Streetscape arches go up downtown; whadya tink?

Streetscape arch Streetscape arch Streetscape crosswalk Streetscape arch Streetscape arch
The City installed the new streetscape arches yesterday at 3rd and Division St. The one in the left two photos is over the walkway to the river between the Northfield Arts Guild and the Contented Cow. The one in the right two photos is over the walkway between the Archer House and the Nutting Block building where the new crosswalk (center photo) was installed a couple weeks ago. That crosswalk now has bright green pedestrian crosswalk signs for both directions.

Click photos to enlarge, take the straw poll, and attach your comments.

Anyone can take the poll. Only lurkers and strong silent types are allowed to comment. Me? I love ’em!

[poll=13]

9/5 update: more photos

streetscape arch streetscape arch streetscape arch Griff Wigley on streetscape arch

64 Comments

  1. Er, I don’t get it.

    Do they do something? What are they for? Are we supposed to decorate them?

    September 1, 2007
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  2. Dan Bergeson said:

    I’d understand Peter’s question. I think it’s expecting too much of the passerby to connect the gateway bridge icons with the Cannon River with just a visual clue. I still hope that we’ll get wayfinding signs that point the way to the “Cannon River” and “the Riverwalk.” That’s the point, after all, isn’t it? To beckon folks to the river.

    September 1, 2007
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  3. Robbie Wigley said:

    I am baffled by the supposed connection to the river walk by these constructions. My personal opinion is they are way too industrial in contrast to the rest of the architecture around them, especially the ornate stone work on the NAG building next door. The street lamp is now completely blocked visually. If they had a visual clue… like maybe repeating the round designs of the river bridge rails or some of the other structures around them it could help them tie into the area.

    They look like stacked and painted spools with a train bridge across the top. To add even more to their oddities, the one is so off set… it looks like a mistake. There had to be a better way to make that work. They look temporary, something that would announce a fair, then be dismantled till next year.

    Sorry I really don’t like them.

    September 2, 2007
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  4. Bill Metz said:

    Just my opinion, but, they are unattractive, they get in the way of foot traffic flow, interrupt the view, and will not draw people to the river. I am not sure how they tie in with the architecture?? (don’t get me wrong, I am not looking for an “Old West” look) They kind of look like a couple of miniature iron bridges on top of two fire hydrants on steriods.
    Maybe if people were given more of a reason to go down to the river, they would. A stroll is nice, but I may choose to do that only a couple of times a year. Out door dining, attractive store fronts, etc would get me down there much more than I already am.

    September 2, 2007
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  5. They would make more sense on each side of the footbridge, or perhaps on the entrances to the RiverWalk itself -especially the 4th Street steps.

    The one by the NAG building looks like it was lowered in by a helicopter, but the ‘copter missed, then left and called it a day.

    It also looks cluttered with the street lamp so close behind it.

    The Archer House arch looks better with the white truss of the arch echoing the Archer House’s white front porch.

    Are the trusses supposed to look like the old 4th Street bridge? (I think it was the 4th Street bridge that looked like that.)

    If that’s the case, I’m not sure how any but those most familiar with Northfield’s history would understand the connection.

    September 2, 2007
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  6. Rob Hardy said:

    The off-center one by the Northfield Arts Guild looks like it’s just come stumbling out of the Cow. Or perhaps it’s been consuming gateway drugs.

    September 2, 2007
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  7. Dingding! Two points for Rob Hardy! “…gateway drugs.” Good one.

    September 2, 2007
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  8. Scott Oney said:

    Does anybody know who paid for the “arches,” and how much it set them back?

    September 2, 2007
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  9. Peter Waskiw said:

    For a town that likes to think of itself as artistically advanced, I think someone forget to ask those who know what good “street art” looks like within the context of main street downtown. For heavens sake, they look like they belong to toy train sets. And as someone else mentioned, one is not even centered, it looks like someone misread their tape measure. Please, can the guilty party own up! Perhaps, you should have consulted the HPC, or did you?

    September 2, 2007
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  10. Bill Metz said:

    my bad….they are replications of iron bridges. I was just downtown and read the signage.

    September 2, 2007
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  11. Larry DeBoer said:

    The dogs in Northfield will love the iron structures. They are always looking for a place to stop and raise one of their back legs to relieve themselves. Now we have fire hydrants, light poles AND Cannon River guide posts. We have, indeed, kept our rural, small town character.

