Monday, June 26, 2006

Checking out the Neighbors

Jeffy sez -

The view from my office has improved quite a bit lately. The Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis has moved into a spiffy new home on the bank of the Mississippi just down from my office. What used to be a parking lot is now filled with an amazing new building:

They had an open house of sorts today and invited the public in to check the place out. We stopped by and had a look around. It is really a beautiful building. Here is the view from the other side:

If you want to see more pics, including shots of the interior, the Guthrie has a slideshow on their website.

As you can see from the rear view of the building, it has a long bridge (they call it an 'endless bridge') that extends over River Road, but goes nowhere (the similar-looking bridge on the front side is just a skyway to a parking ramp). It thrusts from the side of the building with no external support. The bridge has windows along its length, and an open balcony at its end that provide panoramic views of the river and the city around it.

I got to watch as the building went up and saw the massive structure that had to be built into the wall to be able to support such a bridge. Luckily, a theater doesn't need many windows, because with all of the steel bracing in that wall there isn't room for many, and only small ones at that.

I don't know when we'll get to see a show in this new theater - at this point our theater patronage is confined to the Minneapolis Children's Theater - but I look forward to it. In the meantime it makes a nice addition to the sights that can be seen on my occasional lunchtime walks.


wunelle said...

Sorry, I read this entry yesterday on my phone, but have been on the road at hotels without internet and had no way to comment.

I can't help thinking that the "endless bridge" is in fact quite finite! While I'm a fan as much as the next person of whimsical architectural detail, one has to wonder at the mountains moved to effect this thing. Is it worth the trouble? Who's to say, I guess.

The rest of the building looks very cool, tho. I always wondered where it was, as I've not driven along Washington for a couple years. It's kind of between the old Whitney hotel and the U, no? Is there anything else around there, or are they dragging up the neighborhood?

I've also heard that the theatre itself is modeled on the old Guthrie, warts and all, maybe. I always liked the old space--very intimate for the number of seats involved--but Susan says there were quite a few seats where the sightlines did not work. Wonder if they fixed this in the new one? At some point we'll see a show there, so we'll find out, I guess. Meantime, I think the old Guthrie is still there. Wonder what it'll get used for?

Esbee said...

What a cool looking building! It's so Jetsons.

Jeffy said...

Yes, it is located pretty much between the old Whitney (which I think has died and is being reborn as something else) and the U. It is also between the HHH Metrodome and the river.

The whole area around there is really transforming. The old Washburn flour mill has been made into a milling museum that is quite good, and many of the other old mill building have been refitted as condos. The area has become 'the' place to live in the city, and it is pretty nice, right by the river and close to downtown.

The 'endless bridge' is pretty cool, but it certainly isn't 'endless', and I doubt that it is worth the expense, in both dollars and in constraints on the rest of the structure. The way they pull off the 'endless' part is that you walk out of the fourth floor onto the bridge, and when you get past the end and walk back you find yourself on the fifth floor - it's magic - just like a ramp to bypass stairs at the entrance to a building. It serves no purpose other than to be an interesting place to stroll during intermission.

My family is acquainted with one of the guys who did the structural engineering for the building. Back when the building was first going up I asked him what the deal was with the bridge. He had figured out what it was going to take to hold it up, and had tried to get the architect to put some support out on it somewhere, but the architect held firm. It sounds like they could have saved as much as $1M just by adding a post somewhere along the bridge.

The new building has three stages. The main stage (which is visible on the front of the building) is a thrust stage like the old Guthrie. I expect that it will share some of the same 'features'. I was never a big fan of the old thrust stage as I usually would end up in cheap seats that mostly had views of the backs of the actors. A thrust stage can be cool, I guess, but it seems hard to have an audience on almost all sides and still make the show visible to all of them.

The second stage is a more traditional design, and then there is a small third stage that is flexible.

The old Guthrie will be torn down soon as the Walker Art Center next door owns the land and wants to make more gallery space.

esbee - It is pretty futuristic, but you should see the nearby Frank Gehry designed Weisman Art Museum at the U of MN - it makes the new Guthrie look downright plain.

wunelle said...

I'm glad to see more attention paid to the waterfront. This seems to be happening across the nation, that people are coming to think of their rivers as something more than how Mark Twain helped move industrial shit around back 150 years ago. MSP's river frontage has seemed more industrial than many, or maybe just ignored. So this is good.

I'd love to have a condo in one of those converted warehouses / factories. Somehow that really strikes a chord in me.

I'll have to see it, but I just have to think the bridge thing is lunacy, even if it's (maybe) cool. And to spend A MILLION on the lunacy borders on criminal lunacy.

I hadn't heard that the old Guthrie is coming down. A sad end for an iconic structure.