Examples of Skyline Views vs. Axial Views

Last week, I put up a column on Minnpost about the difference between skyline views and "axial views," which are a concept out of Baroque or City Beautiful style planning. Here's how I described the difference:
Axial views occupy a special place in urban history. During the 19th century, city planners took great pains to transform European cities with long avenues terminating in public squares. Paris’s boulevards are the most urban axes, built where the powerful city planner Baron von Haussmann bulldozed boulevards through the dense confines of working class Paris. These views tied the city together along wide streets that connect landmarks like the Arch de Triomphe.

The Paris example is widely known, and you'll find these boulevards and landmarks all throughout late 19th century art and literature.
[Pissarro's painting of the axial view of L'Opera.]

[The Arche de Triomphe.]

[Haussman's axial boulevards.]

[The classic axial view. Note: all the cars.]

 This is not to say they weren't problematic. Much of the impetus behind Haussmann's creation of these boulevards came from an uprooting of the working class, the replacing of thier homes with new bourgeois housing, and the desire to accomodate more traffic through the unruly city for often military or policing reasons.

[Barricades during the 1871 Paris revolution.]

[Image taken from David Harvey's book.]

Twin Cities' Examples

The axial views in the Twin Cities fall into two categories: accidental and planned. The latter is an easy thing to describe, because examples are so few. As I described in my piece, the Minneapolis Plan for 1917 was basically a Haussmann-style plan (though more directly modeled on more recent and more proximate Burnham Chicago plan):

[The 6th Avenue boulevard for Minneapolis.]

Along the way, the Minneapolis plan (never built) references efforts in Saint Paul to plan the State Capitol Grounds around a "trivium" (or three-road) City Beautiful design that would emphasize the monumentality of the Capitol, the Cathedral, and downtown. While it involved bulldozing a whole bunch of historic Saint Paul buildings, this is one of the Twin Cities few examples of a City Beautiful plan that actually got built.

The original plan looked like this:

Today's capitol mall complex is pretty close. Here is the panoramic view of downtown and the cathedral:

[Three axes coming together.]

A similar planned from Smith Avenue on West 7th street also frames the Capitol building as a terminal focal point. According to a friend of mine, "the architect of the capitol envisioned the building interacting with this street/view. (I think it was called Mohawk then)." Anyway, this is the view from near my house, and it's an excellent lesson in vanishing points and scale:

[Smith Avenue.]

An odd Minneapolis example is the axial view from along Victory Memorial Drive on the Minneapolis/Robbinsdale border. The construction of long terminal views, which were then seen as somehow civilizing, is pretty much the only thing that can explain this weird park/road:

You might argue that the view of downtown Saint Paul from West 7th Street is also a planned axial view, as the street was not always straight as an arrow. Anyway, once you cross the (largely unnecessary) railroad bridge by Saint Clair Avenue, you get a lovely axial view of downtown from the street:

[Farther away on top; closer on the bottom.]

Accidental Axials

Other than that, there are a few accidental axials scattered around as well. I'd place the Selby Avenue view of the Catherdal in this category:

[Selby Avenue. H/t Matty]

Here's the view up Nicollet Avenue that terminates in fine white walls of the Hyatt Hotel:

[Nicollet Avenue.]

As well as the view of City Hall from Park Avenue (whose layout probably predated the construction of City Hall in 1906):

[Park Avenue.]

Here's another accidental City Hall view from the Warehouse District:

[I think this is 2nd Ave S.]


Once you get past that, you're left with skyline views. Because the skyline sticks up, you can see it from lots of places througout the city. Here are some of the most interesting skyline views of Minneapolis sent in by readers:

[From Cedar Lake Trail. H/t Michael.]

[From the UMN transitway. H/t Michael.]

[From the railyards. H/t Mike.]

[From Cedar-Riverside. H/t Sian.]

[From the 15th Street bridge. H/t Scott.]

[From Lauderdale. H/t Steven.]
[From the 24th Street Bridge. H/t Cassie.]
[Again with the bridge. H/t Joe.]


Anonymous said...

There's a decent accidental axial view in St. Paul on Thomas looking east towards St. Agnes.

Anonymous said...

I'm guessing it's accidental, but there's a great axial view of City Hall on Riverside Ave in Cedar/Riverside.

Unknown said...

One of my favorites is going south over the I-35W bridge at night and seeing the glowing skyline of downtown Minneapolis and the river.

Anonymous said...

Whether intentional or accidental, the bell tower addition (2006) to Central Lutheran Church provides an ultimate axial view as you proceed south(west) on 4th Ave. from Washington Ave. to 11th St.