The signing of the Declaration of Independence. The first moon walk. The invention of the rumble strip. While there weren’t any JLGers in attendance at any of those great moments in history, we were there for a whole bunch of our own. Check them out.


The heavens opened, the angels sang, and Lonnie and Gary sat down for their first day of work at JLG Architects (which was called Johnson & Laffen Architects back then).

Even then, technology was an important part of the JLG culture; in fact, we were one of the first architecture firms in the country to use computers – the appropriately-named RISC 1000 – for drafting.

Their first project: a gazebo for the historic Myra Museum, which would go on to win an AIA design award the following year.


"We are constantly recharged by our young professionals. You guys are really cool and have such amazing energy. You’re quickly changing us into a better company. I really believe that your generation is going to solve the world's problems through your compassion, caring and commitment to solving social problems. You also have great people skills and leadership traits – something a growing firm really needs."

Lonnie said this in 2015, but JLG has always been a firm that supports emerging architects – which is why we were awarded the National American Institute of Architects Intern Development Program Outstanding Firm Award in 1994.


Gary Johnson was a great guy. He was a part of the American team invited by the Government of China to lecture and assist in the development of a professional architecture registration program.

He received the very first NCARB President’s Medal and was the first person to receive the AIA North Dakota Architect Achievement Award.

In 1995, he was named to the College of Fellows of the American Institute of Architects – the fourth North Dakota architect to receive the profession’s highest honor.

Click here for some of Lonnie’s memories of Gary.

"...NCARB created a gold medal, like AIA has always had so Gary could get the very first gold medal..."
Lonnie Laffen, JLG President


In 1997, the Red River of the North broke its banks and inundated Grand Forks, North Dakota. With our community – and our office and homes – underwater, a Fargo architecture firm stepped up and offered us temporary space so that we could help Grand Forks not just recover, but rebuild bigger and better than ever before.

JLG never stopped working during the ’97 Flood, including when we returned to an office without any power. Instead, we used a generator (which had to be started with a dinner plate), and if you visit JLG’s Grand Forks location, you can see where the machine burned a hole in the floor.

One of the many results of our efforts was the Corporate Center, which was deemed the linchpin to saving downtown Grand Forks.


We love all of our communities equally, but we have a soft spot in our hearts for Minneapolis, which was JLG’s first office expansion in 2002 (and home of our CEO, Michelle Allen).

Today, we have 13 offices in three states. Some of this growth has been by acquiring the expertise and great fashion sense of other architecture firms.

Our first merger was with Schoen Associates in 2007 and, since then, we have welcomed Davison Larson Architects, Studio Five Architects, and ACV2.


In 2004, Eric Johnson, JLG’s Director of Visualization, took JLG into the technological third-dimension.

Were our renderings good before JLGVIZ? Maybe. Are they mind-blowing – and award-winning – now? Yes.

Shown here is the DSU Athletics Master Plan, which won an Award of Excellence in the American Society of Architectural Illustrators’ 33rd Architecture in Perspective Competition.


JLG Rocks, and in 2006 we proved it with a summer concert series in downtown Grand Forks. This event eventually morphed into JLG’s Rock the Streets, an annual street dance featuring the Fabulous Armadillos. Follow us on Facebook for the latest info on this year’s Rock the Streets.


Always one to be at the forefront of technology, JLG completely switched to BIM (Building Information Modeling) in 2007 and we’ve never looked back (besides, you know, right now).


If design is our soul, our philanthropic program, JLGives Back, is our heart.

In addition to our commitment to the Architecture 1+, in which we donate 1% of our architectural billings to not-for-project work, our JLGives Back program has allowed us to host collegiate video competitions, bring architecture (and LEGOs) into elementary, middle, and high school classrooms, author a children’s picture book, build Little Free Libraries, and clean up our communities.

In 2010, JLG donated our millionth dollar through JLGives Back.


As we said, we love our young professionals – and so when they came to us in 2012 and said they wanted to create a mentorship program that would make them feel more connected to one another and help them get licensed faster, JLGdna (Developing New Architects) was born. Today, the national average of time it takes an architect to be licensed is 6.5 years; JLG employees average 3.7.


In 2014 we became a 100% employee-owned ESOP. This was (and is) a really big deal. We are now a legacy firm, meaning JLG will go on after the original owners retire, and all of our employees financially reap the rewards of our hard work. Life is good.


JLG is now 30 years old. What a ride. Click here to see what Lonnie is most proud of.

"...the only two things that really mattered...fantastic projects and great people."
Lonnie Laffen, JLG President