The Minneapolis buzz: Buses, buildings and beets

  • Article by: BARBARA FLANAGAN
  • Updated: July 3, 2006 - 12:16 AM

Which new Minneapolis structure is getting all the praise at dinner parties, and where can you get a great summer salad?

The Flanagan Memo - Re: Guess what everybody is talking about? -- plus, good eating here isn't hard to find.

Buses back on the mall?

Everybody, well, almost everybody, has an opinion and that's good.

Right now, the question around town is: Which new building do you like and why? The second question is: Why are buses on the Nicollet Mall this summer?

I'll answer the second question first. Buses are on the mall in downtown Minneapolis because they have always been there, except occasionally when a city body votes to do without them temporarily.

Last summer, evening buses were rerouted as a test to see if that pleased diners, bicyclists and pedestrians. But a Metro Transit survey of last summer's bus riders showed that 47 percent said the mall without buses was a negative experience. So this summer, I dunno -- I guess the buses are staying.

You may ask why buses are on the mall at all? That's easy. When the mall was built in the 1960s, the retailers made a deal to have buses on the mall picking up riders. After some 40 years, they still do it.

Sizing up the Big Four

Now for the first question. The Big Four buildings include the new Guthrie Theater and Minneapolis Central Library, and expansions of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts and the Walker Art Center.

All have been visited and reported on -- the Guthrie alone won big coverage in both Time and Newsweek magazines and in the New York Times.

Talk about them arises at most gatherings, and local architects are somewhat besieged for their opinions. Nobody has asked for my thoughts, but I'll pass them on anyway.

The oldest building is the Art Institute. It stands at 24th Street and 3rd Avenue S. in a 1915 building by New York's McKim Mead & White. It has a 1970s east side addition by Japan's Kenzo Tange.

And now it has a west side addition by architect Michael Graves, who is best-known around here for all of the things he designs for Target. Instead of trying to make a splash, Graves designed a perfect block of an addition, and it looks good -- not jazzy.

The interior is very "art institutesy" to me, with big galleries and room to show all of us much more of what our superb museum owns. I like it.

Jean Nouvel's Guthrie will become beloved, no doubt, if for no reason other than those great, wide, comfortable seats in the thrust theater. Whoever realized how important those seats are deserves a major round of applause.

I've also enjoyed that famous bridge to space, and I like the exterior with its ghostly images. Sadly, it isn't easy to see from S. 2nd Street, but it's too late now.

My favorite among the Big Four is the library. It's wonderful outside, but inside it's a marvel of glass and light and all good things. Architect Cesar Pelli loves our town (he did the Wells Fargo Center) and he proved it again with this building.

Incidentally, the acoustics -- yes, acoustics -- in the magnificent great hall of the library are excellent. I wonder if they'll pick up a whisper.

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