A place where Minnesota's design community can blow its collective mind about creative expression in every medium from websites to landscapes, chocolate to bicycles.

This Side of the Mississippi

Posted: May 11th, 2009 | Author: Todd | Filed under: architecture | Comments Off

A block off the prestigious Mississippi River Blvd the neighborhood quickly becomes fairly common place. But at the top of a little rise stands this house that seems to have decided it is not content to be a neo-this or revival-that. It doesn’t even proclaim its mid-century modern heritage very loudly actually. It just sits on its hill looking content to be what it is. Although, I when I consider its yellow doors I can’t help but think it wears just a little sly smile.

Regrettably I have been unable to discover the architect responsible.

x marks the spot.

LaFayette Square in Oakland, California

Posted: May 7th, 2009 | Author: Cindy | Filed under: landscape architecture | Tags: , | Comments Off

I don’t know Walter Hood, but have attended a few of his lectures and if I could create a professional trajectory similar to his, I would be pretty psyched. Well skilled in the realm of design, at times he also assumes the role of social advocate, environmental advocate, fundraiser, and professor. And, he seems like a damn cool dude to boot.

Probably best known for his work at the DeYoung Museum in San Francisco, or his books Urban Diaries and Blues & Jazz Landscape Improvisations, my favorite project of his is LaFayette Square in Oakland, California. The project was hugely controversial; many people wanted to see small this parcel developed, in a way, to get rid of the transient population who perhaps had stayed too long. Hood worked with the community, city officials, homeless, and various funding sources to create and implement a design that would embrace those who need a place to crash, yet didn’t look like one big king-sized bed in the middle of Oakland. As with most design, the devil is in the details. Outfitted with water, showers, bathrooms and electrical plugs, the park infrastructure makes life a little easier for those who don’t have direct access to such luxuries. Well skilled at creating cool landscapes, Hood also programmed in some Depression-Era elements such as tables with chessboards and horseshoe pits, and believe it or not, comfortable park benches!

all images from Hood Design

The World of Landscape Architecture

Posted: May 4th, 2009 | Author: Cindy | Filed under: landscape architecture, local twin cities | Tags: | Comments Off

While it is true plants are part of the palette of landscape architects, the really cool stuff doesn’t necessarily bloom. The fun parts of the job include things like manipulating landform, playing with hard materials like stone, copper and steel, assessing water flows, and understanding people flows, too. I can’t speak for all in the field, but the most interesting projects have more to do with fitting in to context than specifying the right perennial. During the month of May, I’ll share a few inspirational projects that may bend the idea of landscape architecture.

The first on the list (‘cause it’s local, and well, I happened to work at the landscape architecture firm): Westminster Courtyard and Columbarium in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Employing only two plant species (honey locust trees and creeping thyme), the beauty of this project lies in its comfortable size, its relation to the existing structure, and its minimal material palette. A pattern abstracted from the stained glass windows becomes a perforated copper fence, a constantly coursing water rill muffles the adjacent street, soft illumination allows for evening congregation, and a timeless columbarium wall complements the 110 year-old Westminster Church and its engaged community. Check out Coen + Partners website for a lengthier (and more interpretive) description of the project.

All images by Paul Crosby Architectural Photography