Despite the pandemic, Wendy and Bill Brian aren’t worried about hundreds or even thousands of people touring their remodeled St. Paul home starting this weekend.
That’s because their house — like all the homes featured in the upcoming Homes by Architects Tour — will only be open for virtual tours from Sept. 26 through Oct. 10.
It’s not the same, but the welcome is still warm.
“We love having people in our home,” Wendy Brian says. “I hope people will still be able to feel that energy of hospitality.”
How does a virtual home tour work, exactly? In this case, the $15 digital passes will unlock immersive, 3D tours of all 17 homes as well as extras like the opportunity to chat with the architects, all of whom are members of the American Institute of Architects Minnesota (AIA-MN), the nonprofit behind this 13th annual event. There will also be Instagram “takeovers” of the Homes by Architects Tour Instagram account to view behind-the-scenes insights and connect with the architects.
It wasn’t originally designed to be a virtual tour, of course.
“We had already selected the homes that would be featured, then realized it was very likely an in-person event would not be safe,” says Angie McKinley, who has coordinated the tour for several years.
“Concern from homeowners was a big factor,” McKinley said of the decision to go virtual. “It’s not a great time to have a thousand people visit your home.
“Others preferred an in-person tour, so they asked to move their project to 2021 or whenever it can be done in person,” she said.
Going virtual is a challenge, but it’s also an opportunity.
“The upside is we could ask architects from around the state to submit projects,” McKinley said, “rather than limiting it to the Twin Cities.”
This is why we will be able to tour a new home on Long Lake in Frazee, Minn., which is located more than three hours from St. Paul.
“We are really excited to be able to expand people’s vision beyond the metro area — especially since a lot of folks in the metro come north in some fashion,” says Kelli Wegscheid of Harmonious Architecture, the firm based in Perham, Minn., that submitted this “Up North” project once the tour reopened up its submission process.
The Frazee lake place, a gathering spot for an extended family, features corrugated steel from the homeowner’s family farm as well as salvaged wood from the grandparents’ ranch.
“It’s a unique property,” says Wegscheid, “but also appealing to a wide audience with its modern farmhouse feel.”
In St. Paul, it’s Mitlyng Design’s work on the Brian family’s Craftsman that is a focal point. Tour-goers will be able to zoom in and linger on details as small as the kitchen backsplash, handcrafted by Motawi Tileworks out of Michigan.
“The switch to virtual makes the tour less obtrusive for homeowners,” says architect Ashley Mitlyng, “yet the virtual format might also give the project a longer life than an in-person tour.”
It’s also an excuse for a bit of fun.
“I know I’m planning to get my couple of friends together and watch it on a big screen at my house,” Wegscheid says.
- What: Homes by Architects Virtual Tour, presented by the American Institute of Architects Minnesota (AIA-MN)
- When: Sept. 26-Oct. 10
- Digital passes: $15 ($10 for students)
- Details: In addition to virtually walking through 17 new and remodeled homes designed by architects, digital pass holders will unlock access to photo galleries, stories about each project, videos of the architects discussing their projects and the opportunity to speak with architects from each project during evening virtual chats.
- Info and tickets: HomesbyArchitects.org