I’ve been home these past few weekends back in the Twin Cities, seeing concerts, spending time with family and enjoying what little fall we had. If you haven’t managed to take a walk in the Arboretum yet, you’ve missed out this year on the wonderful array of fall colors some of us have the pleasure of seeing from our dorm windows every day. I loved my drives home because highway 169 follows the river valley so well, and you can see trees on both sides almost the whole way home.
We’re pretty lucky here at Gustavus to have such a beautiful campus. I love my walks in the Arboretum almost any time of year (I say almost because of the way the biting arctic winds come over uninhibited by trees during the winter), and even on campus we’re treated to many beautiful things. Granlund’s sculpture, which can be found anywhere on campus, is something we can all pass by many times during a day, but still can captivate us in a new way if we take time to really look at it. The buildings themselves, although not entirely as uniformly similar as St. Olaf’s, have a certain charm and consistency to them. Although the SSC might not have the charm of Old Main, the buildings do not look so disparate that we cannot stand to see them next to each other on the hill.
In many ways, I think Minneapolis has some of these features as well. Although there are plenty of “luxury condominiums” and other eye-sores, all of it somehow fits together. Driving up Hennepin Ave. into the city, or even just checking out the different venues around Nicollet Ave. on foot, even in its diversity Minneapolis has a distinct character no matter what your interests are. And there is plenty of public art too, although dramatically fewer Granlund sculptures.
Among many things Minneapolis has that Gustavus does not (a decent night life included) is the Walker Art Center, or what is known to some of us as “the big silver rock-em sock-em robot head.” Outside of being a museum, the mere architectural presence of it is very bold, very attentiongetting. It always jumps out to me regardless of whether I’m coming in from 394, 94, Hennepin or Lyndale.
Although it’s bold, and even though it’sbig and silver, I still think it’s not out of place. It itself is a work of art, something that is both pleasing to the eye and makes a statement. I remember people thinking it looked ugly at the time it was unveiled, but I bet even those critics would admit that it
fits right in today in Minneapolis.
You may wonder where I’m going with his. Well, as we all know, Gustavus is hoping to break ground on a new academic building soon, and also has expressed interest to put up a new wind turbine in the near future. Since most of us agree those are good moves for the campus, we now have to decide how we want to go about doing it, how we want to design the future additions to our campus.
As for the wind turbine, I think we can take a lesson from the most recent exhibition at the Hillstrom Museum of Art: windmills and wind turbines are a good thing, but they also present a major change to our landscape. The fact that it is a big change should not in itself be a bad thing, but we must also accept that in order to have a more sustainable community, wind turbines have to be a part of our landscape. Besides, some people, like some of the artists, believe wind turbines are hauntingly beautiful, so not everyone need be convinced by the “necessity” argument.
Of the new building, however, I know my hypothesis is far too radical to be taken seriously, but hear me out. We do live on a beautiful campus, but if I could choose one word to describe it, I would use the word “beige.” Really, our color palate goes from Kasota stone yellow to red brick, with some gray concrete in there to neutralize the more radical oranges and yellows of the jungle plants. We call ourselves a Swedish college. I say we make this new building into a stunning example of contemporary Scandinavian design: as ergonomic as it is ecological, blue, clean and efficient. Large panes of glass with a slightly blue tint, terraced rain gardens and all those fancy heating and cooling tricks that make the building rely not solely on natural gas and electricity, but from the earth beneath it and air around it.
Well, I’m no architect, but I think these newest additions to our campus could really liven things up without destroying the Gustavus aesthetic.