Thursday, January 31, 2008
Image: Manitoga and Decorative Arts Center of Ohio.
Wednesday, January 30, 2008
Monday, January 28, 2008
Image: Despatch Laundry Building, 2611 1st Avenue South, courtesy of Minneapolis Heritage Preservation Commission.
Sunday, January 27, 2008
Images: Stanford University.
Saturday, January 26, 2008
Friday, January 25, 2008
When I enter, I feel like I'm walking into a Gaudi-designed building in Barcelona.
In the dining hall, I feel surrounded by fireflies under a starry night.
Which is the opposite of how one feels in Chino Latino where you may be in Hell surrounded by orange, glowing cauldrons (don't get me wrong, I enjoy that space too, but it's the opposite vibe to me.)
Images: Top, About.com. 2 interior photos of Loring Pasta Bar, from the restaurant website.
Thursday, January 24, 2008
So it's no surprise that I, who came of age during Irony's peak, snickered at the new slogan for our cities -- "Minneapolis St Paul: More to Life." As far as slogan's go, this one isn't the catchiest or most memorable, but what's behind the slogan is actually quite important. I like to think of it as a long over-due public education campaign for the rest of the world. The people that still think of Minneapolis and St. Paul as part of an overly white, frozen, fly-over country with no redeeming value. I also think it should be a wake up call to those of us who live here and love it to stop being so self-deprecating about the state and start evangelizing about what's great here.
While its important for self-serving reasons (how many times have you traveled out of state, said where you lived and had someone say "oh, Minn-E-Soooota in their worst "Fargo" accents) to correct these misconceptions, it is even more important as cities compete globally for jobs and talent. If we want to attract talented workers and employers, people need to know that Minneapolis and St Paul are rich with amenities and diversity. As Mayor Rybak says, "You can live a sophisticated life in New York and enjoy a great outdoors experience in Bend, Ore., but you can do both in Minneapolis Saint Paul."
Since the unveiling of this campaign earlier this week, there have been some thoughtful editorials in the Star Tribune and Steve Berg's MinnPost is right on target.
Despite, or perhaps as a result of my coming of age with an over-abundance of irony, I've always bragged about this state. Maybe I thought it was edgy to love a place that most people ignore. Maybe I thought I'd expose people to the next great place and be ahead of the hipster curve. Or maybe, I had cast irony aside and was simply spreading the word that it doesn't get much better than a place where you can see Broadway calibre theatre, eat incredible ethnic food, buy the most amazing wardrobe at thrift stores, ride your bike to the places you want to go and actually swim in urban lakes.
So step up happy St. Paulites and Minneapolitans--spread the word about our great cities!
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
Union Depot has a bit of an uncertain future, depending on the alignment of the Central Corridor Light Rail project. For those that want to see the station serve as transportation hub, they are pushing for the LRT to terminate in the back of the station where there is a HUGE concourse that could serve as the link for rail-lines to other destinations. Yet for those who want to keep project costs down, the LRT would terminate in front of the station.
St. Paulites, which would you rather, our current Amtrak station out on Terminal Road or a beautiful and functioning Union Depot?
Images: Iowa State Train Club, Phillip Crandon on Picaso, and Ramsey County Regional Rail Authority.
Tuesday, January 22, 2008
Monday, January 21, 2008
We began our "holiday" with lunch at the recently City Pages reviewed Mexican joint, Tacqueria Los Ocampo on Lake and Chicago. I could go back for dinner right now--it really was that good. Then we took surface streets, traveling through South Minneapolis neighborhoods, to get to the Museum of Russian Art on 55th and Stevens. What a gorgeous building--an old church, then a funeral home, now a stunning gallery. Interesting exhibits--Russian Impressionism and Ukrainian printmaking--both radically different artforms, but both suffering under Soviet censorship and dictates of what constituted art. We tried to check out Twin Cities Green in Uptown, but they were closed. So we took Franklin Avenue all the way back to Prospect Park (with me pointing out the places that we need to eat at next--Maria's Cafe, True Thai, and the Franklin Street Bakery) where we stopped in at Cupcake for a latte and the obvious cupcake. As always, delish.
Realizing that the clock was ticking on our allotted child care, we hurried to St. Anthony Park to pop into Micawber's Books. What a lovely place to while away time during a snowy afternoon. We indulged and bought Kevin Kling's new book "The Dog Says How" along with a ridiculously marked down copy of Alex Kotlowitz's "Never a City So Real: A Walk in Chicago." Kotlowitz's book is part of the Crown Journeys series--where they pair good writers with interesting places. And we had to pick up the latest issue of National Geographic since we needed to read the North Dakota article ourselves and see if all of the brouhaha was deserved. IMHO, NoDak should be happy for the publicity--I know that the adults in this household will now add touring the rural remnants of our western neighbors to our great Western road trip of the future.
I'm going beyond the Twin Cities here because I think that Loll Designs based in Duluth is an awesome company. They recycle materials and turn them into durable, modern peices of outdoor furniture.
