Futons, Fabric, Yarn, and Irony

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After finishing the field study, I explored Cedar-Riverside and was astonished to see a luxury futon store in the midst of the neighborhood’s many ethnic businesses. While the windows of Al Karama and Sagal, the two stores next to Depth of Field Futons, are covered in advertisements for a cheap international phone service, DoF displays a futon that would barely fit a kid in elementary school yet costs $837. Adding to the irony, one can see the reflections of Malabari Kitchen and Riverside Plaza while they admire opulent futons. I have a difficult time imagining that many in Cedar-Riverside’s immigrant population could afford to shop at Depth of Field, and thus I find its presence troubling. Does the store’s presence indicate depressed commercial real estate values that could lead to commerce-driven gentrification? Is there an increasing number of individuals moving to the area who can afford such expensive futons, indicating residential gentrification? All I can say for certain is that I won’t be shopping at Depth of Field.

Old and New Near U.S. Bank Stadium

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Approaching U.S. Bank Stadium on the Green Line, I was immediately struck by the mix of buildings located nearby—specifically, the contrast between older, seemingly run-down buildings and the many new apartments and office buildings. Many of these historic brick buildings are for sale, and I wonder how long it will be—if ever—before they are torn down and replaced by more new apartment complexes.

Minnesotans’ Strange RelationShip with U.S. Bank Stadium

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Having heard the opinions of many Minnesotans on U.S. Bank Stadium, I find it fascinating that by far the most common complaint about the building is that it allegedly fits in terribly with the Minneapolis skyline. To be sure, many Minnesotans like the stadium, and many more despise it because they consider the venue a waste of money. Yet the predominant complaint is not around the stadium being an unworthy investment—it has to do with U.S. Bank’s prominence in the skyline. I have noticed a similar trend in Seattle, Washington. Many Seattleites I have talked to dislike Amazon primarily due to the impact the company’s construction has had on changing the physical landscape of the city, rather than because Amazon’s rapid growth has quickly gentrified Seattle. While these are generalizations, reactions to construction in the Twin Cities and Seattle demonstrate just how meaningful physical landscapes—and skylines in particular—are to city residents.

Saint Paul’s White House

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This house is located near Saint Paul’s Irvine Park, and, according to Ramsey County, was built in the middle of the Pre-Industrial Period—1864. Four spectacular ionic columns dominate the structure’s façade, subtly reflecting classical influence. The mummy is likely a later addition to the home, but one can appreciate its Halloween aesthetic this time of year.

“Greenspace”

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This photo was taken in the plaza at the foot of the beautiful Landmark Building, a Richardson Romanesque that is on the National Register of Historic Places. I view this particular landscape as problematic—or, more exactly, “needing correction.” At their best, plazas provide a comfortable space in which people can connect. The stone paths lining Landmark Plaza are jagged and barely continuous; thus, I believe they do a poor job of promoting the above plaza ideology. Further, the contrast here between dirt, stone, gravel, stone again, and dirt again strikes me as very displeasing. I would appreciate the Landmark Plaza much more if it used materials in a more thoughtful manner.

Phone-osynthesis

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Rice Park in downtown Saint Paul boasts a wealth of trees. Interestingly, electrical outlets were installed in front of most of them. The outlets certainly increase the duration of many visitors’ trips to the park. However, I wonder if the electrical features facilitate meaningful interaction with the landscape or diminish it by encouraging visitors to stay focused on their electronic devices. Due to the physical arrangement of the outlets, it often looks like visitors plug their chargers into the park’s trees; one could argue that this is an ideological landscape that symbolizes the restorative power of nature. That said, most are probably too busy looking at their phones to evaluate the landscape.

Coca-Cola Without Much Pop

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This building, 262 4th St E, was constructed in 1906 (per Ramsey County). Though it now houses apartments, one can see a trace of its life during the Industrial City era in this Coca-Cola ad. Perhaps this faded and barely legible advertisement adds fiscal value to the apartments, and that is why it remains. If not, it at least adds historical insight and a sense of place to the area. Light rail power lines are prominent in this photo, reiterating that, while Saint Paul has a strong historical foundation, its story is constantly being written.

An All-Weather Destination

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Though it was in the high 80s and incredibly humid when I arrived at Mears Park, the weather didn’t deter this group from taking wedding photos outside. Large swaths of Mears feel like natural areas in the middle of a busy downtown, and these greenspaces provide a great backdrop for pictures. Moreover, the sprawling yet decorative brick foundation of this park helps give it a sense of place—one so strong that it can lure wedding-goers even in miserable conditions.