Seeking Qualified Public Artists



Northfield Hospital & Clinics seeks an Artist to design, fabricate, and install a Recognition Wall that will honor exceptional individuals and long-time employees.

(See for information on the organization.)


The project is an installation which will need to balance the subjective qualities such as “exceptional care” with the objective quantities such as “22 years of service” in an integrated whole.

Subjective: 3-4 individuals, changed annually

Objective: 81 names with an additional estimated 10 names each year

The Recognition Wall will demonstrate that Northfield Hospital & Clinics has a culture where people care wholeheartedly, provide exceptional care, and are committed to spending their careers.

Exceptional care + Longevity of service

(two separate qualities; not the same individuals)

Where they intersect: Devotion to the profession of care

Key Concepts

  • Exceptional Care
  • Culture of Excellence
  • Legacy of Dedication
  • Personal Commitment
  • Body & Spirit


  • Sincerity
  • Appreciation
  • Kind acknowledgment

“Wherever the art of Medicine is loved, there is also a love of Humanity”– Hippocrates


  • Thematic continuity with Hospital history display (see attached)
  • Adaptability – change photo portraits of four honorees annually
  • Easy to clean
  • Integration of subjective and objective honors


The project is open to invited artists, age 18 and over, regardless of race, color, religion, gender, age, military status, sexual orientation, marital status, or physical or mental disability.


The project will be funded by Northfield Hospital & Clinics, which has a budget of $10,000 – $17,000 which must cover all associated costs of the installation, including but not limited to, design, fabrication, lighting, materials, labor, transportation, insurance, and installation of the artwork.

Selection Criteria & Process

Selection of a minimum of two finalists will be made by a Committee composed of Northfield Hospital & Clinics staff and a community member from Northfield with Arts expertise. The committee will minimally consider:

  • Qualifications Review
  • Demonstrated ability to develop a concept and successfully install artwork
  • Local or regional artists will be given preference
  • Experience with Recognition Walls or similar Public Installations

The finalists will receive a $500 stipend to develop specific proposals for final presentation to the committee for final artist selection.

The selected artist will contract with the Northfield Hospital & Clinics to design, fabricate, and install the artwork. The artwork will be owned by Northfield Hospital & Clinics with the Artist retaining copyright to the work. The Artist must grant Northfield Hospital & Clinics permission to use images of the artwork for educational, promotional, and other purposes related to the functioning of Northfield Hospital & Clinics.

Steve Wilmot, Architect, will collaborate with the selected artist to develop architectural lighting improvements to enhance the installation.

Submission Materials

  1. Letter of Interest (no more than 2 pages with contact information, artist biography)
  2. Letters of Reference (3 letters of reference from past clients including one for a project of similar nature)
  3. Relevant project examples (up to 10 projects – photographic and written description of work, process, & installation; may be printed or CD/DVD)


Northfield Hospital & Clinics has selected a location for the Recognition Wall within the Main Entrance Lobby area of Northfield Hospital, adjacent to the Gift Store and Front Desk.

The selected wall is roughly 22 feet long with a curved portion of the wall roughly 7 feet high with a ceiling at approximately 11 feet high. There are active office spaces on the other side of the wall, such that the general arrangement of the wall is fixed. See attached photos and drawings.

The wall has interior windows between the hall and offices. A large south facing window is located at the end of the hall with interior windows to the gift shop on the wall opposite the recognition wall.


  • Submission Deadline (delivered)                               August 1, 2016
  • Finalists Notified                                                           August 18, 2016
  • Finalist Proposals Due (present in person)             September 12, 2016
  • Artist Selection                                                              September 19, 2016
  • Fabrication & Installation                                           September – November
  • Dedication                                                                      Early December 2016



Inquiries to:

Steve Wilmot, AIA

Inquires must be received no later than one week before the submission deadline, so that replies can be made.


Submit Qualifications to:


Wilmot Architecture Office

26 E. Exchange St. #407

St. Paul, MN 55101


Additional images:

1512photo2 1512 view2 1512 view1 1512photo3

Wilmot & Wilmotte

It was a rather brash idea, to invite myself to visit a french architect on my recent trip to Paris. Perhaps due to my not having been to France since I was a college student, I felt I had nothing to lose. That is until my host said, “Wait, you actually have an appointment with him? That’s like meeting with Frank Gehry”.

