Reflections at Bloomington Central Station Photographer: George Heinrich Photography
Reflections at Bloomington Central Station Photographer: George Heinrich Photography

As a founding Design Partner of Elness Swenson Graham Architects, Inc. (ESG), David Graham has innovated a city-building practice in which signature context-sensitive contemporary architecture serves to repair and expand urban fabric, shape civic public realm, and enhance the livability and vitality of neighborhoods.

His built projects have significantly expanded the range of typologies for urban residential, infill structures and mixed-use developments that interweave an understanding of traditional urban patterns with contemporary vigor. Graham’s initiatives and inspired collaborations have created a firm culture whose work has been recognized with more than 120 awards, including four national AIA awards and 70 chapter awards for architecture and urban design. This commitment to vision, excellence and collaboration was recognized by the AIA Minnesota 2007 Firm Award, bestowed in part for the firm’s “tremendous impact they have had on the Twin Cities and the region in the area of urban design and infill architecture.”

Graham received his Bachelor of Architecture from the University of Minnesota School of Architecture and obtained his Master of Architecture from Harvard University, where he focused on the relationship between architecture and city-building.

St. Anthony Mills Apartments Photographer: George Heinrich Photography
St. Anthony Mills Apartments Photographer: George Heinrich Photography

Bridging the Gap between Architecture, Urban Design and Livable Cities

With the issues facing us today, including a reliance on skyrocketing oil; unsustainable sprawl and auto dependency in the US; and runaway, megalomaniacal “urbanization” in developing global economies, it is more important now than ever to revitalize our cities through innovative urban and architectural design. The following are three examples of key Design Principles that guide our work at ESG:

Enhancing the Public Realm: The variety of streets, parks, sidewalks and civic spaces that form the soul of our cities need to be shaped and enhanced by high quality private and public architecture. Key architectural features in our urban buildings include active and transparent glass streetfronts, multiple entry doors and street level terraces, all of which shape and connect with the street. The private and public sectors must work in partnership in the creation and maintenance of this enhanced Public Realm, shaped by and developed around high quality architecture.

Democratic Design Within a Clear Vision: Our starting point for urban architecture is to consider how each new “piece” will fit within a vision for the city as a whole, the broader surrounding community and the immediate neighborhood. The design of urban architecture starts as a dialog to meld the desires of internal users and the building’s role in creating beautiful urban fabric and shaping a vibrant public realm.

Contemporary Sensibility: Our design approach to urban architecture builds on the foundation of modernism and is grounded in city-building urban design principles. Our urban architecture is characterized by contextually inspired materials used within contemporary compositions, emphasizing transparency, layering and proportion, and green building practices. This approach allows buildings to be individually expressive as objects, while also contributing to a larger civic vision.

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