Rick Nelson and Claude Peck dispense unasked-for advice about clothing, relationships, grooming and more.
RN: For our Downtown Minneapolis Ugly Building Tour -- where to begin, right? -- I have a proposal. Let's leave the parking ramps out of this. They're just too easy.
CP: Way. Even by agreeing to omit some of Christendom's ugliest garages, there are eyesores aplenty. Let's hop in your tricked-out Saturn (love that rear spoiler) and tour the loop, eyeballing those buildings to which we'd happily apply the wrecking ball ourselves.
RN: Lay off my Ion. It was a great price, OK? But point taken; that stupid spoiler is the equivalent of the old Holidome tacked onto the roof of the Millennium Hotel. Look, just 30 seconds in the car and we're already passing one of your favorite train wrecks.
CP: Flashy architect Helmut Jahn did a bunch of cool designs in the Chicago loop, including the dazzling and popular State of Illinois Building. So why'd he leave us with the 701 Building, a forgettable midsize office tower with turquoise and salmon-colored accents and the personality of a toaster?
RN: At least it sort of blocks the view of Centre Village. That silk-purse name alone is a major clue. When it's spelled c-e-n-t-r-e instead of c-e-n-t-e-r, you know you're in for a sow's ear of a building.
CP: It's tough to make it pretty when the first 10 stories of the structure are a carpark. Here's the Normandy Inn. This one is so unsightly, with its faux mansard roof and fake rustication, that one is tempted to embrace it as kitsch. But one cannot.
RN: If Valleyfair had a Swiss Village Hotel, it would look like this. Oy. How do you feel about the Campbell Mithun Tower, formerly known as the Piper Jaffray Tower? Don't sugarcoat it.
CP: Squaresville, man. Square-bottomed, square-middled. The ziggurat topper is an ill-conceived mid-'80s gesture aimed squarely at the freeway. And its labored cutaway lobby at ground level -- what a gift to the city, to the street. Does HGA even include it in its portfolio?
RN: Would you? I have a Lot's-wife's fear of even glancing toward that towering symbol of hideousness, the Multifoods Tower, aka The Box the IDS Tower Came In, or, in Barbara Flanagan parlance, That Salmon Loaf. Except I guess they're now calling it 33 South Sixth, a beige name for a beige building. Not exactly Skidmore, Owings & Merrill's shining moment.
CP: Block E cheers me so, with its frippery, its chirpy color scheme, the subtle integrity and consistency of its signage. I think the city has really taken to it, don't you?
RN: Yeah, it's one big love-fest, over Flappertizers and Cheese Sticks at Hooters.
CP: Plus it's such a good neighbor to handsome Target Center across the street.
RN: Yeah, right. We're smack dab in the center of the tackiest three-block stretch in town: City Center, Block E, Target Center. It's the Disposable Design District. Have you noticed that when the city kicks in some kind of subsidy, architectural grace usually evaporates? What's with that?
CP: Wish I had time to respond, but we are nearing the riverfront, and that gracefully scaled RiverWest has come into view. Or should I say, has risen monolithically to eviscerate our view of the Father of Waters right at the falls. That thing is three times wider and twice as tall as anything nearby.
RN: I know. A big thanks to City Hall for issuing the building permit for that monster. The best thing about owning an RW condo is you can't see the outside when you're inside. And don't look now, but there's 100 Washington Square, Minoru Yamasaki's blow-up of a 1970s computer punch card, in a blinding shade known down at Hirshfield's as Crest Whitestrips. On stilts, no less, with a skyway snaking under it like a mirrored python. Then there's the Metrodome. Oh well. Why kick a dog -- literally -- when it's down?
CP: It's the Glance, Rick. That's what we do.
Click on W.G.'s weekly podcast at www.startribune.com/withering. E-mail W.G. at email@example.com.