Rafter Minneapolis

Cuningham Group, a global architectural design firm, has announced the completion of Rafter, a 283-unit luxury apartment community in the Northeast submarket of Minneapolis, Minnesota.  

Cuningham – which is headquartered in Minneapolis and has deep roots in the city –  was retained by Mortenson Development in cooperation with US Bank to undertake the architecture, concept design, and interior design of the 26-story, 407,530 square-foot project, which also includes 6,000 square feet of retail space.

“The strategy behind this design was to deliver an aesthetic and amenities that today’s luxury apartment residents crave, while creating a feel and lifestyle that is distinctly Northeast Minneapolis,” says Cuningham Group Live Studio Leader Jeff Schoeneck, AIA, NCARB, LEED® AP. “Those who live in and frequent the area know its historic buildings, exceptional dining, and flourishing art scene – as well as the ‘rafters’ of wild turkeys that call it home. Every choice, from each element of the façade design, to the interiors, to the property name – everything reflects the eclectic and unique attributes of this neighborhood.”   

According to Schoeneck, Cuningham’s concept centered on delivering a true ‘love letter’ to Northeast Minneapolis – a fresh, modern design that emulates and seamlessly integrates into the surrounding community, preserving significant elements of its industrial, working-class history.

Jeremiah Johnson, AIA, NCARB, Cuningham’s Lead Designer on the project, adds: “The Mortenson Development team was visionary in its approach to this project. Rather than developing an oasis that would differentiate the property from the more raw and artistic aspects of the neighborhood, Mortenson and the entire design team recognized an opportunity to craft Rafter as a place that echoes the existing Northeast Minneapolis community.”

Inspired by numerous historical and industrial spaces, including the nearby General Mills elevators, Johnson explains that the Cuningham team created a simple, honest material palette to blend into the area’s unmistakable historical context and fit comfortably, even at its large scale.

“One significant strategy was the use of paneling to create a distinct look that fulfilled the developer’s request for a varied and active facade while keeping costs to a minimum,” says Johnson, who explains that the property is integrated into the surrounding streetscape via brick base, and the tower’s exterior is a blend of white and textured charcoal concrete that creates a look reminiscent of modern ceramic arts.

“By using 15 different molds then rotating and shifting them across the building’s facade, our designers created a diverse, dynamic look that maximized variation while minimizing the number of forms required,” Johnson notes.

Ultimately, 442 precast cement panels totaling 540 tons were used to cover the building.

According to Cuningham’s Lead Interior Designer on the project Stephanie Thompson, NCIDQ, CID, LEED® Green Associate, Rafter’s interior spaces are also defined by a rich variety of materials – including rough, board-form textures on the ceiling; smooth, exposed concrete columns; and polished concrete floors. A strategic use of warm wood tones helps balance the concrete, creating an environment that is simultaneously striking and welcoming.

“The restrained palette of high-contrast light and dark finishes is reminiscent of a gallery, which is intended to create moments that showcase local artists and craftspeople,” says Thompson. “It was important to our team and to all project stakeholders that Rafter reflect the neighborhood’s status as a vibrant artists’ community. We achieved this by designing and bringing to life an intimate, interconnected space that now highlights the local art showcased within it.”

Photographs, paintings, and sculptures by local artists are placed throughout Rafter’s shared spaces and on every floor. The property’s lobby boasts a metal screen wall designed by local artists and a striking reception desk crafted by Keith Wyman of Concrete Pig – comprised of welded steel, slabs of walnut, and black pigmented concrete – that is equal parts function and sculpture.

Thompson notes that the Cuningham team also saw an opportunity to utilize the space as an ongoing, evolving celebration of the Northeast community’s thriving Arts District. The project team hired two artists-in-residence, offering each a year lease in exchange for their art, while a shared makerspace allows all residents access to the neighborhood’s artistic spirit.

Rafter is located at 333 Hennepin Avenue East in Minneapolis, Minnesota and features luxury, pet-friendly, studio, one-, two-, and three-bedroom apartment floorplans, including penthouse options. A seven-story, 279-space attached parking structure serves both retail and Rafter residents. 

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Status: Built
Location: Minneapolis, MN, US
Firm Role: Architect & Designer