Scrumptious new downtown library is a joy to behold

  • Article by: BARBARA FLANAGAN
  • Updated: April 30, 2006 - 8:21 PM

A sneak peek inside the Minneapolis Public Library, and some memories of a murder.

The Flanagan Memo - RE: Our beloved public library opens downtown, and it's a smash; a new book brings back memories, plus, it's May. Wheeeee!

Library surprises

Say, doesn't the new Minneapolis Public Library look good enough to eat (as the old saying goes)?

It should because it IS, friends. There's honey in the floor of Library Commons, the grand entrance and civic gathering space on the ground floor with doors on both Hennepin Avenue and the Nicollet Mall.

Yes, honey. It actually adds color to sculptures within the floor. And it's only one of the many surprises you'll see when the library opens to the public on May 20.

For example, each of the two entrances has a "pointy roof" of glass that extends over the doorway. Cesar Pelli, the world-class architect who designed the building, says the points help to distinguish the building at a distance. "And," he said, "think of those points as a wave down the Nicollet Mall" -- and he waved to demonstrate.

Touring me through the library were two of the architects who worked with Pelli on the project -- Peter Vesterholt, principal in the Minneapolis firm of Architectural Alliance, and Nina Ebbighausen, a senior associate with the firm who was the project manager.

They answered all of my questions, including this one:

What is fritted glass?

"It is actually painting on glass," Vesterholt said. "It allows you to do many things with it and yet it's an old-fashioned process. We just brought it back."

The fritted glass wraps the building in multistory patterns that filter light into the reading rooms, and it disguises service areas. Images in the glass include water on the north -- for the Mississippi River, of course -- birch trees on the east, prairie grass on the west and snow to the south.

It looks glorious!

Our tour took us to the children's section, where shelves are not too high and there will be "dragonflies" flying around, a puppet show, TV and more, along with books.

Teen Central has lots of color and, to begin, 200 new music CDs picked out by the library's teen advisory council. The New Americans Center will cater to new immigrants.

There are 25 meeting and study areas; and there is Pohlad Hall, named for Carl Pohlad and his wife, the late Eloise Pohlad, and their family, who gave it to the library. It's a great auditorium with wide seats for readings, lectures and films.

There's also a Dunn Bros. coffee shop and on the roof, a green lawn, more than 18,000 square feet.

One "friend" I wondered about was the statue of Minerva, goddess of wisdom, by the late sculptor Jakob Fjelde. It also used to be in the original library. Cast in bronze in 1889, the year it was installed, the 7-foot Minerva weighs 1,700 pounds.

"Oh, don't worry, she will be here," Ebbighausen said, in a special place in the Library Commons.

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