Timothy A. Alt launched Altus Architecture + Design to deliver crafted custom homes in the Twin Cities.
AFTER SPENDING 10 years designing large scale commercial and office projects for developer owners more interested in the pro forma than making an architectural statement, Timothy A. Alt sought a different path for his career. He launched ALTUS Architecture + Design in 1995 to work on smaller projects where he would have direct access to clients, working with them to deliver the visions they have for their singlefamily homes.
“That is what the basis of ALTUS was to be – focus on projects where the relationship with the client was a direct rapport and all of the discussions and ideas would matter and be realized through the shared values with the client,” Alt says. “Helping our clients explore and refine how they wanted to live allowed us creative opportunities that were never present in the design of commercial architecture. The goal of the company was to create site- and client-specific work that was well crafted and enduring over time.”
Today, Alt and his team at ALTUS Architecture + Design focus on creating site-integrated projects that blur the inside and outside boundary and embrace natural light.
“Our spaces are designed to capture the path of the sun throughout the day and express natural light as spiritual food,” Alt says.
One such development that focused on these concepts along with a larger integrated sustainable landscape emphasis is ALTUS Architecture + Design’s Mayo Woodlands in Rochester, Minnesota.
Designed as the first house for the Village neighborhood of the development, Village House No. 1 was created as a collaborative design effort between ALTUS Architecture + Design, the landscape architect, Coen + Partners and architect David Salmela.
According to ALTUS, the house is designed to express the design philosophy of the Woodlands through an east/west site placement that echoes windrows of red pine trees. The house also features a transparent main level to foster a relationship with the outdoor spaces. The natural cedar pergola provides sunshade for the main floor and establishes a modern veranda. The design also incorporates a standing seam metal roof, European smooth stucco and an open floor plan, ALTUS says.
This home has received a Progressive Architecture Citation and has been published in the New York Times as well as many national publications, the company states.
Smaller is Better
Back in the middle of the 2000s, large houses were all the rage as the economy was booming and lenders handed out mortgages freely. Since the real estate bubble burst, however, Alt says many of his clients have shifted toward smaller homes to maximize their dollars and lifestyle flexibility.
“A few years ago, people came to a realization that altered their perspective about what they’re doing with their lives and how to express their values,” Alt says. “As a result, the projects became much more heartfelt and interesting, with less emphasis on the marketplace and much more long-term planning. There is more pressure on being efficient because clients are more sensitive to cost issues, which has changed a lot of how they used to approach their design goals.”
For example, clients today are not in as much of a hurry to complete a project, instead preferring designers get things done well and affordably. With this shift in priorities, ALTUS Architecture + Design has had to rely on its relationships with suppliers and contractors to make sure it can meet budgets while meeting as many points on a homeowner’s program as possible.
“We have been successful in doing great things at an affordable cost,” Alt says. “Business is more challenging, but from the client’s prerogative, you have to innovate about how to do that.
“We’re leveraging our creative experience and don’t pursue strategies that aren’t going to work. So, we’ll pursue these creative strategies with resourceful contractors,” Alt adds.
Future Expansion Plans
Alt admits custom homes will remain ALTUS Architecture + Design’s main source of revenue, but the company has goals to broaden their work in the future. “We have a goal to do more self-directed work,” Alt says.