Lunchtime Tourist

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October 8, 2002 // UPDATED 1:31 pm - April 30, 2007
By: written and illustrated by Linda S. Koutsky
written and illustrated by Linda S. Koutsky</I>

South 11th Street and Nicollet Mall

How do you handle the challenge of designing a beautiful building for a prominent Downtown location when it needs to be covered with unsightly satellite dishes, microwave screens, and weather-tracking equipment? You embrace the problem, not run from it.

When WCCO-TV wanted to move their studios to a new location in 1983, they hired the internationally known New York architectural firm Hardy, Holzman, Pfeiffer Associates. HHPA already had a local presence with their bold 1974 design for Orchestra Hall (designed in conjunction with HGA). For this project, they designed a three-story stepped structure punctuated with large, windows and copper accents. A giant, utilitarian, curving shield is dotted with communications technology. It makes a bold statement that this is what television is all about.

The facade of the building is rough- and smooth-cut Kasota limestone quarried in the Minnesota River bluff country north of Mankato. It formed at the bottom of the Ordovician sea that washed over Minnesota 500 million years ago. On some cuts of the stone, you can see fossil evidence of marine invertebrates -- they're typically circles or elongated ovals under three centimeters in diameter. Even though Kasota stone is a sedimentary rock, it's relatively resistant to weathering and has been a popular architectural stone both locally and nationally. It's hard to miss in the Twin Cities.

Just for fun, here's a trivia question: what's the name of the company on which the WCCO acronym was based? WCCO radio got its start in 1924 by the Washburn Crosby Company (W.C. Co.). The milling company's star product was Gold Medal flour -- named because it won the grand prize at the first International Millers' Exhibition. The founders opened a radio station just to promote it. Washburn Crosby eventually evolved into General Mills and the radio station was joined by television in 1952.

A recipient of several awards of its own, this contemporary building makes for a multi-historic lunchtime destination -- and if you're lucky, you might catch a glimpse of a TV personality.

LUNCH TIP: Cross the street for burritos at Chipolte.

Send your comments to thelunchtimetourist@hotmail.com.