Thursday, July 1, 2010

City Beautiful. Roger Miller passes away.

Much of my love for this city of Minneapolis is fostered by the people within it, those who migrate here and those who are reared and continue its progressive tradition. One of the first times I was pushed to think about a city in a broader context was in my 'City in History' class taught by an energetic professor named Roger Miller. I was informed in an email from the barber shop I frequent Diamond Horshoe. Roger was also a customer there and the owner wished his customer to pass on some good vibes to the family.

Within his class I was introduced to the works of Lewis Mumford, a noted historian of urban development. The city is a living breathing entity, as adaptable as the american constitution in the hands of presidential legal staff. There is an idea too that the space belongs to the people who occupy it. The spaces not owned and operated by private entities are best suited as gathering places for the citizens. Many European cities have grand sweeping plazas that are often near landmarks, or buildings of religious/governmental importance. Many famous protests take place in or near these areas, most recently the Tiananmen Square protest comes to mind, for it attracts attention from passersby and the powers that be that operate the buildings surrounding the space.

Minneapolis no longer has such a place but before the gentrification of the Gateway district there was Bridges Square. Located where the intersections of Hennepin, Nicollet, and Washington would converge. It had a large arched building, tables and chairs for people to sit, as well as public restrooms. There once was the first light-post of the city, reaching high into the sky and lighting up during the night it was a symbol of our modernism.

Now all we have are our parks, which serve as gathering places for things like festivals and our city sponsored modern day drive-ins "Movies in the Park". The use of these spaces was much greater before the advent of the mind numbing 'boob tube'. There were even community sings that drew thousands of people during WWI, events like this even helped discover national singing talents the Andrews Sisters. Yet now people have expensive baseball stadiums paid for with tax money, and tickets so pricey that most of the tax base don't see it as a priority to go to a game.

But like new stadiums, cities grow and shrink, The Gateway district, maybe the future of Metrodome. Areas change demographics shift, people stop having children or have another 'Boom Boom Generation'. All of this is how I think about the public spaces, much thanks to my former teacher for exposing me to such thoughts.

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