Monday, December 3, 2007


i know it sounds like a cliché coming from a native new yorker, but aside from 2 trips in the late 90s to chicago, the midwest is a mystery to me. and though i can draw a map of the us quite well, i can only place the coastal states with any accuracy. this past weekend saw me in minneapolis which i am told is in a state called minnesota. everyone my age and older knows minneapolis from the mary tyler moore show of the 70s or from prince and the revolution. cultured peeps know it from the walker art center, which is the reason for my trip -- to do a museum shop meet and greet for members of the center.

we landed saturday into a snowy minneapolis and i drive the rental car on unplowed highways. the hotel, graves601, is a boutique hotel that would be comfortable in nyc, london or berlin -- common areas feature custom lighting [wood veneers over plexi boxes], floor to ceiling seamless wood paneling, plexiglass blocks glued to create post modern space dividers and the requisite overplayed lounge-crap mixed cd playing over and over and over in the halls, in the elevators, in the lobby [who thunk one could get sick of listening to ‘libertango’ by grace jones, but then again, i was never subjected to it 8 times a day for 3 days]. the rooms are not as ‘designed’ as the common areas, but spacious -- plus, i’ve never seen hermes soap before [it smells pretty]. 2 problems are the fact that the windows don’t open [bring candles or incense if you know what i mean] and there was no bath tub in my room [bathroom felt like a hospital]. the construction though is flawless, not a light switch poorly sunk, no corner imperfect, and no surface not plumb.

we ate at a place local to the hotel [in the warehouse district] called pizza luce which was great. my double shot of jaegger was only $5.25! we then went to a club called jetset though the snow kept everyone home, so we didn’t stay.

sunday was our trunk show at the walker. the walker is truly a wonderful institution. unfortunately, only one person showed up for my presence [the snow?] which made me a bit sad. it seems to verify my impression that americans really aren’t interested in designers like asian consumers are, which is fine as they still buy the product. again, it was probably the snow being the first major fall of the season. nooka does do well in the shop though, so i shouldn’t complain.

now back to the walker: the permanent collection is amazing, their staff is wonderful and friendly, and the building by herzog and mueron is a pleasure. the utility areas of the museum are playful herzog and mueron -- sharp angles with smooth seamless joins, glacial forms and light, combined with surprisingly utilitarian/practical gallery spaces. the transition from the fantastical to the practical going from gallery to hallway to gallery creates a sense of adventure to the sometimes tedious task of looking at the art [i went for the building but stayed for the art!]. (if there are any people who know construction details, i am curious as to how the interior walls are finished. they seem to be a plastic veneer over sheet rock with molded plaster joins. the surface has sponge/scrub marks all over the surfaces which brings you to my question: is this intentional or the unintentional leftovers of a poor choice of cleaning material? is it a wash of plaster over the veneer to attempt to match the surface with the plaster joins? i really want to know as it doesn’t match the smooth futurist aesthetic of the structure)

after the walker, we drove to see the new guthrie theater designed by jean nouvel -- and what an amazing building it is. it’s an imposing deathstar black onyx clad structure with a signature overhang jutting out towards the mississippi called the endless bridge [or is it bridge to nowhere?]. this building also creates an alice-in-wonderland experience as the blackness of the skin gives one an impression that the interiors will be smaller than they actually are -- a feeling exaggerated by the light colors of the interior walls. i think the best anaolgy i can come up with at the moment is akin to eating a dark chocolate cherry cordial for the first time: it looks like a solid chocolate but cracks in the mouth to release the liquid surprise of syrup and a bright vermillion maraschino cherry. it really is worth a visit. if anyone reading this knows jean, tell him i’m a huge fan of his.
we then had dinner with friends of friends who love in a fab converted loft condo, but i won’t bore you with details of what we ate or drank [cocktails in the condo, then dinner at azian, an uptown asian fusion spot]. they were great hosts who filled us in on the real estate market and design business in minneapolis as well as pointers for nightlife [nothing on a freezing sunday night].

i was told that minneapolis is famous for breakfast, so today we had breakfast at a place called hell’s kitchen [tried to go to ike’s, but they close the kitchen after 10 am for breakfast]. they played x-mas carols the whole time we were there, which confirms my suspicions of what the soundtrack in hell really is [i think i like libertango again]. the food was great, home-made bison sausage patties, local wild rice porridge, sickly sweet pecan cinnamon rolls, and eggs. no soy milk for my coffee was a minus though.

hotel check-out and then we went to visit status, a cool sneaker shop that will start to carry nooka. the owner, sly peoples was there -- he’s a well connected guy in the sports world. after that we visited the mall of america -- world’s largest mall. it’s actually quite impressive and a place where start-up brands test out franchises. there was a p.b. cafe [peanut butter themed sandwich + coffee shop] which has daily flavors of peanut butter like asian curry or sundried tomato...not sure it will be a hit. unfortunately, we had to get the rental car back by 2:00, so didn’t have enough time to see the whole mall.

so what did we learn this trip? that minneapolis has some great new architecture [i didn’t write about the minneapolis public library which is also very dramatic], friendly cultured people, a great sneaker shop, freeze-your-ass-off winters, the world’s largest shopping mall, bison sausages, headquarters for target, the start of the mississippi river, affordable real estate, and a sculpture of mary tyler moore!

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