In late March 2008, many public librarians will be in Minneapolis at the Public Library Association National Conference. Because I am attending the conference, I am reading parts of AIA Guide to the Twin Cities by Larry Millett.
In this architectural guide, Minneapolis precedes St. Paul. In the Central Core section, downtown Minneapolis just north of the convention center is in the first section, sixty buildings and two special features of the area are described and reviewed. The special features are the Nicollet Mall and the Minneapolis Skyway System.
The Nicollet Mall is one of the few pedestrian malls that were designed in cities in the late 1950s and 1960s to have survived. It is a twelve-block-long shopping district with restricted traffic (only buses and cabs). Somewhere along this way, Mary Tyler Moore threw her hat in the air. (I wonder if there is a plaque.)
The skyway system is a network of bridges and walkways that lets people walk between buildings without going outdoors. Here is a map showing skyway with the hotels. It looks like there is a possibility of taking wrong turns and getting lost. If the weather is good, it would be faster to hit the streets instead. The author says that the skyway is popular because of the severe winters in the city, but he regrets that it reduces street traffic vital to retail businesses.
So, it seems that the city pulls you outside with the pedestrian mall and pulls you inside with the skyway. Perhaps it is nice to have the choice.
Back to the architecture. I want to see the Minneapolis Public Library. Millett says that the interior is "suave and gracious, the library delivers that most precious of architectural gifts - the natural daylight." He then compares the exterior to a stack of glass trays, four on one side and five on the other, with an awkward wing that swings up. I need to see it for myself.
There are also AIA Guides for Boston, Chicago, New York, and Washington, D.C.
Millett, Larry. AIA Guide to the Twin Cities. Minnesota Historical Society, 2007. ISBN 9780873515405