Peavey Plaza: idealism vs. reality

The future of Peavey Plaza in downtown Minneapolis is the source of national debate among landscape architects.


Peavey Plaza was named a “marvel of modernism” by the Cultural Landscape Foundation in 2008.

Bradford McKee, Editor of Landscape Architecture magazine says the plaza -which is slated for a major overhaul that has infuriated fans of brutalist architecture – is a lesson in idealism vs. reality:

To a trained eye, Peavey Plaza stands for a particular place in design time. But in the belly button of a major downtown these days, connoisseurship alone is unlikely to save much. In cities where land is valuable, everything has to pay its own way. Arguments about design and history have to be woven with economy and culture to make them work among the more careful alderpersons. You have to show that preservation benefits a district, which it usually does. This is especially true now that cities, more spontaneously than not, are getting the upper hand in their struggles with the suburbs.

It looks as if a permit to demolish Peavey Plaza will be approved imminently. This is harsh news, but it is unsurprising when you consider the many ways cities are rewriting the action at their centers. [Tom Oslund, lead architect of the redesign] may someday see another reincarnation of Peavey Plaza. As a landscape architect he designs and builds and turns his work over to the public for its pleasure for however long it lasts.

Mckee says “When you work in the public realm, you’ve got to have a thick hide. If you don’t, the public will give you one.”

You can read the rest of his editorial here.


View of Peavey Plaza looking south, summer

Artist rendering courtesy of Oslund & Associates

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