How the Midwest’s largest Black-owned architecture firm is transforming north Minneapolis

MINNEAPOLIS — There’s only a handful of practicing Black architects in the state of Minnesota. 

It’s a space one north Minneapolis designer is grateful to represent, and through his work on the north side, he aims to create a more equitable future.

From barber shops to billion-dollar stadiums, Mohammed Lawal has done it all. 

“Growing up myself I had never met an architect,” Lawal said.

Lawal is the CEO of LSE Architects, the largest Black-owned architectural and design firm in the Upper Midwest. 

He’s also one of just 20 Black architects in the state of Minnesota.  

“Being one of so few in our state, I also understand the awesome responsibility behind it,” he said.

While his resume is impressive, his favorite projects might be the ones created in his hometown.

“Being visible, being part of the community that I grew up in, being a part of making it better, being a part of breaking down so many inequities is really important to me personally,” Lawal said.

In the last half-decade, he’s been a part of a dozen projects on the north side — often diverse, community-driven projects that support inner city entrepreneurship. 

“I think architecture is impactful in that way because it is a physical representation of an idea, but then the programs that occur within,” Lawal said.

Spaces like the V3 Center, a community-inspired health and wellness center led by nonprofit V3 Sports.  A space where kids will learn to swim.

“One of the great disparities in our community is access to water and swimming, which is one of the things that the V3 Center will do. Along with so many other things,” Lawal said.

Rucker, a north sider himself, says it’s long overdue.   

“It’s been great, the buzz around V3 and the V3 center has been huge,” V3 Executive Director Malik Rucker said.

After its grand opening this summer, the center will include a space for the Boys and Girls Club, and soon,  the first sit-down restaurant on Plymouth Avenue that north Minneapolis has seen in 20 years.

“That’s a problem,” Rucker said. “There’s tons of people that live around here, that work around here that just don’t have the options.”

But soon, they will. 

“They think it’s one thing to design buildings in the community, it’s another thing to also invest in it,” Lawal said. 

V3 Center is set to open this summer. Right now, they’re in the middle of a soft launch. 

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