Wilmotte street

I rode the Metro to the Place de la Bastille and walked through an “up and coming” neighborhood that was off the edge of the tourist guide map.  The office building stood at the end of a street looking a bit more polished than its scruffier neighbors.  I wondered what I had gotten myself into.


Wilmotte model

Of course I knew he was a serious architect since his website had projects ranging from the remodeled interiors of the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, to a new Russian Orthodox Cathedral under construction a few blocks from the Eiffel Tower, to skyscrapers in South Korea, to a sports stadium in Nice seen in detailed model form that stared back at me as I waited in the lobby .

As we talked over coffee, he shared insights into French architecture and his firm in particular.  I learned the firm’s impressive statistics:

  • 207 employees
  • 21 nationalities
  • 24 languages spoken
  • 28% foreign
  • 39 average age
  • 59% men
  • 41% women

And the impressive office locations:

  • Paris
  • Nice
  • London
  • Venice
  • Brazil
  • South Korea

And that the firm is the largest architecture firm in France.

We chatted for about half an hour, which made me feel a bit guilty as I learned he was off to London later that evening and then on to Morocco the next day. I asked the (to me) obvious question of why he didn’t have a North American office, to which he replied that he had decided to focus on Asia for the firm’s expansion strategy. (Perhaps I can assist with a North American branch office someday.)

An assistant gave me a thorough behind the scenes tour of the office which was a sleek modern space within the traditional Parisian 19th century building.


So, at this point you may be wondering, how did I get an appointment with this guy?  Well I sent him an email out of the blue, with the suggestion that we are long lost cousins and that I would like to meet him.  You see, his name is Jean Michel Wilmotte, which I have to assume is the French version of Wilmot, or more appropriately, my name is the British version of his.

But even if our names weren’t so similar, he might have been open to meeting me – Life Lesson #4 “Don’t assume the answer is no, it just might be yes!” or as my father-in-law put it, “Make them say no”.

And the Frank Gehry reference was apt, as it was hinted in our meeting, and later confirmed, that M. Wilmotte did the restaurant in the new Vuitton Foundation designed by Gehry Partners that just opened in Paris this summer.

Wilmotte metro

An American architect outside of Wilmotte & Associes SA d’architecture

68, Rue du Faubourg Saint-Antoine, Paris.

Surfing Advice

I’ve never been surfing, so the title above offering surfing advice may be confusing if you expect it to come from me.  Rather it is businessman Yvon Chouinard’s advice on how to run a business – of course he likes to surf as well!

When starting a new enterprise, one encounters all kinds of statements, such as “Never do ‘X’ when starting out” or “Always do ‘Y’ in this situation” or “Do ‘Z’ when swimming with the sharks”. Taking a fresh approach to the practice of architecture was what I thought was needed when I started WAO.




Yvon Chouinard had similar thoughts decades ago when he founded Patagonia, the outdoor gear company.  His book, “let my people go surfing” describes how he differentiates his company not just by good design, good products, and good service, but by doing good by considering our impact on the environment in our business activity.

Some of Chouinard’s business philosophies fit my own thoughts on architecture and design. Here’s a a few that work well across platforms:

Design philosophy

  • Is it functional?
  • Is it multifunctional?
  • Is it durable?
  • Does it fit our customer?
  • Is it as simple as possible?
  • Is it an innovation or invention?
  • Is it a global design?
  • Is it easy to care for and clean?
  • Does it have any added value?
  • Is it authentic?
  • Is it art?
  • Are we just chasing fashion?
  • Are we designing for our core customer?
  • Have we done our homework?
  • Is it timely?
  • Does it cause any unnecessary harm?

