The threshold has been crossed into a new year. Walker staffers and a a few guests have had some time to mull over the notables and compile some handy lists. This is the first in a series of three posts. Get ready to contemplate lots of local and not-so-local art, design, technology and film, as well as good old fashioned lunchtime internet entertainment. Here’s a list of the lists for installment one:
- Here and There: Minnesota Design and Architecture Highlights for 2007, by Andrew Blauvelt, Design Director and Curator
- The Top 10 Video Games of ’07, by Brent Gustafson, Senior New Media Designer
- The Top 10 YouTube Videos of 2007, by Marty Marosi, WACTAC member
No teasers about tomorrow other than to boast that it’ll be good.
Here and There: Minnesota Design and Architecture Highlights for 2007
Andrew Blauvelt, Design Director and Curator
Any year-end list is bound to be a subjective exercise in remembrance, no matter how faulty, so with that caveat in mind, here are my highlights. Somewhat overshadowed by the hoopla surrounding some major Minneapolis cultural buildings that opened in 2006, the Benedicta Arts Center at the College of Saint Benedict in St. Joseph, Minnesota, opened in the fall of 2006 but seemed to get lost in the shuffle (or in my mind, at least), so it is for 2007. HGA, the architects of the note-worthy 1960’s original, were asked to expand the facility. Riffing on the color scheme of the original’s brick faade, architects Tim Carl and Jamie Milne-Rojek, mimic those hues but in anodized aluminum panels.
There’s context and continuity in the final design but also freshness and variety–a lesson that should be applied to many academic campuses, but typically isn’t. But it was a good year for academic campus additions in this list, at least. Vince James Associates Architects’ (VJAA) Petters Pavilion at St. John’s University in Collegeville, Minnesota, was a sensitive, but not slavish, expansion of the Marcel Breuer-designed campus. VJAA also completed the Lavin-Bernick Center for Student Life at Tulane University in New Orleans this year, an innovative take on the dynamics of climate, behavior, and program. I suppose the project was technically a rehab, although the results are much more transformation than renovation.
Speaking of out-of-state rehabs, MS&R (of Mill City Museum fame) reached beyond Minnesota to showcase their particular talent for adaptive reuse of historic sites, converting spaces at the old Navy Yard in Philadelphia for Urban Outfitters new offices.
Gold Medal Park next door to the Guthrie Theater opened in the spring, adding a refreshing and unexpected formality to the Minneapolis park system (not to mention some nicely designed lights and benches–Minneapolis, just say no to ersatz Victoriana) as well as much needed green space to the Riverfront area. The park’s focal point, a thirty-two foot high mound, affords some great views of the area and functionally serves to cap some contaminated soil from the area’s industrial past. As Tom Oslund, landscape architect for the project, put it, “ we tore down a parking lot and put up paradise.”
Further north, Duluth-based architect David Salmela captured an AIA award for the Clure Project, a collection of three houses (including his own) overlooking Lake Superior. Just getting your neighbors to agree on anything would be an achievement in and of itself, let alone a modernist enclave.
I finally finished my own modernist enclave in South Minneapolis: “ chez concret,” as my partner calls it, but officially dubbed the B&W House by Julie Snow Architects.
This year’s theme of local design in absentia continues with Process Type Foundry’s release of Seravek, a new typeface family by Eric Olson, who operates his business virtually but was otherwise physically located in Redding, England by way of Deerwood, Minnesota.
The locally based but globally produced Blu Dot Design ventured into upholstered furniture and significantly expanded their collection of modern furnishings. Particularly note-worthy are the Sprout table series, with its tripartite, open, tubular, metal legs with peek-a-boo color inside, and the Animal sofa, available in small and big, with a metal x-shaped base and contrast color-stitched tufting.
Speaking of animals, Jeff Koons’ smiling monkey design makes an appearance on a beach towel, but not just any piece of terry cloth. Target partnered with the Art Production Fund and several artists (Koons, Cindy Sherman, Elizabeth Peyton, and Kehinde Wiley) to produce the collection of towels–just in time for December’s Art Basel Miami Beach crowd, but available to all beachcombers via on-line purchase. (Ed. note: The towels don’t seem to be available on target.com anymore, but can be found here.)
