July 26 2012

Pop-Up Place and Biomimicry in Minneapolis, Minnesota

"Before I Die..." wall in Minneapolis, Minnesota; Photo credit: Matthew Traucht

Revitalization and renewal are such commonly used buzzwords that they’ve lost some of their impact.  But the urban landscape is one that will always require fresh efforts of adaptation to shifting trends.  The Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St Paul, Minnesota have recently witnessed new attempts to accommodate changes in economy, transportation, and consumerism.

One such example of this is the Starling Project, which was founded last year to stimulate activity on the streets; streets that have been all but abandoned during intensive construction of the Central Corridor light rail line.  While the promise of public transportation may eventually result in increased revenue in the area, many businesses have been forced to close as several months of construction has disrupted the daily flow of traffic.

Addressing this problem, a group of graduate students with backgrounds in landscape architecture, urban planning, and architecture were inspired by the model of the starling that utilizes abandoned nests for its own home.  In this case, the Starling Project is combating vacancy with vitality by filling unoccupied shops with artists, entrepreneurs, and community groups by encouraging short-term leases and creative collaborations.

Across town, in the multi-ethnic mixed use Whittier neighborhood, Artists in Storefronts is also attempting to activate underutilized spaces through creative expression. The brainchild of Joan Vorderbruggen, this collective attempts to beautify the pedestrian experience by making the sidewalk a sort of gallery.  In some cases, art is available for consumption as prints or sculptural displays in windows.  In other instances, the community is invited to participate in the dialogue as they interact with the Before I Die… wall inspired by public artist and activist Candy Chang.

The Artists in Storefronts project recently received an anonymous donation to support the continuation of this public art.  Several community development organizations and local property owners support the Starling Project.  Both groups have been featured in the national press and utilize social media marketing.

Beyond simply beautifying the streetscape, how do enterprises like these improve the public’s perception of space and place?

Credits: Images and data linked to sources.

Artists In Storefronts Facebook and Twitter

Starling Project Facebook and Twitter

Matthew Traucht

Matthew Traucht graduated from the University of New Mexico with a B.A. in cultural anthropology and is now pursuing his Master of Landscape Architecture at the University of Minnesota’s College of Design. Inspired by the work he was doing as an archaeologist in New Mexico where he studied prehistoric lifeways and preindustrial agricultural techniques; Matthew established an organic farm business. Eventually this led him to join the US Peace Corps where he served as a Natural Resources Volunteer in The Gambia from 2007-2009. For the last five years he has been blogging about some of his observations about the interactions between nature and culture, most recently on Desire Lines. Now, as a graduate student, Matthew is interested in sustainable communities, brownfield remediation, and historic cultural landscape preservation.

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This entry was posted on Thursday, July 26th, 2012 at 6:07 am and is filed under Community/Economic Development, Environmental Design, Environmental Non-Profit, Landscape Architecture, Transportation. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


5 Responses to “Pop-Up Place and Biomimicry in Minneapolis, Minnesota”

  1. Summer Break (Break?) | Desire Lines Says:

    [...] environment.  The internship lasts for one year and requires me to write two blogs a month.  My first blog for The Grid was published last [...]

  2. Prescott Morrill Says:

    Check out the Starling Project website; there’s a lot happening right now, and this is strategically an awesome time to make change on the corridor.


  3. RobAid Says:

    I really woouldn’t refer to the whole process as biomimicry in this case.

  4. Matthew Traucht Says:

    Thank you for your comment. I’ve taken a look at your website and I see that you are very knowledgeable about the science and various applications of biomimicry. I think that the Starling Project was inspired by their observations of natural systems, in this case the “squatting” of that particular bird in the abandoned nests of other birds. I would say that they have taken a bit more of a liberal interpretation of the term than you might.

    Thanks for reading Global Site Plans The Grid!

  5. Matthew Traucht Says:

    Prescott, Thank you for your comment and for taking the time to look at Global Site Plans The Grid. I’ve looked at your website and am very pleased to see that your group remains active in the project. I attended an event in one of your pop-up galleries and was quite impressed.

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