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Atriums — a center courtyard open to the sky and surrounded by a building — have been around since ancient times.

But the word “atrium” — and its use in modern-day homes — is strongly associated with Joseph Eichler, a California real estate developer who popularized the design and built many atrium homes in the 1950s and ’60s.

The design milestone — “a hole in the house” — became the defining feature of an Eichler home.

While ranch-style homes with atriums are fairly common on the West Coast, they’re unusual in Minnesota.

The 1964 contemporary house with atrium owned by Mike Olafson and Gary Bennett was designed by Ed Baker, a Chicago-born architect who graduated from the University of Minnesota.

Baker, an internationally renowned architect who died in 2006, is best known for his work on several downtown commercial buildings, including TCF Tower, the IDS Center and the first skyway in 1962, into the Northstar Building, which he also designed.

He’s considered “the father” of the Minneapolis skyway system.

Kim Palmer