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Justin Z Sims

LEED Green Associate Designer + Photographer

The tools we use to change the world ought be beautiful in themselves. It’s not enough to just survive. -Alex Steffen

Reinventing an Icon...4 The Beautiful Box...6 Self-Branding + Promotion...10 Route Setting...12 Save Island Station!...14 [KIT] School...18 Ise Shrine...22

Reinventing an Icon Personal Photography Series 2009-2012 “Woodland Cemetery in Late Morning� featured in UMN Alumni Assocation Art Celebration 2013 Multiple prints of images from this series have been purchased.

I was fortunate in my travels to see a number of iconic architectural spaces. During my visits, though, I realized that since these places had been photographed hundreds of thousands of times, I should challenge myself to find new ways to document them. This series redefines what architectural photography can be by injecting the user experience into the images. For example, rather than moving my camera inbetween the bars surrounding Buckingham Palace, the bars become the focus of the image.

Images (clockwise from top-left): The Pantheon, Utzon Center Library, All nine images in the series featured in a local cafe, Buckingham Palace, Kastrup Sea Bath, Woodland Cemetery

The Beautiful Box Class: Sustainability & Beauty Term: Fall 2012 Prof: William Weber

The aim of this project was to explore the inherent, yet often hidden, qualities of materials in design. Using found material, create a vessel with an operable lid. Then photograph the finished design and do a series of orthographic and gestural drawings to draw out the characteristics of the vessel. Through experimentation with newspaper, I discovered that the normally flat material could be made supple and flexible by twisting strips of it into string. I took the organic quality in the string and made a basket instead of a box like most of my classmates did. A network of loops was formed around an inflated balloon, which acted as a framework. From there, one continous string of newspaper was woven into the network. Through this simple technique, a fully self-supporting structure was created that, when suspended, displayed how gravity flowed through it and reformed the shape of the balloon that it was formed around.

Abstracted section (above left) and plan (left) showing elements of repetition in the basket design. Diptych showing the difference in form between suspension (above right) and no suspension (above).

Gestural drawings displaying the method of construction (above) and form generation through suspension (above right and below right).

Route Setting Personal Design Work 2010-2012

Route setting, or creating paths on indoor climbing walls, is a mode of design similar to many others in that failure is required to improve the design and collaboration between peers provides invaluable feedback. It breaks the mold in that the process is entirely without process work and is instead an experiential mode of design. To test the success of the route, it must be climbed. Along with keeping in mind the different body types of climbers, body positioning, and physical comfort of climbers during the route, you also must consider the flow from one move to the next and how entertaining the route is overall. The infinite variability in route setting that comes with the switching of different types of holds, the relation of a hold to its surrounding context, and even the orientation of the hold makes every route fresh and challenging. I designed routes for lower-level climbers because I enjoyed getting new climbers excited about the sport. Typically, I would design the route around a higher level type of move that would expose the climber to new techniques in a safe enough environment where they could comfortably train on it.

Conceptual hybrid sketch on the variability in climbing.

Self-Branding + Promotion Personal Design Work 2012

Once I decided I wanted to turn my love of photography into freelance work, I realized I needed a watermark to protect my images when they were online. What started out as sketches along the margins of my notebook became the basis for my personal logo: an abstraction of my initials JZS. The logo became increasingly abstracted through continued iterations until it became an ambigram, an image that looks the same even when flipped upside down. This interactive aspect to my logo created a foundation to base business card designs off of. Part of branding is making the name memorable. By encouraging the recipient to directly interact with the card and discover for themselves that the logo is an ambigram, the experience become unique, and the name along with it. I also repeated the mirrored design on the back side with my personal information to create a theme for the whole design.






