I went to the river today. An experience of layers. Enlightenment and the power of nature…where the presence of heritage and history are strongest and then the distractions of human behavior fueled by liquor and language, the constant traffic indistinquishable from the sounds of the river. The presence of ugly monoliths, whose residents enter and leave by cars driven to underground parking ramps. They are completely isolated from nature.
Being in this place requires rejecting the layers of distraction and a choice to focus on the layers of nature and enlightenment.
Saint Anthony Falls, the birthplace of Minneapolis, turbulent and wild, a place that man exploited but could never entirely control or tame, even now. Closest to the river, its voice is strongest, the rapids leapt and frothed in vigorously beautiful triumphant violence. The trunks of the sacred oaks inclined away from the restless roads, raucous bar patrons and apartments and extended their arms towards the river. Their leaves shook like a shaman’s rattle directing its sound southeast and heavenward toward a flight of granite stairs. At the top of the stairs is the oldest church in our city, Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church.
I’ve always wondered about those stairs. Were they the concept of an architect, approved by Riverplace developer Robert Boisclair, in his mind a way to provide the bar and restaurant patrons a rather challenging ascent to the apartment towers and townhouses, or was the staircase also some unspoken acknowledgement of his mortality, the radiant presence of the church too powerful to ignore, even as his structures towered over it and the construction from the Riverplace parking garage cracked the church’s foundations.
Our Lady of Lourdes Church’s website has this narrative of their history:
Earlier this year, the owners of the old buildings that have housed Nye’s Polonaise; a supper club and home to polka culture announced that they were going to close. Developer Schaeffer Richardson had a plan to demolish the orange brick buildings so full of historic character and kitsch and replace them with yet another glass and steel apartment building even more enormous and taller that their other building nearby.
The demolitions would destroy two unique neighborhood landmarks. The construction would threaten the structural integrity of the church and conceal it from view and cast a shadow of darkness over her.
Saint Anthony Falls, perhaps one of the first and most important historic districts in our City which inspired the hopeful protections of Local and National historic districts and stringent design guidelines, which were ignored in the 1980s and effective for awhile during economic recession until today, as glass and steel apartments rise again.
Add to this the City’s newest director of Developer Relations in CPED, a former employee of the developer and someone who alternately feuded or flattered “the historic preservation people” back in the day when we still had the power to stop some of the destruction.
Farkitecture Follies award #6
The battle of the archangels of light: Michael and Gabriel to protect Our Lady of Lourdes church from the destruction and greed of fallen angels Azrael and Satani of evil and darkness, and their corrupt accomplices at Minneapolis City Hall
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