Robert Aho Principal Architect + Certified Building Official



Robert Aho Principal Architect + Certified Building Official


KIRKAUS provides service to clients throughout Minnesota and Wisconsin.  The firm is based on a rural lake north of Duluth, MN, and is not generally open to the public, due to its remote location. If you wish to meet with the architect about a project, he will come to you, preferring to meet at the project site location.  If you have a project in mind, please submit a request for a meeting by going to the contact section of this website.

The purpose of this firm is to provide clarity in the construction process for those who wish to enjoy the process of construction, as well as the life of the building; designing in a way that is smart, and helping people navigate through what is often a very complicated experience—pure and simple. We provide services for design professionals, developers, owners, municipalities and contractors, for all types of projects.  In this process we bring together experts in the field who make it a priority to communicate effectively. 

The name Kirkaus is based on the Finnish word Kirkkaus (meaning clarity) or Kirkas—we compromised slightly with the name, wishing to be unique.

As a central theme in this firm, clarity is of the utmost priority.  This means that we – everyone associated with the project – are encouraged to look at the project holistically.  With the construction of any building, each decision has a domino effect.  So, we must start by looking at the basic elements that are most important: health, spirituality, sustainability, culture, and the well-being of people in our lives.  All of these elements have many layers that must be considered, including financial, aesthetic, physical health and psychological well-being.

Kirkaus, as an entity, is designed to grow to meet the needs of clients and projects, as well as to meet the interests of its associates within the firm.  As the firm grows, other resumes will be added to this web site.  It is Robert’s intention to include people with a diverse level of experience, complementing and in balance with the firm’s philosophy.

The Principal Architect, Robert Aho, AIA:

Robert originally started as a firm principal in 2004, after being invited into partnership at Builders Commonwealth.  Working with a multi-disciplined design build firm was a refreshing change, having spent many years working in the more traditional architecture firms, Triebwasser Helenske and SJA Architects. A few projects from those days, early in Robert’s architectural career, are included in the imagery of this website.  


Robert’s Certification & Licensing:          

Architect, MN #43952

Architect, WI #9974

Building Official, MN #BO002940


Robert’s Education:

BArch Architecture, North Dakota State University

  • Areas of interest included: Organic Architecture, Sustainable Architecture, Regional Architecture, Native American Architecture, A Retreat for Writers (thesis topic).

BS Environmental Design, North Dakota State University

  • Areas of study included: New Urbanism, Green Architecture, many other topics.                 

BA Anthropology, Moorhead State University

  • Cultural Anthropology with areas of study involving: North American Indians, Art, Theory, Economics, Physical Anthropology, Human Ecology, Contemporary Cultural Dynamics within Industrial Societies (thesis topic).


Robert’s Work Experience:

KIRKAUS, LLC, Principal Architect

  • Kirkaus is a firm reborn, unique in every way, based upon needs of all participants in the construction process.  Clients’ needs are best met by extraordinary professional experience and an understanding of human nature that keeps projects running smoothly.  The firm is meant to grow beyond these distinct experiences of the principal architect, bringing in talented people with unique interests and abilities in their own right.

RA Architect Studios, Principal Architect

  • Residential and commercial projects, focused on sustainability, cultural, historical and organic in nature.  Managed projects from start to completion, managed several employees.

Meditation Instructor

  • Founded a local Duluth meditation group, then established a connection with a Minneapolis organization, which has several non-profit centers.  Led groups in meditation on a volunteer basis.  Coordinated events and retreats.  Robert continues to support various groups in this sort of endeavor. Robert is known for bringing a certain calm and humor to groups of people.
  • Related to this, Robert has dedicated his firm to His Holiness Karmapa XVII, who has called upon people globally to do what they can to help sustain and conserve our shared natural environment.  This includes being dedicated to the design of energy efficient buildings.

City of Duluth, Plans Examiner

  • Reviewed permit applications and plans of all types of projects for code compliance, met with architects and owners to discuss new projects, provided expertise on issues related to building code.

Builders Commonwealth, Inc., Principal Architect, Partner

  • All aspects of design, design-build and construction administration.  Very fast paced.  Worked on 50% residential and 50% commercial projects, from additions and residences to apartment buildings, banks and restaurants.

SJA Architects  

  • Worked with teams on numerous large institutional projects.  Also managed and designed many smaller projects, from the predesign phase through contract administration—university, residential, school, veterinary, medical and public housing were among the project types in this role.  Extensive contract administration, project estimating, 3-D computer modeling, technical roles for large government and university projects and extensive design work experience. 
  • In the May-June 2002 issue of Architecture Minnesota, one of Robert’s projects was published involving neighborhood and energy efficient renovation of existing public housing.  This design further won a NAHRO Award of Merit for Housing & Community Development.

Triebwasser Helenske and Associates

  • Worked on a large variety of architectural projects including: Assisted living, medical clinics, government-related institutional, a convention center and residential.  Also provided technical support for university and city projects during design development and contract document stages. Was given the lead on a small number of design build projects.  Occasional contract administration.

Prior to the above: Robert worked in lumber yard management, drafting, construction, commercial art and graphic design.

Professional Recognition:  In the interest of providing recognition of all team members in the projects included here, we have provided information, which is intended to both give credit to others where it is due and gratitude to all those associated with the projects here.  It is seldom that any architect works without the assistance of others, as an island, so to speak.  Successful projects are due to the totality of the team, each and every player who makes it happen.


Professional Organization Experience:     

  • CSI, Twin Ports Chapter, President, President Elect, 1st Vice President, 2nd Vice President, Director
  • AIA, Northern Chapter, Secretary, Director
  • NCARB, member
  • Conducted Seminars for Architects


Community & Volunteer Involvement:    

  • Energy Design Conference Planning Committee
  • WITC Advisory Committee, building program
  • Climate Idols, Duluth Sister City, Advisor
  • Heritage Preservation Commission, Duluth, Commissioner
  • Old-Brule Heritage Society, Director, Volunteer
  • Bodhicitta Sangha/ Heart of Enlightenment Institute, Director, Group Coordinator
  • Prisoner Meditation Project, Volunteer
  • North Country R.I.D.E. Board Chair, Director
  • Carlton County Animal Shelter
  • Duluth Preservation Alliance
  • Planning Commission, Madison Lake, MN, Vice Chairman, Commissioner



Photography courtesy of Robert Aho.


KIRKAUS= clarity



KIRKAUS= clarity




Live to Ride



Contact Kirkaus

Live to Ride



Contact Kirkaus