October 2009 Archives

By Mira Engler
Associate Professor, Iowa State University

The repertoire of burial sites has recently grown to include the most enduring and monstrous human-made handiwork--radioactive waste. From deep geological
mausoleums to swelling earthworks, these new creations rival and reference the prehistoric catacombs of Rome and Alexandria, the Native-American effigy mounds
of Iowa and Wisconsin, the ritual mounds of Cahokia, Illinois, and the earthworks of
Silbury Hill and Avebury Circle in Wiltshire, England. The physical and iconic
resemblance between the ancient and contemporary monuments is unmistakable.
Both are grand and ludicrous; their pricetag is colossal. In both, the quest for an
appropriate architecture and symbolism of the buried is paramount. But that's where
the similarity ends. The former is built to house the dead or monumentalized revered
gods; its counterpart entombs excess waste and hinders disaster. The ancient invites
visitation; the modern deters it.

Read this article in its entirety. (Page 10)


Designer Michael Simonian's 24110 was the winning entry in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists' "Plutonium Memorial" Competition in 2001. His design proposed a prominent storage facility south of the White House in Washington D.C., under a partly lifted circular lawn "carpet."

Mira Engler received a BLA from Technion, Israel Institute of Technology, Haifa, and
her MLA from the University of California-Berkeley. Engler has published
extensively on public art and waste landscapes, including her book Designing
America's Waste Landscapes.

Sustaining Spectacle?

by Lance M. Neckar, University of Minnesota

In May 1664 Louis XIV, the King of France, staged the fete 'Pleasures of the Enchanted Isle' in the garden of Versailles over the course of six days (Fig 14.1). In 1668, the 'Grand Divertissement Royale,' even more spectacular, included performances of 'Les Fêtes de l'Amour' and 'Bacchus' by Molière and Lully. In 1674 the sensual divertissement were presented, again in six days, from July into August. Spectacle ruled in a visual feast of overwhelming proportion, and sometimes, intricate detail. As Kathryn Hoff man has chronicled, the giant garden was transformed into theaters of unreal proportions, fantastic ritual and extreme consumption.ii In the Grotto of Th etis, illuminated stages recast the order of natural light, and amidst the bosquets, human sounds drowned the music of wind.
At nightfall masked revelers made a carnaval in the geometry of the garden All the while, behind the stage sets and in the cover of the trees, scores of scenographic workers pulled at ropes, ran and jumped among scaff olds while the fontainier choreographed the waterworks to the play of lights and music.

Read this article in its entirety. (Page 86)


Versailles, in the gigantic garden designed by Andre LeNotre, courtiers in the allee between the bosquet of the Trois Fontaines and the bosquet of the Arc de Triomph, on the principal north-south cross axis of the Neptune Basin, in a painting by Jean Baptiste Martin, c. 1688-1700.

Lance M. Neckar is Associate Dean and Professor in the Department of Landscape Architecture at the College of Architecture and Landscape Architecture at the University of Minnesota.

On Spectacle

Robert Ferguson, University of Minnesota

What's wrong with spectacle?

The unease in recent discourse is not a new phenomenon. Th e word itself is originally Latin: spectacula are things that are seen, particularly things that are seen in public. The implications for architecture should be fairly obvious, and, one might think, inoff ensive enough. But already Vitruvius, in the earliest architectural treatise we have, takes off ense
at some of the possibilities of visual representation. And already for Plato, the seen in itself is problematic. As Illich has pointed out, "the polemical status of the image is a distinguishing characteristic of Western history;"3 and to Plato's fundamental questioning of the whole realm of the visible we shall return. But what form does the polemic take in architecture? What's wrong with spectacle?

Read this article in its entirety. (Page 82)


Robert Ferguson is Lecturer and Teaching Assistant Professor of Architecture in the College of Architecture and Landscape Architecture at the University of Minnesota.

Toward a Critical Realism?

by Philip Ursprung, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology

Guy Debord, in The Society of Spectacle (1967) states that the "capitalist production system has unified space, breaking down the boundaries between one society and the next." In Debord's view, this unification is also a process of "trivialization". In his words:

"Just as the accumulation of commodities mass-produced for the abstract space of the market inevitably shattered all regional and legal barriers, as well as all those corporative restrictions that served in the Middle Ages to preserve the quality of craft production, so too it was bound to dissipate the independence and quality of places. The power to homogenize is the heavy artillery that has battered down all Chinese walls."1

Read this article in its entirety. (Page 74)


Rendering of the aluminum clad addition to the new Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Photograph copyright Colin Oglesbay, University of Minnesota Graduate Student, 2005.

