Behind The Design: An Interview With SPBI Hall Architect Steve Berg

An Interview with Steve Berg, Architect of SPBI Hall

by Joel Willsey

This month, SPBI Hall, located between Tewinkel Hall, the Main building, and Old National Bank Stadium is set to be home to nearly 150 students. Named after Crown College’s former name, Saint Paul Bible Institute, SPBI Hall continues Crown College’s rich heritage and advances our mission: to provide a Biblically-based education for Christian leadership in The Christian and Missionary Alliance, the church-at-large, and the world.

Since the project’s inception in September 2022, the teams from BWBR and LS Black Constructors have been hard at work to bring SPBI Hall from an idea to a reality. I had the privilege of sitting down with Mr. Steve Berg, architect of SPBI Hall, and heard his approach to the design process, his heart for community, and the exceptional teamwork and collaboration behind the project.

Architect Steve Berg works for St. Paul-based Architecture and Design firm BWBR. For over 100 years, BWBR has been designing buildings and spaces for a wide variety of industries from government to education, health and wellness, to houses of worship. Steve studied at North Dakota State University where he earned his Bachelor of Environmental Design as well as a Bachelor of Architecture degrees.

Passion for Architecture and Design in Higher Education

Steve’s portfolio is primarily comprised of educational learning environments and student residential spaces. When asked about his 20 years of architectural experience, Steve highlighted his passion for academics: “My focus through all those years has been in higher education. I just have found that incredibly rewarding to work with all faculty, administration, and students, and to see sort of how that can impact the lives of so many.”

When asked about what drives his passion for Higher Education Steve replied:

“I think one it’s impacting hundreds of people, not only those that will have a room but those that are visiting, that are going to the shared spaces it really is about community and bringing people together. I think that is just exciting and really fulfilling–to ask, how can a space like that foster relationships? When you think about the amount of time that will be spent in a res hall like this, both studying, sleeping, and socializing, it really is a component of your learning and your growth at Crown and not to be taken for granted.”

One of Crown College’s newly defined commitments is to “Lifelong Authentic Community”. Oftentimes, some of the most foundational moments in a student’s college experience take place in a residence hall. Lifelong friendships are formed, life’s highs and lows are experienced together, and community takes root. Crown College deeply values the student experience and understood, the time is now to update the residential experience.

As Steve put it: “I honestly think that student housing in particular for many, many years was sort of taken for granted, but the bar has been raised. This is a compliment to your educational growth and the ability to strengthen your faith and relationships with your peers, with students.”

True to its vision

Shortly into our conversation, Steve shared the project vision statements. At the top of the list was a simple, yet foundational goal: ‘Build Community’.

“Community was top on the list and just building those relationships with others is so important. Also being mindful that this is a space that’s all about the students and focusing on that is key” said Steve.

This project also sought to carry on the momentum of the recent renovations and remodels seen across the campus. Steve and his team alongside Crown College administration understood the importance momentum has for an institution. “There’s been a lot of, a lot of great work done at Crown and many you know sort of an evolution over the last few years and to make this, is just one part of keeping that momentum going and bringing in more students as a way to recruit and get the very best coming to Crown” said Steve.

The Project Vision statement included a dedication to making the residence hall “feel like home, a welcoming space that is comfortable and you know really will make you all more successful.”

Often times corporate goals and thematic statements can be perceived as mere jargon or empty chatter. Not the case here, Steve described the intentionality behind the project’s foundational principles: “This was the foundation that was developed so early on and we used these as a reminder every time we had a design meeting or in planning, we would put this on the screen to remind everyone in the group that these are the objectives.”

Excellent Leadership

From left to right: Amanda Aspenson (BWBR), Steve Berg (BWBR), Tamer Khattab (LS Black), Zack O’Grady, Greg Hedin (LS Black), Not Pictured: Brian Leitch (LS Black)

Excellent Leadership of Crown College

Steve conveyed a deep level of appreciation and esteem towards the excellence carried out by many leaders of this project. An early indicator of the excellent level of commitment and attention to detail from Crown College leadership for Steve was at the public outset of this project, the Ceremonial Groundbreaking. Steve had this to say about the ceremony: “That was an exceptional ceremony. Wow! I was so impressed with how well it was orchestrated and it was and the speakers–everything about it was top-notch!” Soon, another ceremony for the residence hall will take place during Homecoming 2023. At 10:30 AM, a Ribbon Cutting ceremony will be held for SPBI Hall. Crown College invites you as we celebrate the Lord’s faithfulness to Crown College and dedicate SPBI Hall.

Steve acknowledged the leadership of Crown College administration. Steve praised the leadership of Chief Operating Officer Mike Price by saying: “Mike has been instrumental, really an exceptional leader on this project from start to near finish here.”

Steve also extended recognition of the remarkable leadership of President Denton: “President Denton also has been really instrumental in leading this and making sure that those project vision values were met.” Following up on a previous question about the key differences of Crown College amongst other projects he’s been a part of, Steve stated: “You asked if are there differences? And I would say that President Denton was very much instrumental in the planning and decision-making process. I don’t know that all presidents have that same commitment to see a project through.”

Excellent Leadership of LS Black Constructors

Excellent leadership and planning made for smooth progress during construction. Steve confidently said: “Fortunately, nothing significant. There were supply chain issues when construction began. That is nothing to surprise anyone here. It was a pretty smooth process overall.” Steve had high regard for the determination and diligence of LS Black Construction: “They did an excellent job of navigating that and acquiring materials on time to stay on schedule, which is so critically important for your function. So they did a really exceptional job managing that, managing the schedule and the budget through that time.”

Sustainability and Durability

Throughout our conversation, Steve emphasized the commitment to provide the best service and the best value to Crown College while being mindful and responsible of the budget and operating costs. When asked about how they approached managing budget Steve said: “How can we get the best value for Crown College and the quantity of beds and make sure that we are being very–just financially responsible, and that was also top of mind in all of our decision making but still not wanting to sacrifice the spirit of the project and to make sure that this feels like Crown College when you open the doors.”

Doors which will be opening for many years to come. SPBI Hall is not only an instant upgrade to the student experience, but it will also continue to provide value to Crown College for years to come thanks to its sustainability and durability: “Durability, I don’t think we talk about this enough, but just making sure that the building stands the test of time and is long-lasting. A lot of care and attention to how this can be maintained and stay, you know, a durable structure for the long term is another key component.”

By building the residence hall with sustainable and eco-friendly materials, SPBI Hall is designed with the goal to limit energy costs. The hall is equipped with “highly insulated windows and wall assemblies” to maximize the thermal enclosure during the Minnesota winters. SPBI Hall was able to maintain its budget while opting for energy-efficient materials and design choices. SPBI Hall was designed for not only the present, but for the years to come in order to provide exceptional value to Crown College.

Welcome Home

Once filled with construction crews, painters, electricians, and plumbers, SPBI Hall will soon be filled with first-year college students. SPBI will be the new home to nearly 150 female students. A blank canvas, SPBI Hall is waiting for stories and memories to take place inside of it. Steve’s hope for the residence hall and the students moving into it is this: “I hope you find joy in your new space. Find it comforting—home-like, but also the ability to make it your own. There’s nothing better than when a building is being used and occupied.”

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