The 1980s were a decade when precedents of history found their way back into architecture. Working with Colonial Church of Edina, HGA designed a cluster of gable-roofed forms that were both modernist in their simplicity and historicist in their mullioned windows and traditional truss systems. The project was quickly recognized as a breakthrough in church design. In an interview with Time magazine, Richard Hammel noted that "it took six years and hard work with the congregation and its pastor to achieve a harmonious understanding of the function and meaning of their church. But it is a wonderful work because something other than dollars is valued. You are designing for the celebration of human life."

With active practices in healthcare design, corporate headquarters, and cultural facilities, HGA had grown by the mid-1980s into a firm with a burgeoning array of young design and engineering talent. A highpoint in HGA's history is the 1986 competition to design the Minnesota History Center in St. Paul. Of the five finalists, four were nationally known firms from other regions of the country. HGA was the only all-Minnesota team. Yet, with a brilliant solution that transformed a difficult freeway-ringed site into a civic landmark, HGA's entry emerged triumphant. Today, the History Center is one of the finest historical museums and archives in the nation. Constructed of Minnesota Cold Spring Granite and Winona Travertine, the History Center creates a new bridge between the State Capitol, the St. Paul Cathedral and downtown.

In 1987, HGA moved beyond its Minnesota roots, establishing an office in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The office quickly made inroads into the Wisconsin healthcare market, serving clients such as Appleton Medical Center and Meriter Hospital with creative and innovative building solutions. Soon after, the office diversified into other building types with the award of the University of Wisconsin Madison Biotechnology Center in 1989.