Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Where's the audio?
Many of the posts on this blog originally included interviews with architects or stories about specific Minnesota projects. That audio isn't available with individual posts now (you'll probably just see a blank space and the words "powered by Odeo"). However, that audio is still available on iTunes. Simply click here and listen to interviews with Minnesota architects and hear stories about specific projects. Vincent James, Jennifer Yoos, David Salmela, Julie Snow and Jim Dayton are only a couple of clicks away.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The End
Being passionate about a subject doesn't necessarily translate into finding the time or money to create content for a blog. I no longer have enough of either for Building Minnesota ... so I'll be tucking my keyboard into the closet. However, I won't hit the "delete blog" button yet, just in case folks want to access its content. Thanks for reading. Bye.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Weekend update
The Star Tribune reports that recent publicity over the demise of the unoccupied Bardwell-Ferrant house, a Moorish Revival gem in south Minneapolis, has generated several calls. "There is interest in buying," says the agent with the listing.

The Strib also notes that limestone will be added to the right field wall at the new Minnesota Twins stadium now under construction. The newspaper's Heron Marquez Estrada notes that the while the Red Sox have the Green Monster, the Twins' new wall might be called the Stone Zone.

And finally, this is the last weekend for the Worlds Away: New Suburban Landscapes exhibit at the Walker Art Center.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Soranno-designed synagogue opens
After conducting services in a former Mormon meeting house for decades, the congregation of B'nai Israel Synagogue in Rochester, Minnesota recently moved into a new building designed by architect Joan Sorrano of HGA Architects.

Located at 607 Second Street Southwest, the structure is the first newly constructed synagogue in Southern Minnesota. Sorrano also designed the Alaska Museum of the North (Fairbanks, Alaska), Bigelow Chapel (New Brighton) and Barbara Barker Center for Dance (Minneapolis). Press materials describe the synagogue as an "intimate, contemplative sanctuary that can expand to accommodate a much larger audience during High Holidays and other special events. It includes a translucent layered east-facing wall in the sanctuary housing the ark and terraced gardens that look out on the surrounding neighborhood.

"The centerpiece of the 15,300 facility is a 134-seat sanctuary with an adjacent social hall that can be opened up to provide an additional 174 seats and which can be used independently from the sanctuary as banquet and event space. The facility also includes a library, administration offices, a catering kitchen, and an education center consisting of eight classrooms gathered around a large multipurpose room."

Construction on the synagogue isn't 100 percent complete. However, the congregation is conducting services in the space. I'm especially anxious to check out this building after seeing Sorrano's work on Bigelow Chapel, which I first saw almost three years ago for the very first Building Minnesota podcast (November 28, 2005). You can listen to that story at iTunes.
Strib covers Bardwell-Ferrant House
The Star Tribune published an article today on the historic home that has everyone worried about, the Bardwell-Ferrant House in Minneapolis. The above photo (courtesy of the Star Tribune) is of Realtor Connie Nompelis, who I interviewed a couple of days ago. I missed a great quote though. On her blog, she called the damage at 2500 Portland Avenue "the house-lover's equivalent to a murder scene." The Star Tribune article is here.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Moorish Revival gem in disrepair
Preservationists are fretting over the fate of the Bardwell-Ferrant House, a Moorish Revival house located at 2500 Portland Avenue South in Minneapolis. Two years ago, the 1883 house sold for $385,000 (minus about $7,700 in owner upgrades). Today, Countrywide Mortgage is trying to unload the foreclosed property for $229,900.

After touring the Bardwell-Ferrant House, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, Realtor Connie Nompelis issued a Preservation 911 on her blog. "Broken newel-post, kicked-out porch rail, cracked, missing and half-pried-away stained glass windows were among the worst atrocities we spied," she wrote. "And of course three of the four fireplace mantels had been brutally yanked from their walls."

Nompelis' blog is called The Healy House because she lives in the Healy Block Residential Historic District, which includes portions of the 3100 blocks of Second Ave South and Third Avenue South in Minneapolis.