    September 3, 2007
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  12. Krin Finger said:

    Apparently the streetscape email doesn’t work.
    I urge you to send your comments and concerns to:
    joel.walinski@ci.northfield.mn.us
    He is the the only city staff member left from the streetscape taskforce of 2006.

    September 4, 2007
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  13. Ross Currier said:

    I had a reason to be going in and out (again and again) of the Arts Guild this morning and I’ll say one thing for the Riverwalk Gateways…

    …they seem to be drawing visitors downtown.

    Every time a passed them this morning (at least a half dozen times), there was a new group of people standing by them, looking at them quite closely, and making comments about them.

    September 4, 2007
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  14. Jerold Weber said:

    I just don’t understand how these arches are supposed to draw people in after they see them for the first time. Me personally I have to live with them next to our store Sweet Pea’s Loft, Formerly known as dbutterfields. I see the people and comments that are being made and the overall consensus is, The are ugly and don’t make sense or fit into our towns overall asthethic appeal. The post taht the arches stand on are ok if painted black to match other elements in our town i.e. light posts.
    I understand no matter what we will never be able to appease everyone, but I think we could have let the towns people atleast vote on design ideas, if these were payed for with tax dollars.

    September 4, 2007
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  15. Tracy Davis said:

    I blogged on this almost a year ago when I first saw the plans – I was appalled, and thought the things might be hideous. But I’ve done a 180, though the survey says I’m in the statistical minority – I actually like them.

    I like concept, materials, and design – and the tie-in with Northfield’s history. I don’t think it matters that not everyone will “get” the historical allusion. The design of the arches is of a piece with other existing and proposed metal streetscape elements – lighting, signposts, railings, benches, etc. I don’t experience any cognitive or aesthetic dissonance when I see them adjacent to the old brick buildings.

    I’ll rate them a 7 out of 10.

    September 5, 2007
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  16. Griff Wigley said:

    I’m with you, Tracy. See the new photos in the blog post. The arches look great at night, IMHO. And if people don’t quit criticizing them, I’m going to have to continue my sit-in/hang-in thru DJJD.

    September 5, 2007
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  17. Jessica Paxton said:

    You’re right, Griff. Like most things (including myself), the arches look much better at night.

    I especially like the last shot. You just need to add this:

    http://www.johncolemanburroughs.com/tarzan/mgmyell.mp3

    (I hope this works; I’m a bit of a luddite).

    September 5, 2007
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  18. Larry DeBoer said:

    Griff, the night pictures make them look like gallows – might come in handy this weekend when the raiders show up at the bank.

    September 5, 2007
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  19. Jessica Prill said:

    I am a total supporter of street art. I love sculpture but these are not art to me at all. Especially the one that isnt even centered correctly. If it wasnt going to fit why put one in?! Why don’t we find some really great sculptor to do some interesting pieces to enjoy while walking along the river? I think that would help pull people down the allys and it could be a fun thing to tell others about. There is a neat park in lansburrow Mn. (cant spell that) that has a park full of scultures made out of bike parts. They are really neat and imaginative. What if we tried fun art like that? I dont know just a suggestion.

    September 5, 2007
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  20. john george said:

    Did anyone check the engineering studies on these bridges? We don’t want them falling down on visitors!

    Actually, I think they are an interesting concept. They don’t take up a lot of space. They don’t appear to impede traffic flow, and they are related to the river walk behind them. This is just my Bauhaus design training showing through, though- form follows function. If you don’t like the appearance of them, that is fine. I think it is difficult to come up with anything that appeals to everyone. As far as having some other type of sculpture downtown, where would it be put? My hat’s off to the committee for doing SOMETHING.

    September 10, 2007
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  21. Philip Spensley said:

    I find the poles (supports for the arches) and especially the pedestrian crossing sign obtrusive and obstructive and dangerous…all of them as something else to impede traffic (pedestrian) flow, and something else to potentially bump into.

    The edges of the pedestrian crossing sign are sharp and appear to be at a terrible height, so if you walk into, or get pushed into, one sideways…major ouch…major gash…someone could cut their jugular).

    I consider that we are over-directed anyway. Don’t we recognize a cross walk when we see one…now we need to have a sign to tell us what it is? (what next?), and if someone is going to jay walk they aren’t going to all of a sudden choose to cross at the cross walk because the sign is there now. Ah, but, you say, those signs are for motorists! What, way back behind the diagonally parked cars, some of them vans or SUV’s, and so not exactly obvious at best, and completely hidden at worst?

