Gensler designs Freehouse in Minneapolis

The Freehouse restaurant opened in Minneapolis, with architecture by Gensler, which was artistically supported by Spye that created the venue’s holographic brand/name; and Bolster that oversaw the venue’s identity and creative.

Set in the historic Loose-Wiles building, a former biscuit factory, Freehouse takes advantage of the existing architecture to celebrate the craft of brewing beer. With the building itself serving as inspiration, key aspects include: the factory’s original brick walls, a color palette that draws from the graphics and patterns of historic Loose-Wiles biscuit tins, and a variety of upholstered chairs and booths in the dining areas, along with wooden tables.

The building now has four zones: the patio, bar, main dining room and a private dining room. According to Betsy Vohs, senior associate at Gensler, each space has its own unique interaction with the brewing process and therefore is named for its own feel. For instance, the patio houses a silo used to store the grain for brewing and so has an organic appearance. 


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Meanwhile, the bar serves as a “lab” for guests to sample different beers. Enclosed in glass, the brew tanks sit adjacent to the bar to immediately make the connection with the beer-making process. Stainless steel countertops, overhead steel shelving, wood and burlap curtains, and wood panels add to the bar’s industrial character.

The dining room highlights the fermentation process and the turning of the raw ingredients into the final product.

In contrast to the main dining room’s exposed ceiling lit by pendants and down lights, beer casks are used for both lighting and architecture in the private space. The casks are scattered closely together on the ceiling.

In a nod to Prohibition, a portrait of Andrew Volstead—former member of the US House of Representatives from Minnesota who is known as the father of Prohibition Act—is rendered in beer caps and hangs in the private dining room.