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Reconfiguring for Razzmatazz: The Debate Over Peavey Plaza

Reconfiguring for Razzmatazz: The Debate Over Peavey Plaza

Just over a year ago, in October 2011, the City of Minneapolis, Minnesota revealed new plans for the redesign of historic Peavey Plaza.  Those plans were scrutinized in the media and public outcry mourned the loss of such an iconic design. Today, this “Marvel of Modernism,” designed by noted landscape architect M. Paul Friedberg in

Sign at Peavey Plaza advertising the RedesignJust over a year ago, in October 2011, the City of Minneapolis, Minnesota revealed new plans for the redesign of historic Peavey Plaza.  Those plans were scrutinized in the media and public outcry mourned the loss of such an iconic design. Today, this “Marvel of Modernism,” designed by noted landscape architect M. Paul Friedberg in 1974, is a truncated construction zone waiting as its fate is decided in the county courthouse. The Cultural Landscape Foundation and the Preservation Alliance of Minnesota filed suit in June 2012 to protect the plaza under the Minnesota Environmental Rights Act.

Peavey Plaza combines the European plaza with the American greenspace and serves as a transition from downtown Minneapolis along Lawrence Halprin’s Nicollet Mall, to the popular Loring ParkFriedberg’s sunken plaza with intimate garden rooms and iconic fountain are highly appreciated for year-round activities including ice skating, people watching, and concert-going.

Sadly, the City of Minneapolis has allowed Peavey Plaza to fall into a state of disrepair that now necessitates expensive renewal.  By their own admission, the City has participated in “an intentional effort… in recent years to hold the line on maintenance costs…” Now, desiring more razzmatazz be inserted upon the blighted plaza, the redesign essentially erases Peavey’s former character and ignores much of what makes Peavey so loved.

Peavey Plaza at Night, Photo by Keri PickettAlmost forty-years ago, the existing Peavey was designed as a way to prevent businesses from leaving downtown and to enliven the streetscape.  Now, the City claims it has outlived its usefulness: The materials are disintegrating, access is poor, and the space limits its functionality. Rather than the revitalization that Friedberg has suggested, one that maintains signature elements while updating access and safety, the City still intends to demolish Peavey.

Another aspect of the cultural landscape is the process by which it changes. In a recent conversation with Friedberg, he told me that the public process has been denied. This sentiment was echoed by supporters of Peavey Plaza in a public letter issued over a year ago.

This issue raises important questions about the conservation of cultural landscapes. How much change can one place absorb before it becomes something else?

Credits: Images and data linked to sources.

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Matthew Traucht graduated from the University of New Mexico with a B.A. in cultural anthropology and is now pursuing his Master of Landscape Architecture at the University of Minnesota’s College of Design. Inspired by the work he was doing as an arc...

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