    Re the arches, I agree, art is one thing (and let’s have some downtown), but these definitelly aren’t art. I believe that functional should also be aesthetic, but they aren’t even functional, so what are they? …to me it’s more ugliness and clutter. And they are not more human scale anything. Just more metal.

    If we “need” the arches, between the buildings, leading down to the river, they’d be better if they were attached to the buildings rather than having big metal poles helping to narrow and block the walk ways. What do they “say” or “indicate” or “mean” or “point to” or “enhance”? The design at the top strikes me as a bridge frame design…(the former bridge which no longer there, by Bridge Square?) … So this defines Northfield? 99% of visitors wouldn’t get it. Maybe most Northfielders would not. They strike me as a waste of money…and prove the adage that not all ideas are good ideas (and that even good ideas when poorly executed make for poor results).

    Were artists, architects, the Historical Society, or the Design Advisory Board consulted? Was there any public input? If so, I missed it.

    September 10, 2007
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  22. Griff Wigley said:

    Sat. Nfld News: Archways aim to enhance downtown

    Both arches, installed late last month, are made of two steel columns. Across the top of each is a replica of one of the city’s former Cannon River bridges. The arch south of The Contented Cow depicts the old Fifth Street bridge, which stood from 1886 to 1963. A reproduction of the Second Street bridge sits atop the arch next to Archer House. That crossing, also built in 1886, came down in 1976.

    September 10, 2007
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  23. Griff Wigley said:

    In Suzy Rook’s very helpful Nfld News article:

    Each of the structures cost the city $14,000, Public Services Director Joel Walinski said. Their design and installation were approved by the Mayor’s Streetscape Task Force and reviewed by the Heritage Preservation Commission, Walinski said.

    I poked around the city’s website a bit. The Mayor’s Streetscape Task Force Members were:

    • Steve Edwins – Heritage Preservation Commission
    • Bob Will – Heritage Preservation Commission
    • Michael Budd – Design Advisory Board
    • Mary Rossing (Present Perfect) – Business Owner
    • Krin Finger (The Rare Pair) – Business Owner
    • David Ludescher – Northfield Area Chamber of Commerce
    • Joe Grundhoefer – Northfield Downtown Development
    Corporation
    • Mark Faggerwick – Northfield Historical Society
    • Rebecca Bazan – Northfield Arts Guild

    Members of Heritage Preservation Commission:

    * Peter Carlson
    * Clifford Clark
    * Susan deMalignon
    * Steve Edwins
    * Maggie Lee
    * Judy Swanson
    * Mary Titus
    * Bob Will
    * Steve Wilmot

    See the 90 page PDF of the May 2006 Streetscape framework.

    September 10, 2007
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  24. Griff Wigley said:

    Where is a recent sketch of these arches that was shown to the Task Force and the HPC and the general public prior to them being approved? I see there were two concepts for them on p. 56 of the Framework (see pdf above). Click this image to enlarge.

    arches-p56.png

    The purpose of the walkway arches is to define pedestrian access to the Riverwalk from Division Street. This element will serve as an additional wayfinding component and can be utilized in the future to define access into public parking and pocket park areas. The design of this element should recall the river and the historic 4th/Water Street bridge adjacent to Bridge Square. The design of this element should also relate to other streetscape elements within the Downtown and should incorporate ornamental metal into the design, to help create a cohesive palette of materials for the streetscape elements.

    A series of pedestrian gateway arch concepts were prepared as part of this project, as seen below, and the City has hired a consultant to refine the preferred concept alternative and prepare construction drawings for future implementation.

    September 10, 2007
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  25. As work-hour resident of one of the buildings next to the one of the archways, I have to weigh in and say that I actually kind of like them. Sure, these perhaps aren’t necessary, but then what art or decorative improvement is really “necessary”? Sure, they’re also not perfect (the one next to the Guild could have been taller, for instance, giving it a better sense of scale against the walls of the two buildings it connects), and likely given enough resources we could have found better designs–but the fact that something better could have existed doesn’t make these arches bad. They’re quaint and colorful. They provide a sense of continuity through one block of Division street and from the street to the river, and I understand they’re just one part of a comprehensive city signage plan that will have a similar color scheme and structure. Frankly, I’m not sure exactly what people are objecting to.