Then there's Flatpak and Wee-House--Twin Cities purveyors of pre-fab (and totally fab) modern homes. With Minneapolis-based Flatpak, you can choose how to mix and match different building components (like windows, doors, siding etc) to create the design of the house you want. Then you can choose different materials and interior finishings to finish it off.
With St. Paul based Wee Houses, there are several different pre-fab building styles to choose from and you can choose different materials and interior products.
On the indoor furnishing end, Room and Board is the big gun in the Minnesota modern furniture world, but Blu-dot is a close second.
How'd the state get to be so hip?
Images from top: Loll Designs, from re-nest.com.
Flat Pak House, Minneapolis, MN, Cameron Wittig
Wee-House from Elizabeth Eden's Flickr site.
Blu-Dot rocking chair, from Blu-dot.com.
Sunday, January 20, 2008
I had a couple of interesting sitings today en route to friends in Northeast Minneapolis. Heading north on Stinson from Hennepin, we passed the Minneapolis Diagonal Bike Trail. Seemed like an odd spot for a road-separated bike/ped trail, but there it was, passing warehouses and parking lots. I look forward to riding it sometime.
At Lowry and Stinson, if you look to your east you'll see a fine example of a trailer park in the city--it's the Lowry Grove RV and Manufactured Home Community. You can both live and camp there. You definitely don't expect to find it where it is.
Image: Chris Gregerson
Thursday, January 17, 2008
The Loft is part of the larger Open Book organization--which in addition to hosting the Loft in the upstairs space, is also home to the Rosalux Gallery, Milkweed Editions publishing, the Minnesota Center for Book Arts, and the Coffee Gallery. What I've also recently learned is that Open Book, is:
"the first facility in the nation devoted to the literary arts...Open Book is a focal point for the flourishing creative writing, publishing, and printing arts activity in the Twin Cities, which is home to more such organizations than anywhere but New York City."Basically, Open Book is a complete and relatively affordable package of inspiration--art, coffee, books, people, urbanity, a sense of place, and quiet spaces when you need them. So decadent, so smart!
Images: Top, from Homeandabroad.com.
Bottom: Interior shot of MN Center for the Book Arts, from the Hive Design Studio.
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
Tuesday, January 15, 2008
And parents, mark your calendars, on January 27th, the Current is sponsoring "Rock the Cradle" a day of free live music and other musical events at the Children's Theater/Minneapolis Institute of Arts.
And for the list lovers out there, here's the link to the Top 89 songs of 2007.
Monday, January 14, 2008
I was also reminded of how wonderful it is to live where the Mississippi River traverses. A national treasure flowing through our cities, its character changing as it winds itself past steep limestone cliffs, along built-up river banks, and through locks and dams built in another age. Walking along the river trails (which are on both the St. Paul and Minneapolis sides of the river), especially in the winter, is peaceful, bracing, and inspiring.
Images: map from Big Stick maps; Lake Street bridge aerial photo from technologyevangelist.com.
Sunday, January 13, 2008
- Metro Blooms, a nonprofit educational and membership organization of gardeners and community volunteers who are dedicated to ecologically friendly gardening education and the celebration of home gardeners, landscapers, community gardeners and business gardeners in the metropolitan Twin Cities.
- The Minnesota DNR's webpage on landscaping with native plants and directory of places to buy native plants.
Images: Winners from Metroblooms "2006 Blooms Top Garden Awards."
Saturday, January 12, 2008
The guide is written by architectural critic Larry Millett, who authored the lovely but depressing, Lost Twin Cities and Twin Cities Then and Now books that chronicle the demise of some of our wonderful architectural treasures and some of the heinousness erected in their place. Millett's familiarity of the turf is evident and I think that I read somewhere that he walked almost every street in the Twin Cities to write this book (which at 665 pages means some serious walking). The book is divided into neighborhoods, each with its own overview that gives you some historic context and a sense for what the place is like today. Then with maps and photos, Millett introduces you to scads of mostly historic and many unique buildings and places in Minneapolis and St. Paul. Millett's writing style is what seals the deal when it comes to this book's greatness. He's engaging, he's snarky, and he doesn't hold back when it comes to the ugly and the profane. For instance, here is his view on the Malcolm Moos Health Sciences tower on Washington Avenue on the U of M campus:
"The architectural equivalent of a Hummer, the idea apparently to show just how big and bad a building can be....With their crushing scale and ominously overhanging upper floors, they certainly convey a sense of the power of modern medicine, albeit in a thoroughly unpleasant way."Millett also cracks me up when he talks about the streets in downtown Saint Paul.
"Over the years, streets have been widened, straightened, or even eliminated, and downtown St. Paul is a model of clarity compared to what it once was. Even so, navigation can still prove perplexing to visitors from such exotic locales as Minneapolis."I could go on..this book is full of writing gems, but more importantly it's the best guide book, history book, map, and photo album for the Twin Cities.
Images: MHS Press and University of Minnesota Medical School.
