Archive for August 2009
The banks of the Mississippi were populated with cyclists, runners and dog walkers when Adrian Saxe and I cruised along in July. As others rode and ambled, we navigated by rented automobile. I wanted to see the museums, and had the Frederick Weisman Museum on my list. It’s located on the campus of the University of Minnesota, and I found the best view from across the river.
It’s phenomenal that Minneapolis has cultural buildings by so many world-class architects. In contrast to the sleek blue work of Jean Nouvel at the Guthrie, the Weisman is a curvaceous, complex and undulating grouping of forms. It is strikingly different when viewed from the river or from the street level. One can enter the museum from the underground parking garage—and the pedestrian experience is complex as well. Frank Gehry’s use of exposed structure is evident throughout. I found an unusual and delightful feature: a room that contained the drawings, models and design process for the building.
So how is it that the citizens and philanthropists of Minneapolis have made possible such visible, prominent and striking architectural landmarks? Whatever the many reasons, it’s an impressive group of buildings. Saxe and I had been informed upon arrival that “In Minnesota there are only two seasons: Winter and Construction.” The short season for building only makes the architecture more of an impressive accomplishment for the city.
I had never been to the Twin Cities until this summer. I traveled to Minneapolis in July with Adrian Saxe, and we attended the opening of “Dirt on Delight” at the Walker Art Center. Adrian, a veteran traveler, did most of the preparation for our trip. I was pleased to have him take over—he’s naturally inquisitive, great at gathering information, and possesses what I call “built-in-GPS”. He calls it his “pigeon-brain”. Whatever one wants to name it, he is a marvelous navigator.
I expressed interest in going to see the great Mississippi River—something a tourist from a dry region would find a rare natural resource. After we landed and checked into our hotel, Saxe drove our rented car right down to the locks in the heart of old Minneapolis. I saw the river, the bridges and some real river barges. I was interested, intrigued and informed, realizing that we were in the shadows of Gold Medal Flour’s distribution point. But then, I saw something that really caught my eye: the rising form and reflecting blue of a stunning architectural work. The design of the Guthrie Theatre is the work of architect Jean Nouvel, along with the Minneapolis architectural firm Architectural Alliance.
We drove up to the building, and made our own impromptu tour of the exterior and all the interior amenities. Anything I write would probably be redundant, since critics and architecture buffs have been giving this building glowing reviews—and Jean Nouvel won the 2008 Pritzker Architecture Prize for the Guthrie Theater. But I will note that I understood the central axis, the great pedestrian experience, and the “endless bridge”. It all made my day, to see how the architect had worked with the site and the concept. I managed to take a couple of tourist photos: Adrian standing at the Guthrie, the interior hallways, and the exterior elevations.