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Four finalists compete to design futuristic riverfront park

No longer will parks simply be about 'turf and trees.'

A 21st-century park should be versatile enough to support various community activities that happen around the clock and throughout the year.

That's the challenge that's been laid out by the Mississippi Riverfront Design Competition (MRDC), which deals with a 5.4-mile stretch of the river, or about 220 acres starting in and around the Stone Arch Bridge and historic mills and heading north, according to project manager Mary DeLaittre.

MRDC is a joint project of the Minneapolis parks and its foundation, along with its creative partners, the University of Minnesota College of Design and Walker Art Center.  

Recently the group's 13-member jury culled through 55 submissions that arrived from all over the globe in response to its request for qualifications. They settled on four finalists including the Ken Smith Workshop, Stoss Landscape Urbanism, Tom Leader Studio, and Turenscape. The award-winning designers and planners hail from New York City, Boston, Berkeley, and Beijing.

Now, the finalists have a little more than a month to come up with plans.

It's a complicated and fascinating assignment, DeLaittre explains. For starters, the terrain goes from the picturesque to the industrial within overlapping local-to-federal jurisdictions. Additionally, Interstate-94 cuts off North Minneapolis from the river, which adds another wrinkle, says DeLaittre, who is also the founder and principal of local consultant Groundwork: The Foundation for City Building.
However, the teams won't be starting from scratch, she says. They'll be armed with a list of the area's resources to work with.

DeLaittre says she's looking forward to seeing the results, which will lead to a commissioned project to be announced in February 2011. 

She hopes that the competition inspires people to see the river as a connector and not a divider. "We want to orient the city around the river," she says, adding, "It's one of the three great rivers of the world."

Source: Mary DeLaittre, project manager for the Mississippi Riverfront Design Competition, founder and principal of Groundwork: The Foundation for City Building
Writer: Anna Pratt

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