Environmental Design and Art by Heather Novak-Peterson

Constructive Babble

What Happens to an Artist when she Hangs out with Architects

Many people ask me, “What really is environmental design?” Depending on who you ask, you may get a variety of answers, but this is how I see it:

Environmental Design is an art form that reacts to the context it is placed into. It plays with the architecture and luxuriates in the interior design of the space. It gives a context that makes people react beyond just the visual to give a unique identity.

I like to think of it as a “spatial personality”.

I just finished a project that illustrates this point of view.  Nic on 5th is a beautiful, brand new luxury rental tower in downtown Minneapolis. It’s a gorgeous building with a large window filled podium full of great retail space waiting to be utilized. The tower is renting wonderfully, but people pass by large windows looking into empty raw space.

The management wanted to do something different that set their building apart by making it an elegant fixture with a daring idea, “let’s change the view people see into the building”.  

Here is where the environmental design becomes the daughter of the architecture and interior design of a project.  The architectural vibe is elegant, up-scale and modern. The branding was integrated beautifully into the lobby by the interior design. The light rail station along the side of the tower, (also designed by the same architect,) has a roof line that waves and ripples. I took all of these visual textures into consideration and designed a graphic that flows across three major street fronts, rolling, curling and waving gently in the branding colors of the tower, while playfully dancing in sync with the architectural elements of the building. The finished piece contains over 120 individual window pane designs, flowing and pouring into each other.


There are many great buildings out there with empty storefronts, waiting for something to happen. Let’s have fun with these spaces, and draw out their personalities!