Kaid Benfield Archive


See innovative proposals for the Minneapolis waterfront

Kaid Benfield

Posted February 3, 2011 at 1:27PM

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  a portion of the Minneapolis riverfront (by: tsuacctnt/Chris, creative commons license)

The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board and partners have created an initiative to reconceive the shorelines along both sides of a long-neglected, six-mile stretch of the Mississippi River in the city.  The initiative is all about creativity and innovation.

According to the initiative’s website, in September 2010 the Park and Recreation Board and the Minneapolis Parks Foundation, with creative partners Walker Art Center and University of Minnesota College of Design, commenced an international design competition to address issues along the river.  From a pool of 55 submittals from 14 countries, four award-winning landscape and urban design teams were announced as finalists in November. In December, the four teams – Ken Smith Workshop | New York City, Stoss Landscape Urbanism | Boston, Tom Leader Studio | Berkeley, and Turenscape | Beijing – made a four-day research visit to Minneapolis.

Tom Meersman reports in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune that the four finalists unveiled their proposals at a public meeting last week.  According to Meersman, one of the principal challenges for the designers is how to deal with the freeway that blocks access to the river for many residents:

“All of the firms noted how Interstate 94 cuts off most of north Minneapolis from the river. Some proposed covering parts of the freeway with "land bridges" -- parks and walkways that would lead from places like Farview Park to the shoreline.

“Other ideas included restoring or building new islands in the river for migratory birds, and creating back channel areas for canoeing, kayaking and ice skating.”

Below are two of the entries, randomly chosen.  Alas, at 16 minutes and 8:29, they are not as short as most blog-embedded videos.  But I highly recommend them, because they really reward the viewer with an interest in the subject.

I especially like that the visions include not just the obvious parkland, but more holistic concepts that integrate infrastructure, transportation, residential and commercial development - the urban fabric, if you will - with restoration of the once-industrial riverfront.  This is not just about a waterway but also about sustainable city development.  The two videos are also quite different from each other, giving the viewer very different perspectives on the challenges and oppoirtunities. 

The first is by a team led by Turenscape, "an internationally renowned landscape architecture, urban design, and architecture firm" in Beijing, China. The team also includes NRDC's friends at SvR Design in Seattle:


The second is by a team led by Tom Leader Studio and Kennedy & Violich Architecture, and combines visuals with a wonderful soundtrack:


This is wonderful stuff.  Go here for the others, and here for a very interesting collection of children’s collages and drawings of the waterfront as it exists and as it could be.

The firms were asked to include at least one project that could be developed within the next three to five years.  A winner will be announced next week.

Move your cursor over the images for credit information.