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Walker Art Center lends hand to design competition for Mill City's upper riverfront

Turning the tide along Minneapolis' upper riverfront from industrial dominance to recreational opportunity is the impetus behind a major design competition now underway. Organizers hope the winning plans will showcase features of the best in recent park design from around the world.

It's all about "urban regeneration," says Andrew Blauvelt, curator of architecture and design at the Walker Art Center. Minneapolis has a long history with its own extensive park system, but locals are open to outside ideas in planning their parks' future.

The Walker has teamed with the Minneapolis Parks Foundation and the University of Minnesota College of Design to explore "The Next Generation of Parks," as they've called their joint effort.

A "Next Generation" lecture series bringing national and international ideas into the local mix began last summer. It continues next week, when Peter Harnick, director of the Trust for Public Land's Center for City Parks Excellence, speaks at the Minneapolis Central Library. In November, Ed Uhlir, executive director at Chicago's Millennium Park, will give a talk at the same location.

But the riverfront design competition is the collaborative's first initiative that will put park-design innovations like those its lecturers have describe to the test locally--although moving beyond a winning concept isn't guaranteed.

The competition is open to all professional designers, with a shortlist picked in October and a winner announced in February. Blauvelt says the public will have a chance to see an exhibit of the competing entries at his museum in late January or early February, with a related event such as a public forum also likely to be held there.

The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, which has its own broad plan for the what it calls its "Above the Falls" parks, is also a competition sponsor. Minneapolis' riverfront revival of recent decades can be traced to another major design effort, titled "Mississippi/Minneapolis," a 1972 effort led by the city's planning department.

The Walker recently completed a summer-long park experiment of its own called "Open Field" on a grassy plot next door, with the space used for everything from performance to learning labs.

"Parks can be anything," says Blauvelt.

Source: Andrew Blauvelt, Walker Art Center
Writer: Chris Steller
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