Marvin Windows Trip

Last week I went on the Marvin Windows tour in Warroad Minnesota.

For years I have been hearing from other architects how awesome this tour is. I have been invited in the past but it always seemed too overwhelming with small children and all. This year I cleared my calendar stuck to my guns and made it happen.

I have often used the Integrity line of windows - Now call Elevate and Essential and officially under the wings of Marvin Windows. It’s a great mid-range window using fiberglass which represents a huge improvement in quality and durability.

Within the past year Marvin has introduced the Modern line of windows and doors. They are stunningly beautiful in their simplicity and aesthetics. These are windows that will outlast your walls. The life expectancy of vinyl windows is rather dismal. I suspect Marvin might have their hands full when people start seeing these in person.

click to be delivered directly to the Marvin Modern website.

click to be delivered directly to the Marvin Modern website.

I am using the Marvin Modern line in a current project and that was the final kicker for me to make the trip to Warroad Wisconsin.

I have used several brands of European style windows as well and they really are a very different and vastly superior product to the average American window. The Modern line represents a ground up redesign with a brilliant level of simplicity in comparison. I really hope Marvin will address the Passive house crowd soon with this window. They are so close.

Hastings is our local distributor of Marvin windows. They lead all expenses paid trips (even drinks) to Minnesota to tour the Marvin factory and do some product training. There are a few other perks to these trips as well and these perks differ depending on your local distributor. There is a lot to cover here so I will break this post into two parts. The actual factory tour to be covered at a later date.

I was the token architect in this group which included 6 builders, my local Marvin dealer and two folks from Hastings. I believe that in the past they have separated the architects and builders more. From my perspective there were advantages to being with a group of builders. I tend to shun architect only events for reasons I won’t go into here.

There were several main parts to this trip.

I’ll cover the Willey house and the Cardinal tour here.

The Willey House by Frank Lloyd Wright.

This amounted to a 2 hour master class.

The thing about a F. L. Wright house is that you can look at bland pictures in a book and think “that’s nice”. You can look at a Usonian house floor plan and start to get a sense of how beautifully these houses flow but only when you are actually there, in the house that it hits you like a freight train just how good these houses really are. I have enough experience to pull together the “why this is good” , take a million mental notes and realize how far I have to go in my own work. But damn …it’s humbling. The cool thing about being there with a bunch of builders is that they are walking around thinking “damn!” as well. It’s fun to see.


The tour hosts gave an excellent presentation. I had a million questions.

After the formal tour we were encouraged to poke around and enjoy the spaces. I made our hosts grab a tape measure and give me some numbers. The dining table is 27 1/2” tall. They offered to let me stow away and skip out on my group for the rest of the day but only if they could put me to work.

In my own work I often say that floor plans are the easy part. It’s getting to that higher level of emotional impact that is the goal and now I feel recharged with purpose to help me work toward that goal.

Image stolen from the Willey House website because my photos were horrible.

Image stolen from the Willey House website because my photos were horrible.

Part Two - Cardinal Glass

I’ll be brief here but I will say that the process was fascinating. And that furnace was hot.

The sheets of glass flow out of the furnace in a sheet 14’ wide by varying thicknesses and continue in a very linear process, all the time cooling, through inspections, cutting, and further processing to enormous stacks of green edged glass ready to be shipped to various window manufacturers.

A very interesting part of this process is the rollers that squeeze the glass to the desired thickness. The rollers are adjusted according to an arc on the floor with angles. There was also a very cool (warm) point on the conveyor belt where you can reach out and lift the still flexible glass off the rollers.


Stolen from the web:

Stay tuned for the second part of the tour - the flight from Minneapolis to Warroad, the Factory tour and old cars.