Lunchtime Tourist

Share this:
June 14, 2004 // UPDATED 2:07 pm - April 25, 2007
By: da Koutsky
da Koutsky

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