The Next Starchitect?
How do you build a shockingly successful career in architecture before the age of 45? (Hint: It helps to have gobs of talent, Frank Gehry’s phone number, and the best last name in Minnesota.)
(page 1 of 4)Margee says to Peggy, We’re getting nowhere. They’re friends and neighbors, these two women, taking their morning constitutional in the Mill District near their condos. Margee—that’s Margee Bracken—is a board member at the MacPhail Center for Music, and she’s talking about their building campaign. After some 80 years in a bland brick box, MacPhail is planning a new campus near the Mill City Museum and the Mississippi riverfront. They’ve got a finished design and a full set of schematics. What they don’t have is a lot of enthusiasm. And in the nonprofit world, where there’s no enthusiasm, there’s no money. And where there’s no money, there’s no building.
Peggy—that’s Peggy Lucas—knows from buildings. She’s a partner at Brighton Development, the company that brought you some of the city’s nobbiest condos. In fact, she’s got a fantastic project called the Portland going right down the block from MacPhail’s stalled site, on the new Second Street slugger’s row made by the Guthrie and the Mill City Museum. The architect for that building, Peggy says, is a rising local talent with an acclaimed arts center in the western suburbs. So Peggy tells Margee: You should call Jim.
Margee calls Jim (let’s hold off on a last name for now). A few days later, he turns up to meet her and MacPhail’s director, toting a small 3-D model and a Moleskine notebook of sketches. A few weeks after that, Jim and his 11-member Minneapolis firm have a contract to design the $13.5 million project. Just like that.
This story raises a couple of questions. First, could social networking—two friends and power brokers kibitzing on the riverfront—be any way to build a great civic building? (You might want to reserve judgement until January 5, when you can see the new MacPhail.)
Second, who the hell is Jim?
The Portland is a hole in the ground. It’s also an exactingly crafted basswood model, sitting on a plinth in the entryway to Jim’s architecture studio. The elevator doors open and there you are, looking at the mini-Portland.