Students help design skyway mini-golf

The event featured holes resembling Minneapolis neighborhoods.

Val Birkeland, 13, and Kayla Birekland, 8, watch their balls roll near the hole at the U.S. Bank Skyway Open Sunday, a putt-putt golf course located in downtown Minneapolis skyways.

Holly Peterson

Val Birkeland, 13, and Kayla Birekland, 8, watch their balls roll near the hole at the U.S. Bank Skyway Open Sunday, a putt-putt golf course located in downtown Minneapolis skyways.

Meara Cummings

Minneapolis residents golfed their way through the city’s neighborhoods this weekend, putting past bridges, parks and a windmill without ever leaving the downtown skyway.

The theme of the 18-hole mini-golf scramble was “Minneapolis Neighborhoods — Putt the City,” and for the first time, it included designs from architecture and design students at the Art Institutes International Minnesota, Dunwoody College of Technology and the University of Minnesota.

The Minneapolis skyway system hosted the eighth annual U.S. Bank Skyway Open, with all profits benefiting the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Twin Cities.

Event co-chair Sam Maguire said he wanted to get students involved in order to expand the experience and get the community more engaged. The tournament is a good way for students to display their work and look for potential job opportunities, he said.

“Three or four years ago, I was a student, and I was thinking, ‘How can I get an internship?’” he said. “This is a great way to include students in a showcase of their work alongside professional firms.”

A team of a dozen students in the University’s School of Architecture created the school’s hole design concept, captained by architecture senior Nathan McKewon. Their design featured the Stone Arch Bridge near the University’s East Bank.

“We were really interested in creating a bridge for people to golf on to create the tension,” McKewon said. “Is it going to fall off, or is it going to stay on?”

The students drew inspiration for the “bridging” design concept from an architecture conference the University will host in April.

They plan to reuse the hole for the conference, where they’ll showcase their design to about 300 Midwestern student attendees.

The three student-designed holes for the U.S. Bank Skyway Open were displayed in the Crystal Court of the IDS Center. Board members from the American Institute of Architects judged all of the hole designs and awarded Best Overall Design to the Dunwoody team and Best Student Design to the Art Institutes team.

The University hole didn’t receive any awards, but McKewon said they hope to present a stronger design next year.

“It could have been better, but time and effort kind of worked against us,” he said.

Based on student recommendations, Maguire said, next year they’re thinking of pairing the students with architecture firms so they can get studio experience and work with architecture professionals on the designs.

Event co-chair Lorene Fott said the tournament was proud to display the student designs.

“It’s great to see these designs getting that recognition for the work that all of the architects have done,” she said.

Despite the weather over the weekend, Fott said, many people braved the cold to play, and the tournament was a success.

“The event brings positive attention to the downtown area and the skyway system,” she said. “Sometimes it gets a little quiet on the weekends, so we want to do things like this to make sure people are still coming out.”