Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Architecture Gardens

If you've been following along this blog, you know that I'm a big believer in iconic architecture. But iconic architecture only really works as a community development tool if it has scale, location and a surrounding area that can take advantage of the redevelopment opportunities created by the attraction.

Iconic architecture is typically located along a waterfront. But what if your location isn't all that hot? The answer is even more scale. This doesn't mean just a bigger building or monument, but more of them. Build a whole neighborhood of iconic architecture. That was the successful approach of Valencia, Spain.

Many years ago, Valencia rerouted a river that would regularly flood the middle of town. This was a great engineering feat. However, it left a dry riverbed in the middle of the city. This area was underdeveloped for years. Showing remarkable vision and daring, city leaders commissioned local son and star architect Santiago Calatrava to design a series of breathtaking structures that have become international attractions. This includes a science museum, planetarium, opera house and arboretum. Another architect contributed an aquatic exhibit, which is also architecturally beautiful. The entire development is referred to as the City of Arts and Sciences.

The result of this effort is a 58 percent increase in tourism, 5,000 new middle to upper bracket homes and 16 new hotels.

There are two great places to implement this approach in the greater Minneapolis-Saint Paul area. The first would be the Midway area of Saint Paul, with an emphasis on athletic facilities. The second would be Brooklyn Park near the Target Corp. campus. Each development would include elements that are likely to be built anyway. An architecture garden approach would simply cluster community amenities together in one place and elevate the quality of architecture. This creates significant synergies that will result in a greater impact than if the facilities were built as stand-alone structures.
I'll talk more about what might be included in each garden in a future post.

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