Structure Type: built works - public buildings; built works - social and civic buildings

Designers: Warnecke, John Carl, and Associates, Architects (firm); John Carl Warnecke Sr. (architect)

Dates: constructed 1969-1977

24 stories

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300 South 6th Street
Downtown West, Minneapolis, MN 55487

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John Carl Warnecke designed this 24-story office tower for the Hennepin County Government Center (HCGC) in the late 1960s, and it took about eight years to see the highrise's completion. The building's H-shaped profile became a symbol for county government.

Building History

San Francisco-based architect John Carl Warnecke and Associates focused on the tower's design and collaborated with local architects Peterson, Clark & Associates on the its construction. The building opened on 05/24/1977. Warnecke designed this highrise office building in two parts, a southwest tower and a northeast tower. Trussed walkways joined the towers on several floors, and the space between the towers forms an atrium, allowing light to filter into the building's interior. In 2017, the southwest tower contained the Civil Court, Criminal Court Division I, Housing Court, and the Probate/Mental Health Court, county attorney offices and the Hennepin County Law Library. The northwest tower accommodated state agencies such as the State of Minnesota's Driver and Vehicle Services and Department of Natural Resources, as well as county departments such as Human Resources, Communications, Office of Budget and Finance, Information Technology, Facility Services, Resident and Real Estate Services, Purchasing and Contract Services as well as agencies dispensing marriage licenses, birth and death certificates and various types of permits.

Building Notes

Shortly after it opened, architectural historianz David Gebhard and Tom Martinson critiqued the H hermetic separation from the street and its looming presence above the Richardsonian Romanesque Hennepin County Municipal Building across South 5th Street: "An expensive piece of early 1960s sculpture enlarged beyond belief, the new Hennepin county Government Center is meant to be an impressive high art object. Two L-shaped volumes almost meet, separated only by glass which covers parts of the interior court. Sixth Street plows through the building on another axix (as in the 1920s City of the Future), compounding the apparently tenuous connection of the building to its site. Symbolically and factually the building poses many problems--worst of all, it has vistually destroyed the neighboring courthouse. As a symbol the building suggests the preeminence of bureaucracy, but civic virtue is nowhere to be found, within it or without." (See David Gebhard and Tom Martinson, A Guide to the Architecture of Minnesota, [University of Minnesota Press for the University Gallery of the University of Minnesota and the Minnesota Society of Architects, 1977]. p. 36.) Seen from a later perspective, the building does not seem nearly as objectionable as it did to the authors in 1977. The HCGC was separated by a small corner park and South 5th Street from Long and Kees's 1888 municipal building, and, over time, it, too, has been dwarfed by even taller buildings, making it seem less prominent and menacing in its context.

Despite Gebhard and Martinson's dark view of its artistic pretensions and scale, the building did have its admirers.The Hennepin County Government Center won an American Institute of Architects Honor Award in the American Institute of Steel Construction's 17th Annual Competition for Steel-framed Structures.

PCAD id: 5842