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On the Road

October 6, 2011

Jean Nouvel's Guthrie Theater next to the Mill Museum

Minneapolis | Chicago | Boston | Barcelona | Rome | New York

Yes I know that reads like a shopping bag from a fashion boutique but it’s the life I live.  I’ve been travelling recently. A lot. I’ve been burning up jet fuel refined from ancient sunlight and, other than feeling guilty, not doing anything concrete to offset my carbon.  So in order to at least make the most of such travel, before my experiences fade and my insights get lost, I’ve decided to send out a series of rapid fire blog posts, one inspired by each city that has touched me of late. Here we go.


I was invited by the University of Minnesota, whose architecture students I teach in Rome, to give a series of talks recently so I spent 3 days in the Twin Cities (well, in Minneapolis for the most part). I had no preconceptions apart from images from Prairie Home Companion. Just a list of people to meet and buildings to see and an open mind.

My arrival from Rome coincided with the execution of Troy Davis in Georgia, making me feel that I had touched down in a barbaric wild west, but pleased to learn that Minnesota has no death penalty. In fact, I found a very civilized city, one undergoing a healthy transition.

I saw the construction of new light rail lines and experienced the efficiency of those already in place (ironically connecting the center to America’s largest shopping mall!)

I used the NiceBike sharing system and discovered that Minneapolis is a biker’s paradise, with cycle routes everywhere from downtown to the parks, lakes and waterways. I learned that thanks goes to an active community of cycling advocates, and I collected at the Hub Bike Coop a bunch of brochures about cycling tours, inspiring me to reactivate the Rome bike tours I use to run in the days of Scala Reale.

De Meuron's Addition to the Walker Art Museum

I visited a great museum, the Walker, with the strong addition by Herzog and De Meuron to the strong original volume by Larrabee Barnes.  And I found in the revitalized mills around Guthrie Theatre an inspiration for any city with underused industrial infrastructure, such as Rome’s Ostiense neighborhood. Oh, and I forgot to mention the Mississippi, what an amazing river.

more photos here

Bikes on light rail in MinneapolisHerzog and

Rapson Hall, Stephen Holl Addition

One Comment leave one →
  1. October 17, 2011 14:43

    The Twin Cities exemplify a longterm commitment to civic health, whether it’s robust public and private investment in the arts, or the commissioning of great public architecture, for me these two cities (both, quite different in history and spirit) set key benchmarks for all other urban areas to meet.


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