Thursday, May 17, 2012

Minneapolis, Why Are You So Stupid?

Minneapolis is a dangerous place for people my age to be, since it sure seems as though the city hates anything that's between 40 and 70 years old.

Okay, the city doesn't hate people in that age range, but it sure seems like buildings and other architectural spaces are in extreme danger when they're around the half-century mark. The Metropolitan Building (built in the 1890s, torn down in the early 1960s) is the best-known example, but there are so many others, they've kept writer Larry Millett busy for years.

Now it's Peavey Plaza, which is located on the Nicollet Mall between 11th and 12th Streets in front of Orchestra Hall. Designed in the early 1970s and built in '73, Peavey is considered to be the first example in the U.S. of a public "park plaza," combining hardscape and greenspace. It's also a great example of modernist architecture from that era.

Peavey Plaza photo by The Cultural Landscape Foundation.
Yes, it's very inaccessible to anyone in a wheelchair, and it has some other design flaws that decrease safety.

When the city put out a call for renovation designs, they got one from the original architect, Paul Friedberg -- now 81 years old -- that preserved the original design while making usability improvements.

But that approach was rejected in favor of plans that demolished the plaza completely, replacing it with a generic design that will make us cringe in less than 20 years, I'll bet.

Birdseye view of a rebuilt plaza with some trees, some open space with lots of poles, and an outdoor performance area
Architect's rendering of the new design.
A major reason for the move to demolition, according to MPR this morning, is the fact that any new work has to be paid for through fundraising. And rich donors want to build something new, not renovate something historical and architecturally significant. "They like a little more razzmatazz or tangible difference to show where their money went," according to Beth Grosen, senior project coordinator for the city of Minneapolis.

The city's Heritage Preservation Commission voted to stop demolition and find out if the plaza should be officially designated a historic resource. The City Council today, though, overturned that ruling, which means Peavey is likely to be destroyed.

Minneapolis, why are you so stupid? Haven't you learned anything from all the parts of the past you've already destroyed?

1 comment:

Ms Sparrow said...

I wonder if part of the controversy might be semantics--the difference between a plaza and a park. A plaza has a floor and a park has ground. It seems the area really needs a park. I've only seen the plaza a few times (since I live in St Paul) but I felt the the place was as cold and uninviting as a corporate lobby.