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The Next Generation of Parks 1: Ken Smith Studio

February 1, 2011Patrick NunnallyUncategorizedComments Off on The Next Generation of Parks 1: Ken Smith Studio

With this post, I’m beginning a quick survey of the four teams’ proposals for redevelopment of the Minneapolis Riverfront between St. Anthony Falls and the north city limits.

Each of the proposals, which can be found in their entirely at the web site of the Minneapolis Riverfront Design Competition, has many extraordinary features. Each is far too complex to be analyzed completely in a short blog post (and I am reminded that blog posts should be short!)

So I’ll take them up in alphabetical order: Ken Smith Studio, Stoss Landscape Urbanism, Tom Leader Studio, and Turenscape. Again, I strongly urge you to go to the competition web site, download the proposals, watch the presentation films, and make your comments.

The winning design firm will be announced on February 10.

The Ken Smith Studio team, originating primarily from New York City, titled its proposal “City of the River.” The team argues that the past decades of activity and investment have made Minneapolis, long known as the “City of Lakes,” the “City of the River.

Many particular strategies are proposed to enact the City of the River scheme. The Mississippi Greenway would complete the park system’s famed Grand Rounds.They focus on energizing transportation connections, particularly by adding bike lanes to existing railroad bridges and strengthening transportation links to new amenities and destinations along the river.

Community development through a proposed North Town Center and Broadway Crossing bring long-overdue attention to reconnecting the city’s Northside neighborhoods to the River. Currently, of course, I-94 forms a visual, transportation, and conceptual barrier between the community and the river.

The team’s description of sustainable infrastructure, which should be Regenerative, Inclusive, Adaptable, and Accountable, brings a welcome level of analysis to emerging discussions of how the riverfront should be truly sustainable.

The team recognizes that the river corridor can be the “great green heart of the city” (my term, not theirs) and that there is potential to re-weave diverse habitats into the fabric of the city.

Parks and public open spaces are envisioned as layers, and incorporate both water-based features such as a water taxi and land-based spaces (mussel/muscle beach).

The discussion of typologies and structures is perhaps a little “design-y,” but they are designers, after all. As one of their graphics illustrates, the area under consideration is orders of magnitude larger than Central Park; a strong visual vocabulary seems necessary to hold it all together.

The proposal progresses through nine “scenarios,” more site-specific treatments that highlight ways in which specific areas might fit into the broader patterns and framework. These are richly illustrated, and reward careful study.

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