Orchestra Hall’s iconic blue tubes find new homes

Since 1974, Orchestra Hall in downtown Minneapolis has been adorned with 16 large blue tubes. It was not just an aesthetic choice – they also served as the lobby’s air intake and exhaust system.


But Orchestra Hall is undergoing an extensive remodel, which calls for getting rid of the iconic pipes.

Minnesota Orchestra’s Gwen Pappas says the orchestra staffers decided to find them some new homes.

In April a whimsical post on Facebook asked Orchestra fans how they would like to see the tubes live on, and clever answers streamed in. In May, the Orchestra officially sought proposals from artists, sculptors, organizations and individuals who were interested in pursuing the project. Our criteria for donation: we wanted to identify creative ideas for the tubes that were supported by a practical implementation plan. We were hoping to spread the tubes across a geographic distance and allow maximum opportunity for the public to see the pieces in their new homes.

The staff chose five proposals and this past week Mortenson Construction delivered the tubes to their new owners, donating all the delivery costs.

The recipients include Franconia Sculpture Park, artist Peter Morales (who plans to use them for a sculpture he’s working on, ultimate destination unknown), the Anderson Center in Red Wing, Big Stone Mini Golf and Sculpture Garden in Minnetrista, and the home of composers/artists Philip Blackburn and Preston Wright (disclosure: Preston Wright is a co-worker and they are both good friends of mine).


Philip Blackburn explores one of the two tubes from Orchestra Hall that will become sculptural features on his 2.5 acre homestead East of St. Paul.

Image courtesy of the artist

According to Blackburn, they plan to convert the tubes into windharps and bat houses.

The two of them facing each other will make a notable archway at the entrance of the Grand Alley in the yard, and frame the unique view afforded from the property of both downtown St. Paul and Minneapolis directly behind it…We intend to make the yard a sculpture garden, and have started modestly with a giant 1890s dairy barn cupola. The addition of the Blue Tube Gate, home to Aeolian music, bats, and a historic window to the cities would be a dream.

Blackburn captured the rather dizzying delivery of the blue tubes by crane, which you can watch below.

The renovated Orchestra Hall will re-open in summer 2013.