John Dwyer, AIA, has known since he was a kid that he would be an architect. “Between eighth and ninth grade I made my career decision, and that was the end of that,” says Dwyer, 40. Such certainty may help explain his willingness to take chances with his career. Newly licensed in 2004, he left Minneapolis-based SALA Architects to start his own firm—“I had no clients … no portfolio … nothing,” he says—and proceeded to design the first LEED-certified house in Minnesota.
Only three years later, he moved to New Orleans and founded a community design studio to help Lower Ninth Ward residents rebuild homes destroyed in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. “We were building houses for about $110,000, and the design work had to be done in about a day,” Dwyer says.
In 2009, Dwyer returned to Minneapolis, where he splits his time between his residential-focused private practice and a faculty position at Dunwoody College—a fitting combination for a lifelong architect who is still pushing the limits of what architecture can be.