What architect made the most impact on the Twin Cities urban landscape in 2007?
Hands down, my nominee is Tom Oslund, who happens to be a landscape architect.
The seven-person Minneapolis firm of Oslund and Associates designed a major new riverfront park, took on the challenging design of the plazas outside the Twins ballpark, and is playing a leading role in the design of the new I-35W bridge, from its elegant profile to the 50-foot-high signs that will announce the Mississippi River.
In May, the 7.5 acre Gold Medal Park became Minneapolis’ newest public space. The 32-foot-high mound, which is reached by a spiral walkway rising out of a green lawn filled with 300 trees, was an instant hit. The mound offers a destination, a place to view the river, to gather or to sit and reflect. The park, just east of the monumental Guthrie Theater, has given the Mill District neighborhood a much-needed green centerpiece — and the city a profound place.
Park became makeshift memorial
Within hours of the Aug. 1 collapse of the I-35W bridge, the top of the mound had become a makeshift memorial — a true sign of its success as a public place. A few weeks later, Oslund received a phone call from Linda Figg, president of Figg Engineering Group, the firm that eventually won the contract to build the replacement bridge.
“She’d gone to our website and liked the simplicity of our work,” said Oslund, who advised on the pared-down concept for the bridge and became the landscape architect for the winning team. In that capacity, he played a central role at the October public workshop on the design of bridge elements. He is working on the gateway markers, lighting and the spaces at the river’s edge.
Also this year, his firm was busy designing the public plazas leading to the Twins ballpark on Sixth and Seventh Streets North. Oslund’s design achieves the nigh-impossible task of making the plaza inviting to both baseball fans and people just passing through the space. Oslund advised that trees planned for what is a bridge over the I-394 access lanes might survive but would not grow. Instead, he has suggested tall, vine-covered steel armatures —vertical trellises — that will lend a sense of scale to the large open space while softening it and providing places to sit.
Add five design awards from the Minnesota chapter (PDF) of the American Society of Landscape Architects, an honor award from the national organization for a rainwater pond at the University of Minnesota-Duluth, the design of a house and winery in California’s Napa Valley and the conclusion of three years of work on the 20-acre site of the Harley-Davidson Museum in downtown Milwaukee, Wis., and it was a very good year.
“When the Harley-Davidson Museum opens in June, it will be our biggest association with a brand,” said Oslund, whose work includes landscapes for General Mills and Medtronic. “General Mills is big. Medtronic is big, but this is really big.”
Holiday bonuses all around!