Le Corbusier Comes to Minneapolis
By the 1950s, Nicollet Island was in a fairly advanced state of neglect and was one of many concerns the city faced in figuring out what to do about its aged riverfront. While most developments in later years sought to draw inspiration from the city’s historic roots, this was not often the case early on. Much of the north loop was completely wiped out in the 1960s by the desire to create a “clean slate” from which to build a new city. In his master’s thesis of 1958, architect/urban planner Norman Day (1933-2002) expressed a similar vision for Nicollet Island.
Mr. Day, a Wayzata native and U of MN graduate (1955), earned his master’s at M.I.T., then returned to Minnesota to work several years for the Met Council as the director of physical planning studies. He later moved to Philadelphia, where he worked mainly as an urban planner until retirement. His thesis, “The Redevelopment of Nicollet Island,” proposes a rather Corbusian solution in which the entire island is razed to the ground, replaced with tower blocks and highly ordered buildings, roads, pathways and trees, and even a helipad at the south end to deliver residents to and from the airport. In describing his vision, Mr. Day wrote, “The overriding premise of this design is a belief in the necessity of treating Nicollet Island as a single piece of architecture to be molded and shaped like a homogeneous piece of sculpture.”