    And I should explain something: I was told by a city admin that the reason why the arch next to the Arts Guild is situated as it is (seemingly “off-center,” as many people have described it) is because the original plan, which had the arch situated at the head of the walkway but against both the walls of the Guild and the building nextdoor, had to be scrapped. Long ago, sometime in its history, the foundation of the Guild’s building settled to the point that its walls are tilted. Putting the arch up against the Guild walls would have made this more apparent and would have looked very bad indeed. The currently location was a compromise, as no doubt were many details of the project.

    September 10, 2007
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  26. The arches offend nearly all my artistic sensibilities as they are placed. It’s another case of putting one thing on top of another on top of another just because you can.

    September 10, 2007
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  27. BruceWMorlan said:

    I like them, but the raging debate reminds me of why I stay out of the arts and in the sciences. I could not take the heat of having my work be defined as good or bad based on opinions and the like.
    (Actually I am just testing to see if the lock out is over).

    September 10, 2007
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  28. Christine Stanton said:

    Griff, I tried to post a link under “Northfield Citizen” to the Streetscape presentation you mentioned (#25) during the ban on frequent posters, but it was screened out. The plan seems to include using past/present points of interest in Northfield for signage. For instance, the tops of the kiosks will have a replica of the roof of Old Main etc..

    The concept is interesting and original. My only concern is continuity. It seems that the signage should look simular enough that people can see if from a distance and know it is part of a directional and informational group.

    One thing that I think would help on the new arches is words. Both the examples in the plan had the word “Riverwalk” on them. Maybe part of the continuity between all the pieces in the plan might be the use of the same lettering. I hope they consider adding the wording to the arches. If the purpose is to draw people to the Riverwalk, it should be labeled as such. Otherwise they are not directional.

    September 10, 2007
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  29. Peter Waskiw said:

    I like the telescope design look on the posts (not), it makes me want to look for button to push. Perhaps we can put some flashing lights above the little bridges that say “River Walk”.

    September 10, 2007
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  30. john george said:

    Has anyone been to Sedona, AZ.? EVERYthing there is the red color of the surrounding stone! It is the only city in the US with a Mc Donalds that doesn’t have the yellow arches. They made the company paint them sage green! Now, I think THAT is pretty narrow. At least here in Northfield, we are diverse enough to allow some different designs. I don’t think we can ever reach unanimity on something like this, and I think it is fine to have different preferences, but I think it must be a little discouraging for the Streetscape Task Force folks to hear all the disparaging remarks about them. Hopefully, they are not easily offended. I, for one, applaud them for their efforts.

    September 10, 2007
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  31. David Ludescher said:

    $14,000.00 each to help people find the river?

    September 11, 2007
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  32. Anne Bretts said:

    OK, let me get this right. The city requires business owners to pay thousands of dollars to meet historic standards in window replacements, then turns around and puts these very contemporary and useless arches next to the historically accurate buildings?
    I could understand wood or metal arches with those historically accurate signs leading to the river, but it’s crazy to think people will understand the bridge as a guide to the river. Didn’t the city spend many dollars and hours discussing the perfect fonts and colors for historically themed signs?

    September 11, 2007
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  33. Jerry Bilek said:

    I believe it was Sgt. Hulka who said “lighten up Francis.”

    Would everyone be so harsh with their criticism if they were face to face with the artist. Imagine instead of ranting about the arches via a blog, you were in the same room as the artist and streetscape committee members. Now tell me what you think of the arches?

    I like them!

    September 11, 2007
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  34. David Ludescher said:

    I was on the Streetscape Committee. If only 1 out of 6 (17%) like them and they cost $14,000.00 each, then I would say that we made a mistake.

    Perhaps we need to rethink the $0.5 million to redo the post office parking lot slated for 2008.

    September 11, 2007
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  35. Anne Bretts said:

    David, my problem is that I don’t see how they fit into the bigger picture. I liked the early drawings with the RIVERWALK lettering. I think if the bridge became the logo, the lettering were included, and everything were coordinated it might work. It’s just that right now they don’t seem to have a context, which makes them seem jarring against the historic structures. It was a surprise after all the discussion last year about historic colors and lettering.
    I do appreciate the hard work and the risk-taking. Maybe it’s just a matter of providing some context — and giving folks not used to change a chance to adjust.

