|Downtown Minneapolis posing as Houston.|
|New Minnesota Vikings stadium rising on the southern edge of downtown Minneapolis.|
|House designed by Purcell & Elmslie in Minneapolis.|
The architecture of St. Paul is very different. Kinder and gentler, perhaps. The signs of a vibrant city are there: a renovated Union Station, a thriving farmers market, trendy restaurants, rail connections to the metroplex. At the same time St. Paul has managed to maintain a human scale to its downtown district. Old buildings are preserved, even as shiny new ones fit between them. Brick facades, sidewalk cafes, and green space add texture. It possesses a friendliness that Minneapolis somehow lacks. It is not difficult to explore the streets of St. Paul. You do not feel you have to enter an air-conditioned mall to experience the city. St. Paul does have skywalks, for the same obvious reason as Minneapolis: the cold winter weather. But in St. Paul they have not sucked the life out of the ground level. What is the difference? Obviously, the scale of the two cities has something to do with it. St. Paul is a small town compared to its big brother. But there must be more to it than that. It must have something to do with the texture of the buildings. The architecture is simply softer in St. Paul. The materials, shapes, and scale are user-friendly. Minneapolis has adopted an almost brutal architecture; facades tend to be featureless, the scale overwhelming. Not so in St. Paul. There are lessons to be learned here about the importance of human scale in architecture and urban planning.
|St. Paul's refurbished Union Station.|
|Mickey's Diner, downtown St. Paul.|
|Street life in St. Paul.|
|Architectural texture in St. Paul.|
All images MJK.