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American Society of Landscape Architects

 

January 2005 Issue

When Worlds Collide
In suburban Minneapolis, can Modernism and ecology find common ground?

By Adam Regn Arvidson, ASLA

When Worlds Collide
George Heinrich, Heinrich Photography

On the outskirts of suburban Minneapolis sits an evolving Modernist experiment. General Mills—purveyor of Cheerios, Betty Crocker, and other June Cleaver essentials—moved to Golden Valley from downtown Minneapolis in 1958 and created a cutting-edge minimal campus. It was the height of Modernism, and geometric, horizontal, buildings-on-a- plane-of-green campuses were all the rage. The precedent had been set in 1953 just outside Hartford, Connecticut, at the headquarters of Connecticut General (now CIGNA), and General Mills was another in a long line of companies to hire Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) to create such an employment oasis. Through the years, the venerable campus has been expanded or redesigned no fewer than six times, but the recent acquisition of crosstown rival Pillsbury caused the company to consider its most significant alteration to date. It now had to accommodate 1,500 more employees: their offices, their parking spaces, and their lunch tables. To do this, the corporation tapped local designers HGA and oslund.and.assoc., firms with deep ties to each other and admiration for Modernist design.

This latest expansion is significant because of its size—it adds approximately 350,000 square feet of office space and 130,000 square feet of other employee use space—and because of its era. This is the first time the campus has added a major building in almost 30 years, a time period that has seen Modernism dwindle in favor, be relegated to regional strongholds, and then regain popularity both as a reference for new work and a raison d'Ítre for some preservationists. In addition, since 1958, landscape architecture has changed considerably, broadening its scope to include more involvement in regional planning, natural resource assessment, and ecological factors (the latter area was rarely a Modernist concern).

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