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Some local designers say the Twin Cities are building a reputation for design and starting to lure tourists interested in architecture. It would be a missed opportunity not to capitalize on that with an iconic bridge, they argue.
Tom Fisher, dean of the College of Design at the University of Minnesota, said it doesn't necessarily have to be Calatrava -- he mentioned Swiss bridge designer Christian Menn as another possibility -- but a well-known designer should be involved, he said.
The bridge collapse got international attention, Fisher said, and "whatever we do there is going to get international attention. ... If you have to hire a bridge designer anyway, why not hire a good one? ... I just think it's a no-brainer."
After learning of Calatrava's interest, Beverly Hauschild-Baron, executive vice president of the American Institute of Architects Minnesota, said the group would likely try to lend support for the idea of getting him on the project.
"He's a tremendous designer and has some incredibly wonderful examples of bridges that would certainly elevate what is going on here in Minneapolis," she said.
Kitchak, president of Keewaydin Real Estate Advisors, which managed the architectural selection process for the new Guthrie Theater, said he stood at the theater site a few years ago and thought that with the Jean Nouvel-designed theater and the Frank Gehry-designed Weisman Art Museum on the river already, all the city needed was a Calatrava-designed bridge.
After the I-35W bridge collapsed, Kitchak said he talked to Calatrava about the site being at "more or less the working headwaters," of the country's great river. He said Calatrava did some preliminary work and sent some ideas back.
"The interest is very real," Kitchak said. "It's not just a casual 'well, I might be kind of interested,' ... there was some very real conversation."
Other cities are trying out Calatrava's work. A highway bridge in Dallas and a commuter rail station at ground zero in New York are both slated to be Calatrava designs, though both projects have made headlines for exceeding budgets.
Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak said Monday he agrees that design is an important element, but that it doesn't necessarily have to have a far-away name attached. "As someone who loves great architecture and represents a city that is in the cutting edge of design, we should be using the world-class architects of Minnesota first," he said.
But with the fast timetable, he said, he's had to worry more about other concerns for the new bridge -- namely transit.
Rybak said that if the bridge design ends up being "more straightforward," he is interested in making a memorial on the nearby 10th Avenue Bridge "that could also include a great piece of design."