New bridge need not be ugly

I attended the MnDOT open house at Roseville High School last night, or I should say I walked through the job-fair like gym full of MnDOT employees. I was pleased to see that there were folks asking all sorts of questions, but disappointed that it wasn’t a town hall style meeting, however, that is only because I like arguments. The format used was likely a much better way for “nice” Minnesotans to engage in dialog.

As I was walking out, a reporter stopped me and I gave him this, more or less, paraphrased statement:

“Ben Edwards, an Arden Hills resident who crossed the 35W bridge every day on his way to work in Eden Prairie, said he didn’t want Minnesota “to miss an opportunity to do something special with this bridge,” including a unique design and transit options. He said that his commute was no picnic before the collapse and isn’t much different now, and that he’d be willing to wait for a bridge that did more than increase vehicle capacity.”

You can read the full article at the Star Tribune site.

It sounds as though, there are at least some signs of compromise showing up from the Governor’s camp regarding future support for light rail lines over the new bridge. It sounds a little bit like parents telling their kids that they can stop at the go-cart track “on the way back”, hoping they shut up and forget about it.

I, for one, believe the $400,000 daily cost of not having the bridge is a bit of a farce. I travel this way often and my commute has not really been affected. We are very lucky that Highway 280 is there, and it’s conversion to a temporary freeway has gone rather seamlessly. Pawlenty warns that allowing for future light rail lines on the bridge would increase the cost:

“It will be a fair amount of additional money” that would not be reimbursed by federal dollars”

Minnesotans have had some aversion to new taxes lately due to the nice propaganda machine that is the GOP, but if you step back and look at the planned transportation projects and the new bridge project, the big picture becomes clearer.

The anticipated Central Corridor project which will link downtown Minneapolis with downtown Saint Paul by way of the University of Minnesota campus and University Avenue includes plans to have light rail trains travel over the Washington Avenue bridge. This is a bridge I walked over many times in my days and “the U” and it will need significant work to be able to handle the additional weight of light rail trains. In fact when you compare my estimate of $150 million (out of my ass) with another $170 million to build a tunnel near Coffman Union on campus (that figure is not out of my ass but I cannot find where I read it just now) you are looking at over $300 million in additional spending on light rail. The extra half year and $100 million on this new bridge, that we have to build anyway, starts to look like a bargain for the tax payer. Don’t you think that if we are really building a bridge that has a 100-year lifespan, we should spend 100 days considering our options and what we can anticipate for transportation needs for the next century?

OK, the last thing I want to address is the idea that this is just a highway bridge and it should rebuilt without thought to aesthetics. Our state could certainly use another icon, and a bridge over the countries largest river seems like a good place to start – especially when you consider that (for better, or for worse, we will soon lose the loved/hated Metrodome from the Minneapolis skyline. I don’t think we need the Golden Gate Bridge or anything, but something with some character that can be identified in a photo shouldn’t be too hard to ask. Hey, true visionaries can even find ways to make manhole covers things of beauty

Proposed 35W bridge plans are a joke

“We’re adding 2 lanes.”

That was the sum total of the innovations and creative ideas the state of Minnesota could muster. Yes the first new bridge project in Minnesota spanning the Mississippi in decades is going to be a boring ass highway bridge, despite the fact that residents are clamoring for light rail options (not included), architectural beauty and creating an new icon for our state (not included), and a little patience (also not included).

I am not going to stand by, however. I have written my governor, the mayor of Minneapolis (who is championing these ideas as well), and the Minnesota Department of Transportation. I also plan on attending the public meetings at Roseville High School on Thursday night (4:30pm to 7:30pm).

If you think that our state deserves to take some time and consider some alternative bridge designs please write to you elected officials and come to the meeting tomorrow to voice your opinions.

Minneapolis Central Library Preview and Google

New central library atriumAfter attending a presentation by Google about Google Earth, Google Books, and Google Scholar and came away with some very interesting back stories of each of these and a bit on insight on where they may be headed. While the presentations were interesting, the chance to get into the new Minneapolis Central Library was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. The few photos I took don’t do it justice. It is a beautiful building and is going to be a great resource for many, many Minnesota residents. You can read more on the library here.

The new Minneapolis library

The soon to be opened Minneapolis Central Library is already being heralded for both its architecture and the services it plans to offer patrons. Not only does the building have no internal loadbearing walls, and has a huge cantilever, the roof has grass planted on it as a way to handle runoff water (and in fact it recycles the water that does run off back onto the roof via pumps). The latest praise comes from The Christian Science Monitor. I quote part of that article here:

Patrons will check out their own books at electronic kiosks. Visitors will be able to download iTunes and eventually movies. Teens will have their own hip reading lounge where they can bring drinks and snacks and write poetry on the walls. And the librarians won’t be sitting behind desks, stamping book cards. They’ll be walking around among the stacks, talking on wireless devices dubbed “Star Trek” badges.

And about the building:

The new downtown central library is as provocative in design as some of the changes are among the stacks. No stuffy Greek columns here. Architect Cesar Pelli has created a post-modern building that uses blond wood and steel framing with geometry-defying angles. One plane juts out obliquely from the top of the building. Eventually a planned planetarium will rise from the roof that resembles the robot R2D2.

I am super excited to be able to get for a sneak preview of the new library next Tuesday when I will be at a presentation about Goggle Earth and (I assume) how it pertains to the library sciences and the Minneapolis Public Library system.

Prefab housing still intriguing to homebuilders

Prefab homes are still garnering a lot of interest, especially amongst designers and like-minded folks. In fact, a designer friend of mine, Pete is building a home using Hive Modular (not to be confused with Hive Designs). The Flat Pak House is another firm I have covered here before but alas I cannot link to them because their site sucks and tries to control my browser and make it display full screen. Perhaps that is why “flat pak” is currently the largest search term leading people to Alt Text and why the Alt Text page is Google’s first result as well. And there are several more variations that bring in a lot of traffic to my site (flat+pack+house+minneapolis and flat+pak+house). Not surprisingly, I think that the chronicling of my home building experience [posts and photo gallery] is giving me more credibility to Google and other search engines.

Apples, angles & architecture

Homes, buildings, and architecture

One of my passions has always been homes, buildings, and architecture. I wanted to be an architect, like many kids, but then I realized that it is a dying profession – thanks, in large part, to the cookie cutter mentality of many builders today.

It has always been clear that eventually I would want to aid in planning and building my own home. After reading The Not So Big House by Sarah Susanka, some of the ways to do it became clearer. The Not So Big House presents several very attractive ideas for home building. Most center around building a home that you would want to live in for your entire life and even pass on to future generations much like homes of the past. This idea serves as a stark contrast to the huge suburban homes being built with only square footage figures and cheap materials in mind.

Here’s a quote illustrating this point:

“The current pattern of building big to allow for quantities of furniture with still more room to spare is more akin to wearing a sack than a tailored suit. It may offer capacity, but at the cost of comfort and charm.”

Additional thoughts expressed in the book are of building simpler homes with higher quality, recycled and recyclable materials, that are energy efficient, and provide their inhabitants with practical, and in some senses, spiritual satisfaction.

The Site, though not much to look at, has some very interesting information (with links to more) in regards to concepts such as New Urbanism, the Arts and Crafts Movement, and spatial proportions and geometry (including some very interesting links to geometry related sites, including: The Fibonacci Numbers and the Golden Section, The Infinite Fractal Loop, and The Meru Foundation. When I get some time I will try to post something about “sacred geometry” – a topic I am very interested in. Here’s a link in the mean time.