Alliiance has turned 50!*

In a time when unity is more important than ever, Alliiance is celebrating 50 years of uniting people and place through design. Our success is due to the friendships, connections, and partnerships we’ve had with our community of colleagues, clients, and collaborators. Along the way, these relationships have given us the opportunity to share ideas, work on fulfilling projects together, and plan for the future.

*Well, actually 52 years now, but we didn’t get a good chance to celebrate in 2020.

The 1970s

The Early Years

Founded in 1970 by Herb Ketcham, John Lackens, and Bob Bell, The Architectural Alliance embraced a team approach to design that brought project partners into an integrated design process; a process that was unique for the time. This dedicated and united crew worked hard (and knew how to have fun!), building a strong and collaborative design studio.

Our first billable project was for a modest, exterior home remodel in Minneapolis. The decade followed with projects for some of our legacy clients including Land O’Lakes, Prudential, Blue Cross Blue Shield, and the University of Minnesota.

Located in the historic Bovey House near Loring Park in Minneapolis, our office has become an important part of our culture and the site of our anniversary and holiday parties. In 1978, a second office opened at the Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport soon after the firm was awarded a project by the Metropolitan Airports Commission.

The 1980s

Culture of Collaboration and Celebrations

In the 1980s, the firm was renamed The Alliance to reflect a more inclusive attitude toward architecture, planning, and interiors—and to reflect a broader range of services.

We developed and nurtured partnerships with corporate, civic, aviation, and retail clients, many which we continue to work with today. The firm also designed projects for Cray and Medtronic which led to the development of our present-day Science + Technology studio.

By 1980, the firm had grown to 60 employees and occupied the entire Bovey mansion. Beyond the anniversary and holiday parties, several other social events for staff were created including “Brat Friday” cookouts, Halloween festivities, and even flying hot air balloons.

The 1990s

A Bigger Home

During the 1990s, we renamed the firm again—this time to Architectural Alliance to reinforce a stronger focus within the field of architecture. At this time, the firm also received the prestigious AIA Minnesota Firm Award which recognized the firm’s contributions to the built environment and the architectural profession.

Throughout the decade the corporate, public, aviation, and retail studios became stronger and our team-oriented approach remained solid. The Hennepin County Public Works Facility highlighted the importance of sustainability and became the reference case-study project for the State of Minnesota’s Sustainable Design Initiative. Our work on the MSP Airport Northstar Crossing project opened doors nationally for the development of our aviation and retail studios.

With growth in project work and staff, an addition was added to the Bovey House which respectfully kept the historic qualities intact while providing more space for office amenities and creating a rooftop terrace with expansive views towards Loring Park and downtown Minneapolis.

The 2000s

Growth and Diversification

The firm’s impact on the Twin Cities community continued as we worked on large, civic projects such as the Minneapolis Central Library, Guthrie Theater, and TCF Bank Stadium as well as corporate offices for Allianz Life, St. Jude Medical, and Blue Cross Blue Shield. We also jumped into the bandwagon of the coffee shop craze—working on hundreds of Caribou Coffee shops.

A new tradition was started during the 2000s—the annual firm golf outing.

The 2010s

New Name, Stronger Values

In 2013, we updated the firm name to Alliiance, rebranded, and created a new mission statement: “uniting people and place through design.” The double ii’s in the name were of great significance; individuals working together, in partnership—side by side, face to face, eye to eye. This was also the opportune time for a remodel of our downtown office which transformed it into more open and collaborative spaces.

We continued Alliiance’s long-lasting relationships with the public and corporate clients. Huge growth in our aviation practice led to international projects and industry-wide recognition.

As a firm, we continued to find new ways to connect with each other and build camaraderie with one another. A new tradition of ping-pong in the Bovey House atrium was started, as well as foosball, softball, running clubs, and biking to pubs.


Navigating the new normal

After two years of dramatic change, we have transitioned into a new work model which is focused on staff needs and desires, firm culture, sharing of ideas, and of course, achieving design excellence. We stayed connected to one another through biweekly Zoom staff meetings, virtual daily trivia, and even a virtual holiday party with a band.

The transition to a hybrid mode is proving to be a successful experiment and we have been able to learn firsthand and share what we now know with our clients.

We are still working with many project partners and clients that we started working with decades ago. Today we celebrate the long history of these important and impactful relationships, and look forward to what the future brings. Cheers!