Philip Ursprung is the Science Foundation Professor for Art History in the department of
architecture at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Zurich, Switzerland.

A Local Architect's Perspective

by Thomas Meyer, AIA

The Walker Art Center, the Guthrie Theater, the Minneapolis Institute of Arts (MIA), the Children's Th eatre Company (CTC), and the Minneapolis Public Library all have major building projects, designed by prominent out-of-town architects, currently under construction. How does a Minneapolis architect, whose firm would otherwise be a serious contender for these plum projects, feel about the most important cultural projects in his city going to "star" architects? It is, of course, always disappointing to be considered and not chosen. Th e practice of architecture is an emotional business. Local architects have proprietary feelings about the major institutions in their own community and feel a kinship with their mission of building and facilitating the cultural life of that community. That being
said, are there benefi ts to hiring a star?

Read this article in its entirety. (Page 71)


McNamara Alumni Center, University of Minnesota; Copyright Ateliers Jean Nouvel, 2004.

Thomas Meyer, AIA, is a principal of the Minneapolis-based firm Meyer, Scherer & Rockcastle, Ltd. The firm was the Architect of Record for the Weisman Art Museum, designed by Frank Gehry, and was a fi nalist for the Minneapolis Central Library and Children's Theatre Company projects.

The Skin: Detail and the Walker Art Center

by Colin Oglesbay
University of Minnesota

What do paper dolls, French lace, and the inexplicable attraction of moths to bright
lights have to do with the Walker Art Center? All three influenced the design of
the expressive surface of the new addition to the museum. This eye-catching extruded
aluminum box is the latest example of Herzog & de Meuron's ongoing exploration of
simple materials in new and innovative ways. Behind the unique square aluminum panels
cladding the museum lies a complex trial and error design process for the Walker's skin.

Read this article in its entirety. (Page 46)

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Folded and cut paper studies for the skin of the addition

The Building: The Making of a Museum

by William Welsh
University of Minnesota

In July of 2004, t/here sat down with the Walker Art Center's Kathy Halbreich, Richard
Flood, and Howard Oransky to discuss both the intentions and the technologies of
their new $67.5 million addition. They expressed a desire to avoid traditional museum
strategies where the architecture becomes a temple to art. The Walker staff wanted to
avoid introspective, meditative qualities of museums, in favor of more active, engaging
spaces where people could talk or even argue about the artwork. Kathy Halbreich, Director of the Walker, explained that the new building should be a point of convergence for all people and ideas, while radiating outward a body of ideas throughout the world.

Read this article in its entirety. (Page 38)

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The construction of the Walker addition


By Camille LeFevre

Within a few short years, Minneapolis will boast four new and transformed cultural institutions, each one (albeit to varying degrees) a headliner adding to the architectural cache of the city. The architecture itself will act as a marquee, a lit-up signature of the architect imported to design the building and lend his star power to the bold institution that enticed him to Minneapolis. City leaders, the media and culture afi cionados, banking on the Bilbao eff ect times four, will happily promote the new Jean Nouvel, Herzog and de Meuron, Michael Graves and Cesar Pelli buildings.

Read this article in its entirety. (Page 68)

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Interior rendering of the addition to the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. Copyright Michael Graves & Associates, 2004.

Camille LeFevre, the former editor of Architecture Minnesota, writes about architecture and design for such publications as Architectural Record, Natural Home and Midwest Home and Garden.

Architects Shape the New Minneapolis

Jeffrey Kipnis interviews Jacques Herzog

Kipnis: You have worked in London and China, all over the world. How does the work become specific in an intimate way when you come to Minnesota and your working with the Walker? How does it become specific for you, and how can it become personal for them?

Herzog: I think you raise a very important issue. I almost feel a bit ashamed because clearly we've been developing and working on quite a few projects, which have marked a kind of departure from the more anonymous buildings we've done in the very beginning. Even, lets say, the Laban is not at all an anonymous building, but its still kind of on the shed side compared to lets say the Barcelona building that we're working on, or the Walker which are almost more spectacular, or Beijing which is perhaps the largest and the most visible of all the buildings we've ever worked on. And in fact, I'm going to say those issues of difference or indifference and anonymous versus spectacular, I think that is besides the point. Some things can have a more extravagant form. It can express this highly individualistic or highly idiosyncratic, or, as being almost as normal as a square box.

