Ted Davis, AIA, IIDA
Ted Davis, AIA, IIDA: University of Minnesota Carlson School of Management / Atrium © Ellerbe Becket/ Peter Aaron -ESTO.

Architecture has the responsibility to make special places. It should inspire us with an uplifting experience and improve our daily lives. Each design has unique parameters and potentials from which springs a unique solution. Within each is a poetic opportunity to find a character, an essence, or a soul which will lead to a solution that uplifts our spirit.

The hope is that design will create a positive emotional reaction. This requires thought, hard work, luck, passion and risk on the part of the client and the designer. It is easy to do what is the norm, but not so easy to strive for a unique design. So what makes something unique?

If you think about a memorable experience, it most certainly caused a moment of discovery – resulting in seeing the familiar in a new way.
I always ask our designers to place themselves inside the project and to ask themselves, “How would I like to experience this? How can we go beyond what is typical and create something special?” Approaching a building and finding a special doorway, a space filled with a warm light that captures rich materials and details, or the sound of a hidden water feature that draws you further in, all will capture your imagination and even improve your life. This concept can be applied to any component of a design problem.

RSP is currently designing the Center for Magnetic Resonance Research at the University of Minnesota. A large, centrally located service yard is required to maintain distances between the intense magnetic fields generated by the instruments. We thought about how it could become more than just a service yard. Through the careful use of landscaping, a strong geometry of form and controlled views, this functional space was transformed. Our hope is that this utilitarian space has been reinvented into a contemplative and unique amenity for patients and staff alike.

Design especially connects with us when we can perceive the intervention by another person. Craftsmanship becomes a bridge for people to connect to good design. People are viscerally drawn to older buildings, often because of the greater sense of human interaction created by the higher level of detail. Knowing that a person worked on a piece of stone to create a unique detail, or that a person’s hand diligently carved a piece of wood, or the crafted interior space responds to functional requirements while providing a comfortable place to work, all create a palpable bond with the user. The craft is an outgrowth of my pleasure of building.

Thinking of the idea is only half the fun. Figuring out how to build it and make it art is the other part of the equation. The Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix will be a perfect example of craftsmanship and connection. In addition to the various instruments, the team considered the warmth of the materials, the quality of the light and the care given to providing a cheerful environment for the museum visitor. The sense of craftsmanship will present itself in the courtyard approach to the building, the carefully planned galleries, the intimacy of the music performance hall, and in the smallest details of the fine inlay on a Norwegian Hardingfele fiddle.

Target @ Skyline, Falls Church, Virginia
Target @ Skyline, Falls Church, Virginia

The human connection is an important piece of the architectural journey. It is the part that drives my design explorations. How would I like to experience each part of the building? What materials can be used in an interesting way? How can the space be changed to encourage people to relate to each other in a positive way? Part of the goal in design is to help the users connect with the designer’s intent. In this way, the designer’s hand is present and felt by others. It isn’t an easy process and certainly not a quick one. Design takes time. As designers, it is our obligation, as well as our joy, to think about what will take the user’s experience beyond the ordinary.

Ted is a Design Principal with RSP Architects, an architectural/ planning/ interiors firm with approximately 240 employees in its offices in Minneapolis and Rochester, Minnesota; Phoenix, Arizona; San Diego, California, and Tianjin, China. Its headquarters is in the historic Grain Belt Brewhouse, an award-winning renovation and adaptive reuse project in Minneapolis. RSP maintains a diverse practice with architectural expertise in retail, corporate, healthcare, higher education, hospitality, institutional, manufacturing and research, and government projects in the U.S. and internationally.

University of Minnesota Center for Magnetic Resonance Research RSP Architects
University of Minnesota Center for Magnetic Resonance Research RSP Architects

Ted has over 30 years of experience as an award-winning architect, having received more than 30 national and regional design awards in architecture, interior design and product design. He has a reputation for transforming client’s needs into creative and innovative design solutions. His experience includes work for clients such as the University of Minnesota, Hewlett Packard, Mayo Clinic and Target, with projects that include The Musical Instrument Museum, Phoenix; University of Minnesota Carlson School of Management; LaSalle Plaza,Minneapolis; and Target @ Skyline Mall, Virginia.

Ted holds a Bachelor of Architecture with Distinction, and a Bachelor of Arts, Magna Cum Laude from the University of Minnesota. He is a registered architect and Certified Interior Designer in the State of Minnesota. He also is a LEED Accredited Professional.

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