Built in the Queen Anne style in 1883, the second owner of the Bardwell-Ferrant House moved it from its original location at 1800 Park Avenue to 2500 Portland. He hired an architect to create the Moorish Revival facade with what critic Larry Millet describes as "onion-domed towers and a wraparound porch with spindle-work columns."

Vandals tried to remove a half-circle, stained glass window in one of the onion-domed towers, Nompelis reports. The house is currently configured as a four-plex. Activists are hoping the next buyer is an historic enthusiast who wants to convert it to a duplex or single-family home.

One big problem may its location in the West Phillips neighborhood. "It's pretty isolated there," Nompelis says. "It's mostly rentals and a lot of boarded-up residences. That can be intimidating to some people."

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Walker and MIA to present Eero Saarinen retrospective
I've known about this for months, but haven't got around to actually writing a blog post until now. Shame on me! (The photo at the top of this post shows Saarinen examing a protype of the tulip chair with Florence Knoll.) Here's a portion of the press release on the Ero Saarinen retrospective that's opening at the Walker and MIA in a little more than a month.
On a four-year international tour of Europe and the United States, the landmark exhibition Eero Saarinen: Shaping the Future — the first major museum retrospective of this Finnish-born American architect’s short but prolific career — will be jointly presented in Minneapolis at the Walker Art Center and the Minneapolis Institute of Arts September 13, 2008–January 4, 2009.

Organized by The Finnish Cultural Institute in New York, The National Building Museum in Washington, DC, and The Museum of Finnish Architecture with the support of Yale University School of Architecture, the exhibition features never-before-seen sketches, working drawings, models, photographs, furnishings, films, and other ephemera from various archives and private collections. Exploring his entire output of more than 50 built and unbuilt projects, the exhibition provides a unique opportunity to consider Saarinen’s innovations in the use of new materials, technologies, and construction techniques within the larger context of postwar modern architecture.

In this collaborative presentation, the Walker Art Center will feature Saarinen’s furnishings and residences as well as his designs for churches and academic and corporate campuses, while the Minneapolis Institute of Arts will present his designs for airports, memorials, and embassies, as well as his early work within the context of its modernist design collection.

Eero Saarinen was one of the most celebrated, unorthodox, and controversial masters of 20th-century architecture. In many ways he was the architect of what has been dubbed “the American century,” the post-World War II era when the United States emerged as an influential world superpower.

Although Saarinen’s most iconic and publicly recognizable design is the soaring Gateway Arch in St. Louis, his work spanned many different areas of architectural practice, including the design of airports, corporate and academic campuses, churches and private residences, and furniture. He was criticized by some architects and critics at the time for having a different style for each job, a strategy that rejected the dogma of an orthodox modernism. His resulting body of work includes such masterpieces as the sweeping concrete curves of the TWA Terminal (1956–1962) at JFK Airport (pictured above, photo courtesy of Wikipedia); the grandeur of the General Motors Technical Center (1948–1956), dubbed an “industrial Versailles” by the media; and the iconic Womb Chair and Ottoman (1946–1948) or the innovative Pedestal (1954–1957) series of tables and chairs, both for Knoll and all classics of mid-century modernism.

Eero Saarinen was born in Finland in 1910 and emigrated to the United States with his family in 1923. His career began in collaboration with his remarkably gifted family: his father, Eliel (1873–1950), the architect of Helsinki’s main train station and many other prominent buildings; his mother, Louise, or “Loja” (1879–1968), a textile designer and sculptor; and his sister, Eva-Lisa, or “Pipsan” (1905–1979), a designer and interior decorator. Eliel’s design for the Cranbrook campus in suburban Detroit, which the entire family worked on, would remain an important touchstone throughout Eero’s career. It served as a model of artistic collaboration and the conviction that architecture must encompass the “total environment,” from landscapes to buildings to furnishings and decorative objects. Equally influential on Eero’s later efforts to enrich modern design were his sculpture classes in Paris (1929–1930), his architectural education at Yale University (1931–1934), and his subsequent travels in Europe, Egypt, and Mexico to see some of the great monuments of architectural history.

