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September 24, 2006

Social-Design Issue

After having lived on the Mississippi River my entire life, I have noticed that the river itself tends to go unoticed. It seems that living within the area of such a grand thing as the Mississippi River has caused us to disregard and not pay attention to it. I see it as a growing problem. People don't appreciate what they have right in front of them, and they don't take advantage of what the river has to offer. It seems people from other states are much more interested in it than we are. I never really understood how poorly used our states riverfront was until my first visit to the city of San Antonio. The city was developed on the San Antonio river, very similiar to how Minneapolis and Saint Paul were developed on the Mississippi. But it is a night and day comparisson as to how much the city of San Antonio utilizes the river, and what sort of draw it can have. They transformed the banks of the river into a place that invites Flâneur, which is a french term that means to stroll about. The city has developed the area into a place of both public and private sectors. The San Antonio Riverwalk is at its core a series of paved paths that travel along side the river, most of which are surronded by tropical vegitation. Along side the paths are an assortment of retail buildings, eating establishments, open public places, and also private residences.

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And with a stroll along the banks of the Mississippi River I discovered a lack of inviting public places and any sort of draw the to the river. Even with the few parks on the river, very few of them offer immediate access to the river itself, such as Minnehaha Park and Fort Snelling park. Even worse are the downtown areas of both Minneapolis and Saint Paul. In Minneapolis, the only sort of eating or shopping districts on the water is St. Anthony's Wharf, which is at least fifty feat off of the river, and has a large factory blocking the view of the river. Even districts that try to utilize the river fall well short, such as the Mill City district. They focus is on the Stone Arch bridge, but on either side of the bridge is no quality access to the water front (I do understand that the lock and damn to the north does limit the accessibility).

I feel that Minnesota as a whole could could have a much larger draw for tourism (both visiting people and those in state) if there were more development on the river and it was a much more public space. I strongly feel that the city of Minneapolis should better utilize the river by placing paved trails right beside the river, with plenty of places to stop and relax while taking in the view of downtown. There should also be more shops and restaraunts on the East side for the river that offer dining views of both downtown and the river. And even though there would be a lot of new buildings on the river, proper use of vegitation and trees vould still maintain the natural green space appeal of the river, and make the trails could double as a park. I stronlgy feel that the Mississippi River is our greatest asset, but also Minnesota's most under appreciated resource.

September 18, 2006

Midtown Market

Midtown Market, as a concentrated forum for commerce, constently creates, uses, and exchanges energy in both the sense of the people who are there but also as a space in itself. Upon walking through the door I immedietly got a sense of motion and energy. The energy in the market was very ranged and depended upon how you percieved it. Energy could be found in the very basic forms, such as the light bulbs abouve casting down light into the space and the ovens and cookers that were producing heat. The people themselves, be them shoppers or workers, are in essence a vessel of energy. But one can also create energy by interacting with another person. A simple hello can change the mood and emotion of a person you pass by and alter their current energy level. Another simple form of energy were the foods being sold there, being nothing but different forms of proteins and sugars that a person could consume to take in energy. Energy was also being exchanged with currency, but to understand that you have to look past the simple peices of monetary paper. You have to understand where that money will go, and how it will provide food and shelter to the store clerk's family. But also there is an energy in the origin of the money, knowing that the consumer had to work at their job and expend energy in order to have the money to buy things at the market. This whole process of buying/selling something is a incredible exchange of energy, from the product itself to the energy put into earning the money to the things that the money will provide in the future. The last sense of energy were in the cultural significance of the products being sold. You can begin to imagine the amount of energy it took to pass down the practice of making the products, be it a sculpture or a piece of baked fish, from one generation to the next. This transfer of knowledge from the elders down to their young is an incredible act of passing energy not only across tiem but also space, as the knowledge is brought along and spread as a generation moves between places. So when you buy something from a vender, you are not just buying a single object, but you are buying all of the knowledge and effort put into creating that object that has been passed down through the years. Midtown Market is not simply a space of commerce, but a means of exchanging thoughts, emotions, and knowledge.

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