Lunchtime Tourist

Updated: April 25, 2007 - 2:07 pm

Gaviidae Common, Nicollet Mall between 5th and 7th Streets

Sure, we'd all rather be at a lake today than in the urban bustle of Downtown, but with a little stretch of the imagination, Gaviidae Common can be your own lunchtime escape.

The idea for this upscale shopping center was envisioned by Brookfield Development's vice president, who had just finished reading the book "Loon Magic." Author Tom Klein referred to an Ojibwe legend of the loon being the first act of creation (and when the sun shined on its dark feathers, the loon was given its distinctive white markings).

Hand an idea like that to renowned architect Cesar Pelli and there's enough inspiration to fill two whole city blocks.

Phase one of Gaviidae (the Latin family name for loon), includes anchor tenant Saks Fifth Avenue and opened in 1989. Azure blue industrial beams, Italian marbles, glass block and gold accents fill an atrium topped off with the largest barrel-vaulted ceiling in the state. The two-tone, hand-painted celestial design is a graphic representation of Minnesota's Northern sky, complete with gold-leaf "stars."

Presiding over shoppers is the namesake loon sculpture. This bronze bird weighs 600 pounds, has a wingspread of 20 feet and was designed by Sussman/Prejza of Santa Monica, Calif. -- the company responsible for award-winning graphics at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, Walt Disney World and in downtown Philadelphia.

When the less extravagant second phase, anchored by Neiman Marcus, was completed in 1991, Downtown's first fourth-floor skyway connected the two wings.

In addition to this Minneapolis landmark, Cesar Pelli & Associates designed Downtown treasure the Wells Fargo building, 90 S. 7th St. We're all hoping for a third Pelli gem when the firm's Minneapolis Central Library opens in 2006. In the meantime, enjoy the vast blue sky, babbling sounds of multistory waterfalls and dream of being up North.

LUNCH TIP: While I don't think loons eat tuna, you can -- at D'Amico & Sons on the first floor of the Neiman Marcus wing.

Send your tips to thelunchtimetourist@hotmail.com.

Lunchtime Tourist

Updated: April 25, 2007 - 1:53 pm

'Circus Flyers'

Butler Square, west atrium,

100 N. 6th St.

Butler Square is truly one of the great adaptive reuse projects in this country. Transforming a massive dark warehouse into a light-filled office and retail space was visionary.

The first atrium opened in 1973. When the west atrium was renovated in 1981, the building owners hired one of America's premier sculptors to create a piece for the space. George Segal's plaster cast figures were already well known in the area and seen in collections at the Walker Art Center, 725 Vineland Place, and the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, 2400 3rd Ave. S.

Born in 1924 to Eastern European immigrants, Segal balanced working in the family's poultry farm with making art. After earning undergraduate and graduate degrees in art, Segal taught to earn a living. A student brought in a couple rolls of plaster bandages, and Segal's art was forever changed.

The human casts reflected his humble roots. He portrayed factory workers, bus riders, gas station clerks and ordinary people doing ordinary things. He is considered one of the founding members of Pop Art and one of the most important figurative sculptors of the 20th century. Check out the shifting view of "Circus Flyers" from one of the glass elevators.

SCAVENGER HUNT ANSWER

Last week's column should have led the adventurous to the Foshay Tower, 821 Marquette Ave. As a boy, Wilbur Foshay visited the obelisk-shaped Washington Monument and vowed to honor his childhood hero when he made his fortune. Designed by Minneapolis architects Magney & Tusler, this 1929 landmark was the tallest building in town until IDS Center went up in 1971.

The Foshay Tower remains a revered monument, but Foshay's own legacy collapsed with the stock market crash and he never lived in the lavish two-story home on the 27th and 28th floors (look for the balconies).

LUNCH TIP: Spring for a chicken Caesar wrap in Butler Square's own Champps restaurant.

Send your tips to thelunchtimetourist@hotmail.com.