Eero Saarinen designed furniture throughout his entire career, applying the same keen interest in exploring new materials, innovative construction techniques, and sculptural forms that he demonstrated in his buildings. While still in his teens, he designed furnishings for buildings at Cranbrook. His breakthrough, however, came in 1940, when he and Charles Eames won first prizes in the Museum of Modern Art’s Organic Design in Home Furnishings competition. Although their molded plywood chairs for the competition were not mass-produced, their designs laid the groundwork for Saarinen’s postwar furniture for Knoll Associates. His designs, from the Womb chair to the Pedestal series of sculptural chairs and tables, have become icons of postwar design, representing what Playboy magazine in 1961 called the “exuberance, finesse, and high imagination” of American furniture design at mid-century.
Yikes! That's a lot of copy. Hopefully, you read some of it. If you're up for still more reading, a Walker Art Center blog entry on the Saarinen exhibit is here. Note that the blog appears with a pink background, making it look like that extremely hip 'zine Butt.

Friday, August 08, 2008

With $4 gas, you might as well fill up under a really cool cantilever
During trips to the North Shore, I often stopp in Cloquet, home to a Frank Lloyd Wright-designed gas station and Gordy's Hi Hat Drive-In. While the gas station always bummed me out (it seemed down on its luck), Gordy's was flying high serving yummy burgers and fries in a classic on-the-road fashion.

Well, now comes news that Best Oil, the owners of Lindholm Service Station, has just spent $150,000 spiffing up Wright's only gas station. The above photo comes courtesy of the Duluth News Tribune, which reports that the building draws 6-12 visitors daily who are more interested in the architecture than putting a tiger in their tank.

“You would be amazed by the amount of people that come and look at us,” said Chris Chartier, who works at the station. “It doesn’t really do a lot for us, but you take that with being in a Frank Lloyd Wright building.”

After reading the News Tribune story, be sure to check out the Minnesota Public Radio slideshow, which includes a 1957 flyer promoting the business: "A New Exciting Service Station ... daringly designed by Frank Lloyd Wright." I love that "daringly designed" line.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Flanagan on the Foshay
Who's your favorite Star Tribune columnist? Kersten? Coleman? Reusse? Me, I love Barbara Flanagan. I think of her as our very own Jane Jacobs, obsessing over sidewalks, public toilets and outdoor dining. In today's column, Flanagan waxes about her love of the Foshay Tower, describes past encounters with the building and praises Ralph Burnet for the new Foshay, which will open as a W hotel in a couple of weeks. For an inside look at the new Foshay, consider dropping $60 on the Preservation Alliance of Minnesota party on Aug. 22.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Chicago: A visit to a Koolhaas building
For the past week or so, I've been in Chicago interviewing undertakers, embalmers and cemetery historians for a radio documentary. It's been fun work. But it's also exhausting at times. One can only visit so many graveyards before needing a break.

That's why an unplanned visit to the Rem Koolhaas-designed student center at the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) was such fun. I'd heard Koolhaas lecture, I own a copy of S, M, L, XL (who doesn't?), but I'd never actually been inside one of his buildings. And that's the test for whether a building works. (Koolhaas' firm is called Office for Metropolitan Architecture.)

I'm happy to report that the McCormick Tribune Campus Center was a joy.

Your correspondent was able to relax for a few minutes and watch students play ping pong. Every student center should have such old school interactive games. Unlike video games, you can see people move ... they really become part of the space that make the entire building feel alive.

Koolhaas incorporated the necessary computers, but they're tucked away under the main floor, just a few steps down from the ping pong tables. This is an acknowledgement of their importance, but they doesn't overwhelm (unlike the mass of computer stations at the Minneapolis Central Library where the books sometimes seem like an afterthought). Very nice.

The bookstore –– as you might expect -- had a great selection of architecture books. The IIT campus also has buildings designed by the legendary Mies van der Rohe.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Homes by Architects
Tickets go on sale today for AIA Minnesota's Homes by Architects, a self-guided tour of 25-plus homes, scheduled for Sept. 20-21. All the residences on the tour were designed by architects, including Dale Mulfinger, Charles Stinson, David Salmela, Jean Rehkamp Larson, Geoffrey Warner, James McNeal and others. The house in the photograph is located at 20505 Linden Road in Deephaven and was designed by David Salmela of Duluth.