Locus Architecture Uses the Bicycle as a Community Catalyst

Architects have a tendency to promote social idealism; Locus Architecture of Minneapolis, MN, is no exception. Since 1995, the firm has been using the bicycle as a source of inspiration.

Architects have a tendency to promote social idealism; Locus Architecture of Minneapolis, MN, is no exception. Since 1995, the firm has been using the bicycle as a source of inspiration, a marketing tool and a community builder, as well as for transportation and to reduce their ecological footprint.

Locus Architecture’s vision is to promote sustainable living and working solutions through projects that choreograph space, light, context, materials and craftsmanship. The bicycle is a fundamental component of this vision. “We bike to work, our kids bike to school and our families bike for recreation,” said Locus founder Wynne Yelland. “Paul [Neseth] and I moved our office, and I moved my family to be within biking distance to places we traveled to 95% of the time. One day we wondered why we weren’t mashing up cycling with our practice.”

Charles Youel’s ARTCRANK, a bicycle-inspired poster exhibition founded in Minneapolis in 2007, provided the entry point for the firm’s new direction. Youel invited Locus to produce a poster for the 2009 Minneapolis ARTCRANK, and Locus seized the opportunity. Youel said, “[Locus Architecture] came back with 40 local bike celebrities and a tread printing process they invented. They wanted to use the proceeds from the sale of the prints to support Full Cycle, a nonprofit bike-repair/ social services organization that helps at-risk youth.”

In collaboration with Minneapolis’ bike community leaders, Locus produced the signed artworks, which were auctioned off at ARTCRANK, and introduced the fledgling nonprofit to the cycling community. In December 2012, former Talking Heads member and bicycle advocate David Byrne hosted a fundraiser for Full Cycle.

In 2009, Locus Architecture also launched their first 2X2 Lecture, a series of free talks on collaboration and creativity the firm hosts at their office. At a planning meeting, Tracy Singleton of the Birchwood Café asked if Locus wanted to help her expand her business. Locus jumped at the idea. “Birchwood sponsors a cycling team, displaces on-street parking with bike racks and supports Minneapolis’ bike sharing program,” Yelland told me. The Birchwood Café expansion will include vertical food gardens, salvaged materials, renewable energy, a public bike fixing station, and ample parking for the many cyclists that frequent the café year-round.

In St. Paul, MN, Locus has been collaborating with One on One Bicycle Studio to plan a second location for their café/ bike shop/ art gallery. Locus approached One on One’s Gene Oberpriller in early 2012 with a request for proposals for a bike center within the newly renovated St. Paul Union Depot Transit Center. “With our shop at the Minneapolis end of light rail, this would put us at the St. Paul end as well – both ends serving urban cyclists and commuters,” Oberpriller said. “It’s perfect symmetry.” One on One won the contract and, pending lease negotiations, the new space should open in 2013.

If they’re not at the studio, chances are the Locus team are riding to meetings, kids’ athletic events or enjoying Minneapolis’ lakes. As Yelland said, “This isn’t a market sector; it’s a lifestyle. If you don’t live it, people see through the bull.”

When not pedaling East Vancouver on his path racer, Stephen Irving is a social media and communications strategist passionate about sustainable transportation, Canadian politics and post-punk. @stephenirving

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