Read this article in its entirety. (Page 64)

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The Townsqure of the Walker Art Center. Herzog & de Meuron, 2004.

This interview was transcribed from a lecture on February, 15th 2004. This is one lecture of a series put on by the University of Minnesota, the Weisman Art Museum and Target Coporation. Jacques Herzog was guided by Jeffrey Kipnis, Professor at the Nolton School of Architecture at The Ohio State University.

The City : The Built World Meets a Region

by Colin Oglesbay

University of Minnesota

Does a building have the power to change a region? Throughout history great, and even terrible, architecture has shaped cities, fueled agendas and left everyday onlookers saying - "I don't get it." In the spring of 2005 the Walker Art Center will test the social, climatic and structural limits with the opening of its newly expanded 17-acre campus. The design is lead by a team of international superstars brought from across the pond, famous for pushing the limits of building as urban art. Th e end result is an aggressive hyper-urbanist building and garden which aims to reanimate a complex neighborhood severed by winter weather and poor highway planning. The addition is an effort to bring the Walker out of its modernist shell and further a mission of bringing innovative visual, performing and media arts to the public - regionally and globally.

Read this article in its entirety. (Page 18)

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See No Evil

by Julie Brand

University of Minnesota

"IKEA" leaps big and yellow like some spandex-wrapped action hero onto the confluence of southbound 77 and westbound 494. When they came to town, they mailed you that remarkably thick catalogue that was the talk of wedding showers from Farmington to Elk River and plastered bill boards on the roadsides: "Hello, Twin Cities".

Read this article in its entirety. (Page 16)

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Julie Brand is a third year Master of Architecture student in the College of Architecture and Landscape Architecture at the University of Minnesota.

Institutionalizing Advertising

The following is a selection of student work from a graduate-level studio taught by Andrzej Piotrowski at the University of Minnesota.

In today's culture, advertising pervadesour lives. Advertising is acknowledged as the basis of an increasingly global culture of advocacy in which any and all positions commercial, aesthetic, and moral - must be actively and continuously argued by any means possible. More significantly, the techniques of advocacy have achieved an unprecedented depth and complexity. The average advertisement uses multiple layers of irony and meaning to manufacture both consent and desire. In this context, the architectural community cannot be content with a debate on the propriety of adopting the banal, the kitsch, the crassly promotional. We may be better off admitting that a project like Guggenheim Bilbao serves little purpose other that to justify its own existence, while trying to understand exactly what the design of buildings and the promotion of ideas have in common.

Read this article in its entirety. (Page 60)

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Site-specific advertisement, Tamara Wibowo

Fair and Unbalanced

by Kristin Tillotson

Nowhere is excess more expected - and acceptable - than at the Minnesota State Fair. Over-consumption is expected at nearly every recreational event that attracts masses of people. But the Minnesota State Fair is the only one at which it is actually considered a virtue.

Read this article in its entirety. (Page 26)

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Sculptural Butter Heads

The Park: Exploring the New Sculpture Garden

The Minneapolis park network is not a new idea. H.W.S. Cleveland, the foremost leader
in the development of the extensive Minneapolis Park System in the late 1800's, conceived of a continuous park corridor connecting the varied natural resources of the city: the Mississippi River, lakes and downtown park space. Today, the Grand Rounds system forms a fifty-mile National Scenic Byway encircling downtown Minneapolis, connecting parks via green parkways and offering recreational opportunities along the way. A key feature of the Grand Rounds is the Chain of Lakes District, which sits adjacent to the Walker Art Center. Cleveland's vision of a continuous opening in the urban fabric was nearly realized, with the Walker as the missing synapse. Extending the sculpture garden to connect with the Chain of Lakes, Desvigne's plan will physically connect downtown to the Grand Rounds.

Read this article in its entirety. (Page 26)

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The Walker Sculpture Garden, Minneapolis

by Thomas Fisher
University of Minnesota

Friedrich Nietzsche argued that Western culture has long cycled between an
Apollonian love of reason and moderation on one hand, and a Dionysian fascination
with the irrational and the extreme on the other. In architecture, we have gone from
the Dionysian 1960s, with its counter cultural utopianism, to the Apollonian
1980s, with its neo-classical post-modernism, back to our current Dionysian infatuation
with complex, convoluted and computer-generated forms.

Read this article in its entirety. (Page 6)

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Minneapolis Central Public Library, Cesar Pelli & Associates, 2004

Thomas Fisher is Dean of the College of Architecture and Landscape Architecture at the
University of Minnesota, and formerly the Editorial Director of Progressive Architecture

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