JUSTIN Z SIMS phone: (708) 436-4236 e-mail:

phone: (708) 436-4236 e-mail:



Save Island Station! Class: Saving Minnesota - 10 Buildings at a Time Term: Fall 2012 Professor: Michael Bjornberg Partner: Lucas Glisendorf

Historic preservation has become increasingly important as life cycle analysis has shown the benefit of the reuse of structures. Reused spaces, when done well, provide new amenities for the surrounding communities, while helping retain the character that made the space worthy of saving at all. Our task was to choose a building in Minnesota from a list of “endangered buildings�, research its history, and create a reuse plan for it. My partner and I chose to save Island Station Power Plant in St. Paul, Minnesota. Rather than redeem its coal-burning past, we chose to take advantage of its placement along the Mississippi River and proximity to downtown St. Paul and transform it into a multi-use facility: outdoor adventure store, National Park Service headquarters, commmunity education spaces, event hall, and local cafe with catering business. This combination of factors would provide the local West 7th neighborhood with unique amenities that few other communities would possess, thereby creating a pull for tourists to visit the area and support local business.

Photographs of the interior (right) and exterior (above right) in its current state










Logo design to help rebrand the space as a new, exciting cultural amenity (above) Floorplans of the new spaces. From bottom up: Below-grade parking + storage, Main Lobby with event hall and adventure store, catering business and upper story of adventure store, National Park Service offices and classrooms + storage, Open floorplan + rooftop seating for event hall









[KIT] School Class: Creating a Culture of Innovation Term: Spring 2013 Professor: Judith Hoskens Partners: Iran Mejia Ashley Peterson Peter Simpkins

Increasing amounts of research show that the environment children learn in has profound impacts on the success of their educational experience. This class explored the possibilities that designing an environment that fostered creative and collaborative learning would have on students of all ages. My team collaborated with teachers and administrators from North Park Elementary School in Fridley, Minnesota, to redesign their third grade spaces in a way that would continue the success that the redesigned second grade space brought about. We were also in charge of creating a general master plan for the school as a whole. Our idea focused on creating a framework within the classroom spaces that allowed for a variety of learning and teaching styles to flourish, yet keeping them similar enough that a sense of familiarity could form in the students as they progress from one grade to the next.


Remodeled space of 2nd grade (above far left) versus current space of 3rd grade (far left) Diagrams showing possible different spatial layout possibilities for the classrom module: Gradient from individual to group; Radial from Group to individual; Combination of radial and gradient

Floor plan of classrom with vigentte images Clockwise from top left: Sensory Break space, Structured Classroom space, Open Classroom space, Entrance to classroom space, Individual Work space with tiered seating.

Upper Level [Kindergarten]

[1st Grade]

[5th Grade]

[3rd Grade]



[4th Grade]



[3rd Grade]



[2nd Grade]

[2nd Grade]


Lower Level [Spec.Ed]


[Untouched Areas]

[4th Grade]


[Gymnasium] [Spec.Ed]



[1st Grade]

Before (left) and after (above) of upper and lower level master plans for the school. Grades were rearranged to foster mentorship between students of different ages. The creative classes were also centralized into a new “Arts Quarter�

Ise Shrine Class: Once More with Feeling: Mood, Atmosphere, and Digital Rendering Term: Fall 2011 Professor: Adam Jarvi

This series of images is from an exercise in digital rendering, where a model from Google’s 3D Warehouse was downloaded, rendered in Kerkythea, and edited in Photoshop. I chose the Ise Shrine, the holiest site in the Shinto religion, because I wanted to render a building that would not typically be shown. The Shrine’s cultural importance was a key factor for me to represent as I wanted to respect the traditions that went into the building’s rich history. The only people allowed on the site are Shinto priests and the Japanese Imperial Family, which meant the only people in my renderings would be the same. I also portrayed the creation (top right) and eventual deconstruction (bottom right) of the Shrine every twenty years.


412 4th Street SE Apt 101 Minneapolis, MN, 55414

Sims portfolio  

Selection of work during my undergraduate career at the University of Minnesota. Work is made of class projects and personal work.