D/O Architects joins forces with FilmNorth to develop a new cinema arts center for Saint Paul.‍

2441 Arts

Film Arts Center & Historical Arts Culture

Saint Paul is home to a treasure trove of historically significant buildings. Some of the most important architects of the late 1800’s and early 1900’s shaped the city. Clarence Johnston was one of the most regionally prolific architects of this era. In his career he designed twenty-two buildings on the University of Minnesota campus. He also defined the prominent Summit Hill neighborhood of St. Paul designing thirty-eight homes. In 1930, he completed the Brown-Jaspers Store Building. This 24,000 square-foot furniture showroom and warehouse is on of his few examples of industrial architecture. D/O Architects and FilmNorth entered a public-private partnership developing a new community-oriented arts space centered around sustainability. The first two floors will become an innovative film arts center focused on expanding awareness and teaching independent film arts. Conceived as a building within a building, a digitally fabricated wood form is inserted into the 4-story space, rising to a large skylight. This dynamic box is the creative core of the building holding a new micro-cinema, collaborative spaces, and a community stair designed to showcase rotating mural artists. This simple move juxtaposes contemporary architecture against the simple art deco whitewashed warehouse.

Renderings of the FilmNorth learning spaces.


The exterior is an art deco façade carved from local Mankato sandstone. The muscular shell will be fully restored to its historic beginnings. D/O Architects is working closely with local masons and restoration specialists to meet the United States Secretary Standards for Historic Preservation. The design team took on the challenge of working to elevate the historic building to a LEED Silver performance. The importance of these historic buildings is not just cultural. It’s also a savings account for carbon. Based on preliminary calculations, salvaging the historic building will save 3,500 tons of carbon from entering the atmosphere. The overall goal is to create an extremely energy efficient building with a low embodied carbon footprint. Operational carbon consumption can be improved over time as technology evolves. We have one chance to reduce embodied carbon in buildings. Reuse of the materials saves approximately 30% of the typical emissions in a new build.

Rendering of the building's backyard in use for an outdoor screening.

Rendering of the common atrium space and the FilmNorth offices.


The project preserves historic architecture while transforming it into a pioneering new building filled with light, creativity, and ideas. The exterior windows, masonry, and architectural metals will be fully restored. The interior of the main level building was a furniture show room with terrazzo floors and white walls. The large storefronts will be restored using large format glazing returning the building to the elegant simplicity of its time. This level includes an open gallery and general co-working space. The remaining floor is Film North’s offices and a new 54-person micro-cinema. D/O Architects’ design cuts through the three floors bringing natural light to what is a dark lower level. The selective demolition creates sustainable daylighting and dramatic architectural gestures as the complex wood form moves visitors visually through the building.

The second and third levels were manufacturing and storage for the furniture company. The new spaces will be simple and refined. The central focus is the intricate woodwork of the box. Building occupants cross catwalks into the community spaces of each floor. The entire building becomes visually unified and open fostering a sense of neighborhood and community within 2441 Arts.

The backyard of the building reinterprets what was historically a loading dock. A new landscape plaza frames spaces for community gatherings. Informal seating can be positioned to host a variety of uses. Wooden raked seating offers casual lounging during the day and the ability to transform the space into a formal outdoor cinema at night. A building mounted projection system utilizes the best technology for stunning films during the warmer months of the year.

The backyard also provides and opportunity for sustainability in an area that is an urban heat island. Native plants and grasses create relief from the continuous dark pavement of the post-industrial area. Storm-water will be harvested and infiltrated under the plaza.

2441 Arts is a dramatic and creative environment amplifying the incredible impacts already underway in this Creative Enterprise Zone of St. Paul. The building is a rebirth of history and a redefinition of what a historic building can offer in the new resilient future.