The third Minneapolis Riverfront Design proposal, headed by TLS/KVA in Berkeley, opens "Riverfirst is inspired from the Dakota concept of B'dote, a sacred joining of waters."
Folks, I could stop right there and be mightily impressed. Like the first sentence of Norman MacLean's A River Runs Through It, "In my family, there was no clear distinction between religion and fly-fishing," the expression is just about perfect.
It's about time, in my opinion, we took seriously the notion of respecting, and learning from, the people who have been here for millenia. I must leave it to Dakota people to comment on how well the Riverfirst concept speaks to their understandings of the relations between water, people, land, and community. But I think it's a great start.
Riverfirst's connection of the health of the river, the city, the neighborhoods, and the people is a breakthrough concept. We can intuit that a healthy river requires and contributes to a healthy city, healthy neighborhoods, and healthy people, but measuring that concept of "health," and engaging it as an economic as well as physical principle, is very difficult. But it is vitally important.
The plan connects the river with the Northside neighborhood through Farview Park and a linear space that bridges the freeway and establishes a River City Innovation District that can be the site of a market for locally grown food, cottage industry and more. As with so many elements of this project, the concept connects river-oriented thinking with some of the most innovative, far-sighted transformations of urban space, particularly the growing interest in substantial urban agriculture and food production.
Many of the most important, and contentious, discussions about the river's future in Minneapolis focus on whether or not the Upper Harbor Terminal will close, and whether or not the locks at St. Anthony Falls will remain. This plan transforms the Upper Harbor space into a Green Port, continuing important historical trends as they are modernized for new conditions.
As a "language guy" (former English teacher who still thinks in words rather than images) I love the play on words of the "Knot Bridge" concept. I also love the "River Talk" smartphone app, but, guys, seriously, we have to talk. "River Talk" is the name of this blog. Let's combine forces!
Go to the competition web site and give yourself lots of time to study this one. It is very impressive.
(Edited 2/9/2011 to correct the name of the TLS/KVA team)