Production philosophy

  • Involve the Designer with the Producer
  • Develop Long-term Relationships with Suppliers and Contractors
  • Weigh quality first, against on-time delivery and low cost
  • Go for it, but do your Homework
  • Measure twice, cut once
  • Borrow ideas from other disciplines (much as I am doing here)

Patagonia has retail stores, so I probably shouldn’t be surprised, but I didn’t expect Yvon to have an architectural policy as well, but he does…

Philosophy of architecture

  • Build new only if you can’t buy used
  • Try to save old or historic buildings
  • If you build new, build quality
  • Use recycled and recyclable materials
  • Buildings should be repairable and easily maintained
  • Build to last, even if it means a higher initial price
  • The history and natural features of each area should be reflected and honored

As an architect who has worked on many historic preservation projects, I can agree with this approach to architecture!

And did you catch the sub-title in the image above “the education of a reluctant businessman”. Yvon would rather be surfing. He notes he could have sold his company to fund endless amounts of surfing and mountain climbing, but he wanted to keep the culture of Patagonia going so that it would be a model for other reluctant and not-so-reluctant business men and women. I am glad that Yvon kept at it, because I would identify myself as an architect first and a businessman second.

When Patagonia employees see that the surf is up, they take advantage of it and go surfing. They will get the work done and do it well, beforehand and afterwards, and possibly even better due to the refreshing break outdoors. This appeals to the Minnesotan in me as well –  whether in the sun or in the snow, you better get out and play now, because you know the weather will be changing soon!


About that penguin…



A rather unusual project, the penguin display case was one of my first projects at SMSQ Architects and one that was great fun to work on.

Oscar the Penguin was long associated with Larry Gould, an Antarctic explorer who went on to become President of Carleton College.  Oscar was brought back as a souvenir from Larry’s adventures and spent many years in his office. In celebrating the naming of the college library in Gould’s honor, Oscar was relocated from his “retirement home” in the archives to a more prominent display in the library.

Collaborating with the artist Ray “Jake” Jacobsen, retired from Carleton’s art department, and Eric Hilleman, the College Archivist, we designed the penguin case as part of a larger installation of memorabilia and custom artwork that Jake created and installed.

As there doesn’t appear to be much demand for penguin display cases, I don’t expect I’ll get to work on another one… but you never know!

Advice from Chuck Ruhr

Keys Cafe

From our business lunch at Keys Cafe:

“A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.” – Lao Tzu

I knew I liked this guy (both Chuck and Lao)!

WAO in downtown Saint Paul


WAO has moved into office space in downtown St. Paul in the Exchange Building at the corner of Exchange & Cedar, a 1/2 block from the Greenline stop at 10th Street.  The building is a former convent and across the street is the former Science Museum site that our family visited in my youth – previously the site of the Minnesota Museum of American Art (then known as the St. Paul School of Art) and many years prior to that, the site of the Capitol Building.


This corner of downtown Saint Paul is sometimes referred to as Fitzgerald Square because just down Exchange Street is the Fitzgerald Theater, home of Garrison Keillor’s Prairie Home Companion.  The office has a feel similar to Guy Noir’s office on the 12th floor of the Acme Building.



WAO is on the fourth floor with a distant view to the state capitol building, currently undergoing extensive repair and renovation work.  Other neighbors include the McNally Smith School of Music, Minnesota Public Radio, the downtown fire station, St. Louis Catholic Church and Central Presbyterian Church.


And a red dinosaur!

Remembering a mentor

SE Nfld

Steve Edwins was my former teacher, employer, mentor, and friend.

It would be true to say that I spent the better part of my waking hours over the last fourteen years working with him. Any given day was likely to include the following:

  • talking about projects
  • analyzing buildings
  • sketching details
  • driving to meetings
  • looking for bakeries
  • designing solutions
  • planning expansions
  • searching the archives
  • writing proposals
  • attending gatherings
  • preserving structures
  • drawing plans
  • constructing spreadsheets
  • instigating staff meetings (ice cream)
  • reviewing contracts
  • invoicing clients
  • exploring attics
  • finding coffee
  • assisting interns
  • collecting data
  • finding products
  • drafting drawings

He passed away in December and his thoughtful approach to architecture will be missed. Steve was an “old school” architect that could do it all, and as the owner of a small firm he had to. It was indeed fortuitous that I was able to work with him and learn so much from him, and I am extremely grateful for the experience.