The Architecture of the Other

May 11, 2017 § Leave a comment

Architecture is a particular fascination for me. Not professionally; I’ve never had any dreams of becoming an architect. It’s merely a casual interest. Buildings and their design fascinates me, and I can wander around just about any neighborhood and be intrigued by the buildings there.

I’m most aware of my surroundings — and particularly, the buildings — when I’m a passenger traveling through a strange part of town or a city I’ve never been to. If I don’t have to pay attention to the way, I can relax and take in the alien landscape.

So it was when I found myself in Minneapolis last week, traveling for work. I’d never been to the city before, and imagined it to be some boxy, dull, cookie-cutter town. And it might have been, at one point, but then the aliens landed and began making Minneapolis over into a semblance of their home planet.

My introduction to the place was, of course, the airport. Coming up a very long escalator to the concourse, it seemed I was being drawn into your classic B-movie UFO.


If there’s a mothership in the city, it’s definitely US Bank Arena, an angular black spaceship of a building, massively landed on the edge of downtown. I passed it on the train to and from the airport, but never got up close and personal with it.

I did get this shot of it from several blocks away; my phone’s camera couldn’t handle the distance, though, so it looks far less intimidating than it seemed as I stood there.

It’s the dark, boxy shape far down the street, if that’s not obvious. I’m  not sure what the castle-like building in the foreground is, but there you have Minneapolis in a nutshell; an odd mixture of old and new.

This is the main branch of the public library, which was across the street from my hotel:


That’s the front, evoking the skeletal prow of an ancient ship jutting from the bed of a long-dead sea. Minnesotans love their Vikings, so I have no trouble imaging this as a tribute to the Nordic longboats that carried them across oceans. (But not to ancient Lake Michigan, as far as I know.)

On the side facing my hotel, an outrigger of this building was roofed with grass.

Wandering downtown late in the day, I came across the stunning sight of an older building reflected in the gleaming mirrors of a wholly modern edifice.

The building in which I worked that week — the Wyman Building — had on display huge photos of downtown Minneapolis as it looked in the early 1900s. The Wyman itself is an older building; I think it was a department store at one time.


I tried to orient myself in those photos, but I saw little that matched up to the area outside the windows.

I said in my last missive that we are perambulatory creatures, loving to travel to new and far-away places. The B-side is that, once we get there, we must leave our mark upon the place. Etch our names into the landscape in wood and glass and steel.

It goes beyond the simple need for shelter; we want to proclaim to future generations and the gods themselves that here we once stood.

Our skyscrapers and odd architectural delights are our Stonehenges, our Easter Island moai.


The skylight above Concourse B at CVG, which has it’s own alien look to it.

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