Thursday, January 10, 2008
We upper-Midwesterners don't like to waste things. So we hoard them. Then we freak out in the spring time because we have too much stuff, so we don't throw it away, we give it away. That's what makes our collection of thrift and consignment stores, church rummage and neighborhood yard sales a total treasure trove. We've got the big guns like Goodwill (that even has the crazy Second Debut shop in St. Louis Park that is all designer) , Savers, Ragstock, Unique Thrift and Buffalo Exchange is going to be added to the mix. Then there are all of the smaller consignment shops and mom and pop thrift stores like Tatters, the Hope Chest for Breast Cancer, and the Project for Pride in Living shop.
So if you love a scavenger hunt, enjoying bragging to your friends about how cheap your vintage lamps were, and want to do something good for the environment by re-using someone else's stuff--the Twin Cities are the place to be.
Citysearch's list of Twin Cities thrift stores is here.
Ali Shops list of consignment/outlet shops is here.
Image: Goodwill Industries (location: Fairview and University, St. Paul.)
Wednesday, January 9, 2008
And people think that the Twin Cities are miracle whip/wonder bread homogeneity?!?! Well, have we got something to show them!
Image: City Pages.
Tuesday, January 8, 2008
There are lots of benefits to these kinds of trails. They bring people off of the beaten path to explore neighborhoods that they might not have visited. They get people walking. They educate. During the planning phase, they bring together neighbors who know the local history and who can help to tell the story of the neighborhood from an intensely local perspective. Once the trail is up, it's a nice source of community pride. And, they're kind of like an urban scavenger hunt for grown-ups who appreciate history.
Images: DC Cultural Tourism.
Monday, January 7, 2008
- The restoration of the Nelson home in Dayton's Bluff.
- Improving the Wilder Restoration Center and City Academy on St. Paul's Eastside.
- Continuing work on St. Paul's Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary.
Sunday, January 6, 2008
Although I may not always follow the doctor's orders when it comes to getting out and about during the winter as opposed to hibernating, I truly appreciated Jay Wallijasper's column in the Star Tribune today. Wallijasper's prescription is for cities to create great public spaces, programmed with activities (i.e. ice rinks, public markets,) so that going outside is an irresistible option, regardless of freezing temperatures. He talks about places where streetways are colorfully lit, heat lamps adorn the sidewalks, and urban planners focus on designing with sunlight and wind reduction in mind. He quotes Jan Gehl, a planner from Copenhagen, who says:
"Climates differ all over the world," he says. "But people are the same. They will gather in public if you give them a good place to do it."
Love 'em or hate 'em, it's undeniable that the skyways have moved traditional street level activities like dining and shopping and barbers onto the second floor. Pedestrians, who really are the lifeblood of downtowns, are scurrying along in climate-controlled "habitrails" rather than filling sidewalks with vitality.
Gehl describes this phenomenon clearly.
"When you glass in the city, you eliminate the 'bad' days but also all the 'good' days. That is too much of a price to pay. You miss the fresh air, the street life. You may have 20 bad days a year when you want to stay indoors, but 200 good ones you miss. I say you make the city as good as possible for the good days, and that will carry it through on the bad days."So let's embrace our hale and hardy natures, forgo the skyways, and celebrate the joy of living in a place that has all four seasons. Skate, shop, and stroll on those downtown wintry streets and tell the world, "We're Minnesotans, we live for this!"
To read more on successful winter cities, see Wallijasper's longer article in the Project for Public Spaces recent bulletin.
Image: Skating in front of Landmark Center, St. Paul, photo taken by Jim Gehrz
Saturday, January 5, 2008
That's pretty cool for a downtown energy plant! I'm proud to say that it is part of my hometown!
Air emissions have been significantly reduced; 150 smokestacks and 50 cooling towers on downtown buildings have been eliminated, as well as 300 chimneys on nearby homes.
Our closed-loop distribution system has eliminated the use of groundwater for heating and cooling, saving an important natural resource.
Image: Market Street Energy.
Friday, January 4, 2008
Anyway, parents who live in the city (and the surrounding suburbs too), if you don't know about these two great web-sites that have daily activity calendars and tons of ideas for places to go check them out here (Go City Kids is how I found out about the dog show).
Go City Kids
Thursday, January 3, 2008
"I believe that's what's missing in most exhibits is the sense of discovery," Caponi says.We haven't visited Western Sculpture Park the lesser-known sculpture garden of the Twin Cities. I've driven by it many times, amazed that it is there, and wonder how many other people never knew that it existed. It's just west of the State Capitol complex, off of Marion Avenue, in St. Paul. This link will take you to a handy guide to the park.
Wednesday, January 2, 2008
Tuesday, January 1, 2008
- It is open 365 days/year.
- It is free (there is a request for a $3/adult and $2/child donation, but you aren't turned away if you fail to donate.)
- The newish Visitor Center and Conservatory architecture is gorgeous (don't miss the deco 1936 zoological building attached to the back side of the visitor's center--it's a gem!)
- It's 85 degrees and humid in the Conservatory.
- It inspired the children's book "Goodnight Gorilla" which this household has memorized.
- If you are hardy enough, you can head to the adjacent Como Park and go cross-country skiing or snowshoeing and enjoy a little apres-ski beverage at the cafe there.
Image: University of Minnesota Extension, Clay County.