U students redesign Nicollet Mall

The group will present its plans to Mayor R. T. Rybak on Friday.

by Emily Cutts

Professor Lance Lavine thinks Nicollet Mall is grim âÄî really grim.
âÄúThough it should be the core of the city, it has never developed beyond that,âÄù Lavine said. âÄúIt has never been more than a street with buses on it. ItâÄôs grim. ItâÄôs a grim center of the city. It has little or no real identity.âÄù
But his 20 graduate architecture students are trying to change that during their week-long design collaborative session, or charette.
âÄúRedesigning the MallâÄù is the title of their âÄúcatalyst,âÄù a week-long program that allows architecture graduate students to do something different.
âÄúThere are people making films âĦ there is everything,âÄù Lavine said. âÄúIt is all stuff that wouldnâÄôt fit into a normal curriculum.âÄù
The students are doing their work in the heart of Nicollet Mall in the Crystal Court of the IDS Center. Just inside the mall entrance, a large Styrofoam model sits in front of tables where the students have set up their workspace.
The architects work amid the business professionals, elderly and homeless people who frequent the area. Although sometimes they can be a distraction and an interruption, the people also help to provide feedback.
Split into four groups, they are working on adding a more distinct identity to sections of the mall.
Part of the way they are accomplishing this is by looking across the mall instead of down the street. This creates a different relationship between the buildings.
Across the mall there is no âÄúreciprocity,âÄù Lavine said âÄî the buildings donâÄôt interact with each other. By splitting the mall into blocks, the students are creating new relationships.
The ultimate goal is to redesign Nicollet Mall as a whole, giving it new life and vitality.
âÄúWe work together as a team to come to a cohesive idea at the end,âÄù student Elise Hansen said. âÄúIt doesnâÄôt mean you are going to end up with a finished product, but it is moreso ending up with an abstract idea that could grow from there.âÄù
The group will present its project to the rest of the architectural students Friday afternoon. The students will also present their designs to Minneapolis Mayor R. T. Rybak and the city council.
âÄúThe city wanted to see the results first so we have invited different people from the city to the event and they are going to be coming by over the next few days,âÄù College of Design Dean Thomas Fisher said. âÄúAfter that point we will see if we canâÄôt present it to the whole council.âÄù
The project fits into the city of MinneapolisâÄô overall redesign plan.
âÄúThere are a couple of groups working on some unique downtown initiatives for the future,âÄù said Jim Durda, vice president of Inland American Office Management LLC, which manages the IDS Center.
The cityâÄôs plan, Downtown 2025, is focusing on how downtown should look in 15 years. The Minneapolis Downtown Improvement District is also examining what Nicollet Mall should look like in the future.
âÄúIt is our hope that the outcomes of the charette process can help to fine-tune some of the work of the committees,âÄù Minneapolis DID Chief Operating Officer Sarah Harris said.
Harris also noted that Nicollet Mall is now an example of how all groups âÄî academic, private and public sectors âÄî can work together and talk about the future of Minneapolis.
âÄúYouâÄôve got some of the best people working on it,âÄù Durda said. âÄúItâÄôs a good opportunity for [the students] to get out of the classroom and into the field and put some real world testing to their models and their ideas.âÄù