Tuesday, January 31, 2012


As an artistic interpretation of my site, over the last couple days, I've assembled a collage of the site elements I'd like to see in my final project, and overlay-ed those images on a simplified topographic model of my site. This is more artistic than I usually get with these sorts of things, but I think there's some experiential understanding to be gained.

Also, it's nice to have time to pursue these crazy ideas while I'm in grad school, because I'm sure no employer or client is going to want to pay em for time in which I simply cut out magazine images and glue them to chipboard.


Over the course of last week, our professors put us to the task of outlining two scenarios, and fleshing them out to see what different sets of circumstances would lead to. Fro me, one of the most challenging aspects of this mental experiment were to come up with two significantly divergent scenarios in the first place.

I know a lot about my site, and I know a lot about the recent history that has made it the depressing landscape that it is, but how do I look at those vast areas of parking, financial depressed businesses, strip-mall outlets and fast food stores to imagine futures that are bright and promising? It took a lot of reading, writing and thinking, in cyclical iterations.

The scenarios, obviously, are simply a means to an end. To look at different futures and what they entail, then take the best design elements from each and work with those towards a project that is more realistic in the end.

My two scenarios were entitled Alpine Style and Amnesty+. In the former, energy access has become scarce, and cities/neighborhoods need to become as self-reliant and efficient as possible. In the latter, I envisioned a world where the federal government made allowances for amnesty of current illegal citizens, and created a legal guest-worker program. According to research, this would result in a population surge in my capstone area of almost 400,000 people over the highest current population projections.

These scenarios pulled me through a handful of design ideas that included using the space underneath 35W as a kind of parking ramp, and changing the streetscape to take full advantage of solar gain.

Given the short amount of time that we were working on this kick-off design push, there isn't much in the body of work I created that I hold too much stake in, but it started the process, and that is likely the most important outcome. To be sure, the first set of ideas that I generate in any design process are absolute garbage, but often there are some pieces that I can carry forward, and this was that stage in my capstone process.


...and here we have some photos of the building masses on-site. So many hours at the lazer-cutter and gluing table...

Friday, January 20, 2012


Today, done with topographic modeling. Up next, buildings. Then maybe we'll think about a highway...

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Modeling Begins

First, to be clear, I will hopefully never use that title phrase to describe my professional pursuits again.

But seriously, I did spend a few hours with the laser-cutter at Rapson Hall to cut the topo for my existing-conditions model of my capstone site! Exciting stuff if your nerdy like me (or are finishing landscape architecture and urban planning masters degrees).

For starters, just to be confusing, north is at the picture frame's lower-right. The site of the model covers Lake St. and 35W. The mounds (running north-to-south-ish) are 35W as it is elevated above Lake. The trench (running east-to-west) is the Midtown Greenway.

This is how it looks now, hopefully I'll have a pic soon of the finished product.

There is currently no "filler", so some of the board pieces will be elevated a few inches higher than they appear here. This is because I only did the cutting today, not the assembly. Consider this under construction.

For those who know: the material is 1/16" MDF. The scale is 1/32"=1' (this means that each sheet equates to 2' of elevation). The model consists of 6 pieces 16"x32" or 48"x64" total (sheets in landscape format, two columns by three rows). In real life, this equates to 1,536' (1/3rd of a mile) north-to-south, and 2,048' (0.4 miles) east-to-west. A large-ish physical model in this digital age.

Monday, January 16, 2012

How the Area of Lake and 35W Used to be Connected

The following two diagrams show how the Lake and 35W site used to be connected to the downtown grid of Minneapolis. Imagine an era when you could drive your '58 Chevy all the way from 50th and Nicollet to the Foshay Tower. Or, better yet, take the streetcar in the same direction, then go out to the lakeshore cabin on Lake Minnetonka, all on electric rails!

Anyway, here are the diagrams:
The above image shows the connections to downtown Minneapolis, previous to 1963.
The above image here are the current road center-lines, base on city data. Note the four interruptions to surface circulation (from North-to-South, generally): the Minneapolis Convention Center, MCAD, 35W and Wells Fargo, and K-Mart.

Granted, not all of these are bad things. The MCAD campus clearly contributes to the cultural health of Minneapolis. Some of the other sites, K-Mart in particular, could be re-imagined in my humble opinion, and this is exactly what my project aims to do.

The Site

After a long, leisurely, and refreshing break with friends and family, I'm getting back into it. "It" is school, and this semester, "school" primarily means Capstone Project work. As a definition, my capstone project necessarily is addressing both landscape architectural and urban planning issues on a single site, upon which I will both design and propose policies.

As a quick introduction, my site is diagrammed below. It is more-or-less Lake Street at both 35W and Nicollet. Reason being that there are a multitude of city proposals for new transportation infrastructure, the Midtown Greenway is one short block north, and to be quite honest, this little spot in our fair city needs some attention.

I realize that this is a bit abstract for many viewers, but if you Google Map the location, or even better, go visit, you will be reminded of the place of which I write.

As I mentioned in my previous posts, this site has a lot to do with urban transportation, biking and otherwise. It also has a LOT to do with how this area is connected to the rest of the city of Minneapolis, as diagrammed in the next post.