VJAA - Goose Creek Rest Area, the iconic circular form with reuse and sustainable features
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Goose Creek Rest Area, the iconic circular form with reuse and sustainable features


Transport  /  Completed
An Apparatus for Slowness

The Minnesota Department of Transportation’s Safety Rest Areas serve automobile/truck travel, promoting tourism and vehicular safety (rest and rejuvenation for drivers). The new Goose Creek SRA sited along I-35 at the Gateway to the Arrowhead Region provides access to basic amenities, restrooms, information and safety. It also acts as an apparatus for “slowing people down” through rest, relaxation and play.

Intersecting elliptical circulation paths drawn from the original rest stop weave the building into the site. Structural columns define seating areas and guide movement from inside to out. An elevated walkway connects the two entries while overlooking the creek. Corten-steel railings and concrete block walls with a wood-board cladding system are detailed for longevity and low-maintenance. The public project included the main rest area doubling the original program; ancillary storage; parking expansion; picnic shelters, handicap accessible trails, a pet area, public art, pollinator gardens, and play structures.

The State of Minnesota Department of Transportation set an ambitious goal to refurbish and preserve their original mid-century sites, and in some cases like the Goose Creek Safety Rest Area, create new structures that provide unique site-specific experiences. The public Safety Rest Area program promotes tourism, vehicular safety (rest and rejuvenation for drivers) and expanding the public understanding of the diversity of Minnesota’s natural environments and its cultural heritage. Based on precedents like the Norwegian Tourist Routes, I35 facilities in Minnesota are designed to attract visitors to exceptional but remote landscapes and destinations. Goose Creek is the first facility en route to Lake Superior and the Boundary Waters Recreational Area.

Program and Budget:
Designed for the Minnesota Department of Transportation as a public project with a modest budget, the project included the construction of the main rest area building that doubled the original program, an ancillary storage building, refurbishment of car and truck parking lots, expansion of the truck parking lot to accommodate larger commercial trucks and increased space for truck drivers to park and sleep on the site, the rehabilitation of two existing picnic shelters, construction of handicap accessible trails and site amenities that include a pet area, public art, pollinator gardens and children’s play structures. The project’s original budget and final cost is 5.92 M for site and buildings (completed in August 2019).

Reuse and Sustainable Features:
The original Goose Creek rest stop (1969-70) was designed as an iconic circular form in brick with curved wood benches. The original single use structure was inwardly focused and turned its back on the most scenic feature on the site, Goose Creek. The client’s desire to maintain some memory of the memorable but outmoded structure inspired the decision to reuse the original foundation while adding an additional circular element to accommodate the larger program (the original circular building footprint and utility connections were retained). The existing concrete and brick picnic pavilion structures were rejuvenated and trails were redesigned to meet ADA requirements. The new building was designed using passive solar strategies for day-lighting and thermal comfort. The structural mass was internalized to provide thermal stability for the 24-hour operation period. The facility uses a building management system for energy management and LED lighting to reduce energy use. The site includes large pollinator gardens and plantings to support the Wilderness Highway as well as protecting existing trees, wildlife and the adjacent creek.


 443 mq
 Vincent James, Jennifer Yoos, Nathan Knutson, Nate Steuerwald, Thena Tak
 Sheehy Construction Co.
 Meyer Borgman Johnson - Structural Engineering, Pierce Pini & Associates - Civil Engineering, Damon Farber - Landscape Architects
 Peter Sieger


VJAA is known for its innovative approach to architectural practice, environmental design, and highly crafted buildings. VJAA was founded in 1995 in Minneapolis and is led by Jennifer Yoos, Vincent James and Nathan Knutson. Their practice, writing, and research is grounded in the study of how architecture is interwoven with its social, cultural, and material context. VJAA works at a range of scales, from urban and infrastructural projects, to the design of new buildings, creative reuse of existing buildings, furniture, installations, books, exhibitions and developing creative research that informs building design.

Founded in 1995, the firm is the recipient of the 2012 American Institute of Architects Firm Award. VJAA has received twenty-three national design awards, including six National American Institute of Architects Honor Awards, six Progressive Architecture Awards, and two American Institute of Architects/Committee on the Environment Top Ten Green Building Awards.



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