While everybody else was looking up at the 270-foot high prow rising on the new U.S. Bank Stadium, Tadd Kreun was looking down.
Kreun, of Minneapolis-based Oslund and Associates, was the project landscape architect for the $1.1 billion Vikings stadium, the largest public-private construction effort in state history.
Landscaping involves years of planning, not just throwing up a bunch of bushes and purple and gold flowers for the Vikings, the building’s main tenant and financier of more than half the building.
“It’s an interesting site because there’s a lot of circulation and entry points,” Kreun said. The building doesn’t have “big, bold” unifying space, he said.
Kreun said he approached the landscape design around the building, nearly double the size of the Metrodome that preceded it, as a series of zones, “linear spaces you move through.”
The geometric shapes on the angular building, as well as the region’s Nordic roots, inspired the design.
In deciding what to plant, Kreun said, “we really worked pretty heavily off a native palette of trees.”
Most of those trees are deciduous, with the most dominant being the 60 disease-resistant Dutch Elm trees bookending the north and southern ends of the west side of the building, the part facing the downtown core and public park.
The trees are at least 5 inches in diameter, the largest trees on the site, well beyond saplings. Kreun said the idea was to create a welcoming area as visitors approached the stadium from the skyway and the west. He said he considers the area the most distinctive because of the prominence of the trees coupled with the Vikings ship, the skyway and the building’s prow.
The east plaza on the opposite side of the building provided a challenge because of a significant grade change between the road and the concourse of the building.
Kreun wove into the landscape the building’s triangular patterns by creating chevrons of red twig dogwood and ornamental grass — their shapes a nod to the patterns of Nordic sweaters.
The building’s north side that faces the river has considerable changes in grade, but is likely to be the least traveled by pedestrians.
Kreun said 45 quaking aspens have been planted. “It will be this beautiful collection of yellow leaves that shimmer in the wind in the fall,” he said.
The northeast corner, entrance to the massive service tunnel under the building, has been covered in fescue, a resilient grass that doesn’t require mowing. This is also the only spot with evergreen trees.
On the south side of the building, landscapers sought to create a pedestrian and bike friendly allée that connects with the city’s river and lake parkways. There are two separate pathways — one for pedestrians and one for bicyclists. A 6-foot band of white oak trees separates the first sidewalk from the roadway. Red maples have been planted between the pedestrian and bike paths.
The landscaping is not yet as visible as the building, and Kreun and colleagues are conscious of the intense scrutiny to come. On a $1 billion, 66,200-seat stadium, he said, “Everybody wants to do their best work.”