The center of the universe. A backdrop to performance theater. A culture-shifting project for Minneapolis.

New York architect Peter Cavaluzzi used those descriptions for his design of the Target Field Station, the western anchor of the Central Corridor light-rail line that will start running next year.

The opening of the station will be "an important moment for the city," said Cavaluzzi, a University of Minnesota graduate who has gone on to design public spaces around the world. "Minneapolis does not have a tradition of urban public space. We thought the Interchange was the opportunity to change the culture."

Until last month, the $79.3 million Hennepin County transit station was called the Interchange. Under an agreement with the Minnesota Twins, the new station will bear the ballpark's name. The project will include green space, retail, restaurants, a plaza, an amphitheater and a jumbo display screen — all hard against the field. Metropolitan Transit police will have its headquarters at the station.

The project will serve as a hub for four rail lines, including the Central Corridor line that extends from Target Field Station to Union Depot in downtown St. Paul.

But Cavaluzzi described a larger vision in an interview last week when he was in town to attend centennial festivities for his alma mater.

He said the crux of the design is the corner of 5th Street S. and 5th Avenue. He oriented the project so that corner would serve as a "grand arrival" gateway to the emergent North Loop residential-commercial area.

A distinguishing feature will likely be the shimmering train-shed canopy made of anodized aluminum fins with programmable LED lighting over the platform that will give passengers a sweeping view of downtown.

To thrive, Cavaluzzi said the new hub must also draw those who don't use the rails. For them, there will be the great lawn under the jumbo screen. Cavaluzzi designed the amphitheater with a thrust stage in homage to one of his mentors, the late Ralph Rapson, who designed the original Guthrie Theater's thrust stage.

Performances will occur on the stage under the platform as passengers embark and arrive. No performances have been scheduled, but hometown guy Prince is at the top of the wish list to debut the space.

Even as he ate lunch at the Graves Hotel in the near-dead zone of Block E, Cavaluzzi said the success of Target Field Station is guaranteed because of transit. "It won't be a forgotten area," he said. "It's sort of impossible for it to not have eyes on the streets." He is also working on the Lake Street Transit Station.

Cavaluzzi and his firm are focused on urban design. He is working on the Denver Civic Center Square Station, designed Science City in Kansas City's restored Union Station and did the transportation master plan for New York City's World Trade Center.

He believes design is "what people remember and cherish about the great cities of the world," Cavaluzzi said.

Beyond the late Rapson, another early influence on Cavaluzzi was Ed Kodet, who has his own Minneapolis firm. Kodet said Cavaluzzi's design is a new interpretation of train stations of the past. "It's a tough site," he said.

The test comes sometime in the spring when the station and Central Corridor open. Cavaluzzi doesn't try to manage expectations. He said, "The center of gravity downtown is going to move to the North Loop."