21.9.15

Notable Quotes #3: Gil Peñalosa Describes Twin Cities Downtown Skyways

[A thriving public space in the Saint Paul skyways.]
From MPR's recent interview of famous urban designer Gil Peñalosa, founder of the 8-80 Cities movement:

Tom Weber: Tell me your thoughts especially here for the Twin Cities, we have a very unique aspect, the skyways.
We have these second floor walkways so that you can walk between buildings, so that in the winter you don't have to go out in the freezing cold in the snow. There's a lot of debate about the effects on the economy if you don't have those street level businesses there. Where do skyways fit into the 8-80 model?
Gil Peñalosa: The skyways are absolutely horrible. They should be ...  The best thing that could happen, if God was generous, is to come up with an earthquake that would only affect skyways and nothing else.

The skyways really work like a gigantic vacuum that sucks the life out of the city. The skyways are like commercial shopping malls, elevated, where they don't want the poor people, the don't want the youth, they don't want anybody who's not going there to shop.

And also you don't have enough people to have them on the skyways and and on the street. You see, I have many many photos of the streets here where there are skyways. On the street level they are empty. They are like ghost towns. There are blank walls. And as soon as you enter the skyways, life flourishes. All of a sudden you start having flower shops, coffee shops, and so on.

Of course I know that there is winter in the Twin Cities. But you only really have about 15 horrible days of the year. And in addition to the 15 horrible days, you have another 60 or 70 pretty lousy days. But you have 250 nice days in the Twin Cities! So when we build the city around the 15 horrible days, we mess up the other 350. My advice to the city is let's build the city around the 250 really nice days, and then the 60 pretty bad or 15 horrible days are not going to be as horrible.
[A vibrant streetscape underneath the Minneapolis skyways.]

[See also William Whyte on Saint Paul's Blank Walls, Jean Baudrillard on "Minneapolis."]

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