Four design firms with national and international reputations were announced today as finalists to compete for the task of recasting Minneapolis’ largely industrial Upper Riverfront into a series of parks, neighborhood connections and redevelopment opportunities. The plan has the potential to transform 11 miles of waterfront on both sides of the Mississippi River in North, Northeast and Southeast Minneapolis over the next 30 years — all of them upstream of the Stone Arch Bridge.
Discussions about redeveloping the Upper River go back for decades, but the city seems finally ready to move ahead, largely at the urging of David Fisher, superintendent emeritus of the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, and Cecily Harris, president of the Minneapolis Parks Foundation. The University of Minnesota College of Design and the Walker Art Center have joined the Park Board and Parks Foundation in sponsoring the competition.
The finalists are:
• Ken Smith Workshop, [PDF] New York. Trained at Iowa State and Harvard, Smith is high among a new generation of landscape designers interested in improving urban quality of life by bringing nature into the city core. Among his firm’s projects: The Museum of Modern Art Roof Garden in New York, landscaping for Goldman Sachs World Headquarters in New York and Orange County Great Park, a sustainable redo of the decommissioned El Toro Marine Base south of Los Angeles.
• Stoss Landscape Urbanism, Boston. Founding partner Chris Reed sees landscape less as decoration than as part of the ecological, social and cultural structure of a city. Among his firm’s projects: The Fox Riverfront in Green Bay, Wis.; Bass River Park in Dennis, Mass.; and Lower Don Lands in Toronto.
• Tom Leader Studio, Berkeley, Calif. Harvard-trained Leader operates an adventuresome firm that integrates ecology and culture into its designs, including: Railroad Park in Birmingham, Ala.; Longacres Park in Renton, Wash.; and Asahikawa Riverfront Park in Asahikawa, Japan.
• Turenscape, Bejing, China. Founded by Harvard-trained Kongjian Yu, Turenscape has been involved in a wide variety of landscape, urban design and architectural ventures. Among the firm’s projects: Houtan Park in Shanghai; The Floating Gardens-Yongnang River Park in Taizhou City, China; and Chinatown Park in Boston.
Several Twin Cities design firms are teamed these main competitors. Today’s selection sets off a series of events culminating in the selection of a winning design team in February 2011.