Tuesday, August 4, 2009

I Stand Corrected

A few years ago, the new federal courthouse building in towntown Minneapolis commissioned a renowned landscape architect, Martha Swartz, to create a public plaza between the courthouse and city hall.

It was a peculiar-looking thing, extremely avante guarde to my way of thinking. I pretty much hated it, as I prefer natural-looking landscapes, and this was one was strange, to say the least. The concrete plaza was interrupted with tear-drop shaped mounds of dirt and grass, placed at a steep pitch, arranged diagonally across the plaza. Concrete cast logs served as benches, with other wire mesh benches also placed in diagonal patterns. Crossing the plaza was an exercise in zig-zagging among the mounds of grass, the concrete logs, the benches.

The arrangment was in large part done this way as a hindrance to potential terrorist attack, as the plaza was rendered virtually impossible for a truck loaded with explosives to cross. No Oklahoma City potential here. This was partially the reason for my distain, since capitulation to this kind of paranoia always annoys me.

Some years later, this plaza is the place where I wait for my commuter bus home from the office, and it has become one of my favorite parts of the downtown landscape. By late afternoon, nearby buildings have blocked the sun, throwing a cool, comfortable shade across the plaza. The grassy knolls undulate gently in the wind, and the jack pines planted in them not only cast shade, but give the plaza a pleasant pine-needle aroma. Waiting for a bus here is among the most pleasant things imaginable, and I have been known to leave work early, or let the first bus line go through, simply in order to spend some extra time here.

Martha Swartz, I stand corrected. I've even looked up your web site, and in the future will visit other public landscapes you've designed.

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