And finally, photographer Alec Soth created this year’s Fashion Magazine–an unlikely mix of Parisian fashionistas and Minnesota Nice. For Soth, Paris Minnesota does not capture its subjects as much as it “ explores the distance between those two places.” Part here, part there.
The Top 10 Video Games of ’07
Brent Gustafson, Senior New Media Designer
10. Contra 4 (DS)
The original game made the “Konami Code” famous, but you will have so such luck with it in this game. Contra 4 is a throwback to the original, only it’s intended for the hardest of the hardcore. Most players will never get past the first level, it’s that menacing.
The best multiplayer puzzle game ever made is now in HD and rebalanced. You can now play as someone besides Ken or Donovan and actually have a chance to win! Oh, and no more “diamond trick” cheese either.
8. Knytt Stories (PC)
Perhaps the exact opposite of Contra 4, Knytt Stories is the zen master of platforming. More about exploration and abience than action, it’s a minimalist indie game that makes you rethink what being a platformer means.
7. Crackdown (360)
It’s Grand Theft Auto, only you get to play as the cops…and it’s better. Perhaps the best “sandbox” game to date, Crackdown lets you do just about anything. Did I mention you get superhuman powers to fight the bad guys? Only your imagination is the limitation here.
6. Desktop Tower Defense (PC/Mac)
The classic game of Tower Defense, with some new twists. Don’t let the fact that it takes place on a work desk fool you. You can’t play this at work, it’s simply too addictive, especially since it’s a free flash game.
5. Jeanne D’Arc (PSP)
A fictionalized anime retelling of the story of Joan of Arc as a Strategy Role Playing Game. One of the better SRPG’s to come out in a long time, with a lot of polish. But we should expect as much from the team that brought us Professor Layton and soon, Dragon Quest IX.
4. World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade (PC/Mac)
There’s a reason 9 million+ people play WoW. The Burning Crusade is the first expansion to the biggest Massively Multiplayer Online game ever created and it lived up to the hype. Now I just need to figure out how I’m going to get 5000 gold for my epic flying mount.
3. Metroid Prime 3: Corruption (Wii)
The third and final installment to the trilogy whose first game is one of the best ever made and then took a nosedive in the second installment, Metroid Prime 3 lives up to the original’s quality. It also reinvents how we will play and interact in First Person Shooters for years to come.
2. Rock Band (360/PS3/PS2)
Guitar Hero was just guitars. Rock Band is guitar, bass, drums, and singing together with three of your friends. Made by the guys at Harmonix who brought you the first two Guitar Hero’s, Rock Band is the pinacle of the genre, and perhaps the best party game ever made.
1. Portal (PC/360/PS3)
Part of the Orange Box (which also includes Half Life 2 and Team Fortress 2), Portal is not just the best game of the year, it’s the best game of the year by a mile. In an industry that doesn’t find truly new genres very often, it creates the First Person Puzzler, with its ingeniously simple use of portals that connect disparate locations to amazing effect. With some of the most outstanding (and hilarious) voiceover work ever in a game, and a wonderful finale, Portal has no equal.
Top Ten YouTube Videos of 2007
Marty Marosi, WACTAC member
- Cat Jumping over Baby Gate YouTube – Funny cat trys to jump over baby gate!
- Norman McLaren-Neighbors YouTube – neighbours – norman mclaren 
- Ninjas mess up YouTube – Afro Ninja 2
- Rube Goldberg Machines YouTube – Rube Goldberg Machines
- Japanese Pranks YouTube – Japanese Pranks in Huge Group
- Italian Spiderman YouTube – Italian Spiderman Trailer
- Zombie Kid YouTube – Zombie Kid Likes Turtles
- Grape Stomping gone wrong YouTube – Grape Stomping Gone Wrong
- High Voice talk show YouTube – Host Loses Control – Guest with High Pitched Voice
- Projectile Vomit on live TV YouTube – Projectile Vomit On Live TV