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The Jean Nouvel-designed Guthrie Theater sticks out in a good way.

Joel Koyama, Star Tribune

Withering Glance: Grading starchitects of the '00s

  • Article by: Rick Nelson and Claude Peck
  • Star Tribune
  • October 22, 2012 - 5:44 PM

CP: The '00s will be remembered as the decade of 9/11, Britney Spears and of star architects from distant lands gracing Minneapolis with palaces of art and culture. 

RN: I want to send a personal note of thanks to everyone who had anything to do with hiring Jean Nouvel. His Guthrie Theater is turning out to be the pick of the litter. It seems to only improve with age.

CP: I can't believe I'm saying this, but go on. Because I continue to hear occasional complaints about Big Blue.

RN: Not from me. It's a totally transformative building. Nouvel's genius was reinterpreting the neighborhood's industrial past. That blue you mention is a brilliant, much-needed splash of color during our tedious winters. It's also a truly public space. I drag every out-of-towner out on the skyway-to-nowhere's terrace.

CP: I agree that it beams out an "I am momentous" signal, especially when we spy it from the freeway bridge, or from across the river. I can quibble -- the red proscenium theater has all the legroom of a Spirit Airlines jet; the lobbies on levels 4 and 5 remain confusing -- but the place has proven itself, and does not feel trendy. 

RN: I fear that the same cannot be said for Walker Art Center's Herzog & de Meuron addition.

CP: What, you? Non-fond of the pockmarked ice cube on the hill? 

RN: Well, I'm crazy about the theater, and the new galleries nicely reflect the spirit of their Edward Larrabee Barnes-designed older siblings. But the corn maze-like layout reminds me of the old Conservatory shopping complex on Nicollet Mall. Is it a hit or a miss for you?

CP: Combo plate. It is hard to imagine anyone feeling a warm regard for the cantilevered silver box that is its distinguishing feature. Seems like a big misstep, especially in a wintry city. 

RN: I wish that Gather, the museum's terrific restaurant, would switch places with the roomier private events space upstairs, where the views are spectacular. 

CP: The addition works best in the glassy hall along Hennepin Avenue and the room overlooking the grassy hill. The theater is a superb place to present modern dance, but it has no lobby. You want people congregating after a show? Go to the film theater off of Vineland, a space that predates the 2005 redo. 

RN: I'm similarly conflicted when it comes to the Michael Graves addition at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts.

CP: Architecturally, the new wing has all the personality of a can of beans. But I always know where I am inside it, which is not the case at the Walker.  

RN: I'm guessing that we're also in agreement with Cesar Pelli's Minneapolis Central Library. My feelings can be summarized in one word: Worship.

CP: Amen, brother. 

E-mail: witheringglance@startribune.com Follow on Twitter: @claudepeck and @RickNelsonStrib

 

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