Woven Networks: Reinventing Street Life in Downtown Minneapolis
Williamson, Andrew Bradley
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<bold>Woven Networks: Reinventing Street Life in Downtown Minneapolis</bold> The most unique feature of downtown Minneapolis is the extensive Skyway system that links over sixty city blocks above the streets and sidewalks allowing its users to completely ignore any activity occurring below them. The system has become so prevalent it has now become the primary means of movement for pedestrians, leading to empty streets and sidewalks and a lack of welcoming and vibrant public space. What is more, most people now consider the Skyways to be public space despite the fact that they are owned and operated by private entities and the city has no control over who can use them and when they can be used. The Skyways have created a downtown that more closely resembles a suburban mall rather than the lively and diverse hubs of activity commonly found in most other North American cities. This thesis proposes a new network of public space meant to link the existing Skyway level activity to the street level. By making better and more clear connections between the two, along with designing streetscapes that are better geared for use by people rather than cars, it is believed that this new network can help create and sustain the type of street life and activity present in other downtown cores. The new network will be raised above the street level in order to allow for more direct visual and physical access to the outside from the existing Skyways and it would include direct and accessible connections between the Skyway level and the sidewalk below. It is meant to augment much-needed street level enhancements to make the sidewalk more appealing to pedestrians. The existing Skyways comprise a rather rigid system that does not respond to its surroundings; the new network will be adaptive to allow it to change along with its surroundings as the city grows and increases its density. The new network proposed in this thesis will be treated like an infrastructure that stretches across the downtown neighborhoods for the public's benefit. The Skyways fail as an infrastructure now due to its restrictive nature and the inconsistent way in which it is operated. By taking advantage of the current activity present in the Skyways and by creating clearer and more direct connections to the sidewalks, this thesis endeavors to bring people into the public realm and dramatically alter the way they live and work in downtown Minneapolis.
- Architecture