a gathering room, a library space and the silent Bishop Anderson Prayer Room. In 2015, the House of Prayer was awarded the AIA Minnesota 25 Year Award.