    September 11, 2007
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  36. john george said:

    There is a lot of reference to historical context in some of the posts. The problem with history is that it is just that- history. When we build something with historical context, which part of history are we addressing? There is no possible way to come up with some simple design that encompasses every historical phase of the Northfield river front. The committee decided on this particular snapshot, and that is OK with me. The bridges they are based upon were not wood, they were metal. Also, a wood design would be much more maintainence and not nearly so long lasting. (Actually, maybe that would be better in this case. Then, in 20 years, when they are ready to fall down, we could stir up the locals again with something else.)

    September 11, 2007
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  37. Peter Waskiw said:

    David,
    Being on the Streetscape Committee for these things, did you think they would look like this? That is, the new position and the funky looking posts? I am interested in understanding how people on the committee visioned them vs actual built (how they are now).
    On the other note, perhaps you right, 500k could be spent better elsewere rather than revamping a parking lot. I wonder….

    September 11, 2007
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  38. David Ludescher said:

    My recollection was that there were going to be 4 arches and that the cost was $12,000 total. I didn’t care about the design because the arches were supposed to be “way-finding”, and not works of art. Further, I continue to object to spending money to send people to the back of our businesses (i.e. the riverwalk).

    September 11, 2007
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  39. Peter Waskiw said:

    Does any one know if the telescope poles were part of the original design? We established the location was not on one of them and the bridge design changed also. Gosh, if we can the poles right, I would hate to think what the comp plan will look like.
    Griff, you did ask what we thought or tink!

    September 11, 2007
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  40. Peter Waskiw said:

    Mr George, What is the historical context of the posts as is?

    September 11, 2007
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  41. john george said:

    Peter- There is no historical significance to the posts, as far as I know. It appears they were put there to hold up the bridge replicas. They appear to be purely functional. Not being privy to the work up of the design concept, I could only speculate as to their inspiration, and I choose not to do that.

    My son is currently working on a streetscape design for a small town in N. Dakota. I know that his research into the local history of the town and his interviews with that city council are a basis for his concept. I’m assuming that that type of research was done here, since this is part of a plan laid out by a licensed Landscape Architect.

    September 11, 2007
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  42. john george said:

    Peter- Maybe I responded to your question incorrectly. My comment on historical references in the “posts” was aimed at the comments that have been “posted” in this stream. Were you asking me about this or the actual “posts” used in the arches? Blasted English language- sure gets me into a lot of trouble!

    September 11, 2007
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  43. Peter Waskiw said:

    Correct. I was asking about the posts/poles used for the arches. I suppose others may know if there is actual historical references
    in the posts/poles. The pictues I saw showed different posts desing, but they also focused more on the arches or bridges and location.

    With all the whoa about historic preservation, I would like to know what historic relevance the design has in the context of DT Northfield. Don’t get me wrong I like historic designation.

    Also after learning about the changes after the fact, does the actual final product reflect what some thought they were approving/endorsing vs the actual built. It would seem not except for the bridge type design on top.

    Being 12,000 each, I would like to know why my tax dollors are spent in such a way!

    September 11, 2007
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  44. Griff Wigley said:

    Michael Fallon #27), thx for weighing in with details on the reason for the one arch being offset. As director of the NAG, maybe that’s worth replicating on your blog!
    http://northfieldartsguilddirector.wordpress.com/

    David, re: the poll results thus far, be cautious about them. It’s only a straw poll.

    From Suzy Rook’s article:

    The arches’ support poles may soon become a familiar sight. Walinski said the same design may be reused for the wayfinding signs, also planned for downtown. The first of those signs should go up on Division Street by early next month, Walinski said. The city will invite comment on that sign, its design and effectiveness in directing visitors to various locations throughout downtown.

    Anyone have details on how this feedback process will work? Maybe the arches will make more sense once the wayfinding signs are in place.

    September 12, 2007
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  45. The cards would read;

    Northfield, Mn
    Cannon River Walk
    Join the Fun!

    on the back, a map and locations to entry

    approx. 4 x 8 inches

    September 12, 2007
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  46. Is anyone aware that posts are sticking somewhere and it’s taking forever to type anything into the comment box since you put up the preview box below it? I am running Linux, not Windows, so it may just be Linux users if not set up correctly.

    September 13, 2007
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