Monday, May 28, 2012

Remembering the Soldiers of the Grand Army of the Republic

At the end of the Civil War, Union veterans formed the Grand Army of the Republic. This organization gave the men who fought in the war a way to maintain fellowship with each other and to help widows, orphans, and handicapped veterans.  Membership was limited to those who had honorably served in the Union Army, Navy, Marine Corps or Revenue Cutter Service during the war. At its peak in the late 1800s the group had over 400,000 members and significant social and political influence, including initiating the observance of Memorial Day.

This memorial is at Lakewood Cemetery in Minneapolis. While the flags may mark some individual grave sites, only a few have stone markers, so it may be more of a memorial than actual burial ground.

Minnesota has a proud Civil War history. The men of Minnesota were active participants in significant battles (and suffered high numbers of losses) and the war had a long-lasting impact on the state’s psyche. Today there are still many monuments and memorials devoted to those who fought in the war.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Architecture of Lakewood Cemetery

Lakewood Cemetery is probably the preeminent cemetery in Minnesota. It isn’t the state’s oldest, or even the oldest in Minneapolis (that honor goes to the Minneapolis Pioneer and Soldiers Memorial Cemetery,  which was clearly visible through the windows of a friend’s apartment many years ago), but it has served as the final resting place of many of Minnesota’s most illustrious citizens.

Now is a good time to visit because those of us still among the living are out sprucing up the graves, scattering bouquets throughout the cemetery.

When (if) one thinks of “cemetery architecture,” various types of gravestones and monuments is probably what comes to mind.

But there is architecture on a much larger scale here as well. Most of the cemetery’s buildings are open to visitors today, allowing a comparison between three quite distinct periods and styles in the form of:
•    A sleek, but natural, contemporary structure
•    A 1960s modernist structure with a hint of 1930’s monumental style, and
•    An early 20th century Art Nouveau take on Byzantine architecture -with a hint of Arts and Crafts.

We begin with the newest of these, the newly opened Lakewood Garden Mausoleum. Designed by Joan Soranno and John Cook of HGA Architects and Engineers, the building is a graceful mix of sleek minimalism and well-grounded natural materials.
The Garden Mausoleum shares a courtyard with the Memorial Mausoleum. Built in the mid-sixties, the Memorial Mausoleum was designed by the Detroit firm of Harley, Ellington, Cowin and Stinson. To me, the exterior harkens back to the 1930s, but dark, plush interior has slightly cartoonish stained glass windows (based on themes from inspirational poems and religious songs) that seem very much a of the 1960s. 
That leaves one must-see building left to visit while we are here.

As far as I’m concerned, one of the most beautiful buildings in the entire state is the Lakewood Memorial Chapel.  Completed in 1910, the chapel’s structure was designed by local architect Harry Wild Jones who took Istanbul’s Byzantine Hagia Sophia as his inspiration. I can easily see the Byzantine influence on the building’s exterior.

The interior is another matter. Designed by Charles Rollinson Lamb, the interior was influenced by the Basilica of San Marco in Venice, Italy. . . or so it is claimed. It seems to me more like a wonderful mix of Art Nouveau and Arts and Crafts! (Those angels are classic Art Nouveau female figures.) Whatever the style, the 10 million-plus mosaic tiles of marble, colored stone, and glass fused with gold and silver make for a stunning interior.

The chapel is not regularly open, but can be visited on request if not otherwise in use. Information is available at the cemetery’s Administration Building.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Photographing the Weisman

My photo assignment for this week is to spend some time shooting Frank Gehry's Weisman Art Museum on the campus of the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis.

I've always loved this building, but haven't ever really spent any time photographing it - with a blazing late-afternoon sun it seems like this is a perfect day to try to catch the building aglow with the colorful light of a spring evening.

Things start off well. We approach along the Washington Avenue bike/pedestrian walkway across the Mississippi River, which gives us great views of the building itself. . .
 . . . and it's reflection in the windows of the enclosed walkway.
 As we get to the end of the walkway - and the building itself - the slowly setting is swallowed by a bank of clouds, muting the colors reflected in the building's shiny skin.
It's still a beautiful place to be.

More Minneapolis posts

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Photographing the Guthrie

A photo class has brought me back to Jean Nouvel’s Guthrie Theater.                   
I find to be one of the most difficult buildings to photograph well. As I’ve indicated previously, I find the Guthrie to be a rather uninspiring, a dark blob on the riverfront - not at all like the other Nouvel buildings I know, with their intricate construction and sense of movement (for example, the Arab Institute  and Quai Branly in Paris).

I don’t actually hate the building, but I am having trouble shooting the whole building in a way I find interesting (and have the right lenses for – I need my ultra-wide and it isn’t in my bag today) so I look to the building’s details for inspiration.
I probably should go inside (the interior spaces are fascinating), but it is a beautiful spring day so I turn my attention to the nearby mill ruins.
This is such a wonderful part of the city – it would be fun to live here. I wonder how much it would cost to buy one of these condos?

I bet I could even learn to love the Guthrie if I lived here!

More Minneapolis posts

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Baseball in the City

Spring seems to have settled in to stay for a while, making this once again a land of long balmy evenings.
 It is a perfect dayto be at Target Field for a Twins game.
 I love how what begins as a day game becomes an evening game, the lights of the city and on the field glowing against the darkening sky. Even if the team isn’t playing very well, it’s lovely to watch night settle into the city.
Of course, it would be better if the home team were winning. . .