Streetscapes is a column devoted to Minnesota architecture. Writers critique, explore and explain the built environment, from brand-new buildings to revered older ones.

Downtown Minneapolis once set the standard for Christmas decorations

Penny Pilney, Miss Downtown 1963, flipped a switch at 9th Street and Nicollet Avenue to energize holiday lights.

People used to flock to downtown Minneapolis for its elaborate holiday displays.

Few will be blue as mirrored glass towers disappear from downtown Minneapolis

The Wells Fargo Operations Center, soon to pass from the scene. Will we miss these blue mirrored boxes?

The Wells Fargo Operations Center is slated next for replacement.

1910's St. Paul Hotel is just the latest hotel to grace downtown corner

Landmark Center, Lawson Software and the St.Paul Hotel in downtown St. Paul.

The corner of W. 5th and St. Peter streets has been devoted to the same use for more than 150 years.

Is there a future for neighborhood theaters in the Twin Cities?

They have a storied past. They can have a future — if we buy tickets.

Nicollet Mall, once an urban oasis, is now flowerless

The parklike greensward of the rendering for the planned remake doesn't match the current stark reality.

Why the Minnesota State Fair is the best small town in the state

The fairgrounds offer an eclectic mix of architecture, walkability and storefronts.

A sculpture made waves when it was installed in Minneapolis. And then one day it was gone

We went in search of "Inner Search."

The 'dangerous' days of downtown Minneapolis dance halls

A long-forgotten dance hall in downtown Minneapolis flustered local guardians of morality.

These Twin Cities Depression-era projects have stood the test of time

The Armory, the Minneapolis Post Office and a State Fair building are among those still actively used today.

The days of pins and pool in downtown Minneapolis

The forgotten life of a long-empty parking lot.

The story behind the makeover of the 50-year-old IDS Crystal Court

How the $5 million makeover, five years in the making and a model of sensitivity and ingenuity, came to be.

The skyscraper that could have redefined downtown St. Paul

When a promising office tower proposal fizzled in 1970, it set off a dispiriting architectural chain reaction.

RBC Gateway in downtown Minneapolis isn't splashy, but it's functional

Review: It's big and it's blue, but it's no threat to the IDS.

Readers help solve Milwaukee Road mystery

Two weeks ago, I asked for help with an answer to this question: When did the top of the Milwaukee Road Depot tower disappear?The…

The mystery of the vanishing top of the Milwaukee Road Depot tower

How long has the cupola been gone? And what happened to it?

Tiny World Theater was one of many stylish movie houses in downtown Minneapolis

Former New Garden Theater isn't much remembered today, but it had an interesting history that reflected the ups and downs of the theater business in 20th-century Minneapolis.

Billboards could bring some much needed life to downtown Mpls. streets

There was a time when billboards were fun, bright, vivacious and artistic.

Beautiful, useless towers adorned Twin Cities mansions in Victorian era

The mania for towers reached its height in the 1880s, when the busy Queen Anne style was in full flower.

8 missed opportunities on the Minneapolis streetscape

There's always room for improvement to make Minneapolis a more livable city.

Is the graffiti on Twin Cities sound barriers and ramps art or visual litter?

The longer it stays, the more graffiti appears.

Why the Dale Street I-94 overpass is a role model for freeway design

The Dale Street I-94 overpass incorporates pedestrians, bikes and saner car traffic patterns. It's also a tiny step in rebuilding the Rondo neighborhood.

Minnesota's five-and-dime stores were the Target of 20th-century Main Street

Dime stores offered everything from socks to hamburgers.

At the University of Minnesota's Pillsbury Hall, everything old is new again

One of the oldest buildings on campus was remade into the home of the university's English department.

A section of St. Paul's stately Summit Avenue was lost to the wrecking ball

The multi-block, mixed-use section of the storied avenue was on the edge of downtown.

These 11 projects by Minnesota architects won awards for excellence in 2021

Annual awards recognize sustainability and human scale as well as function and form.

Lyceum Theater was one of the first large entertainment venues in Minneapolis

After 70 years, the first Minneapolis auditorium gave way to today's Orchestra Hall.

Massive Harmonia Hall in Minneapolis went from a jewel to a rooming house

The downtown hall, which opened in December 1884, exemplified the busy, colorful Victorian Gothic commercial style.

Minneapolis' newest park is like a front porch on the Mississippi River

Design of Water Works Park and Pavilion achieves simplicity without being simplistic.

This long-lost St. Paul mansion had a link to 'Knives Out'

A shovel fortune helped build a mansion that once stood in the shadow of the Minnesota State Capitol.

Vast photo archive of the Twin Cities lets you compare then and now

Walter Norton and Clifford Peel left an extensive collection of commercial photography.

What does it say about Minneapolis that a dollar store is coming soon to Nicollet Mall?

Dollar General says DGX store at 5th and Nicollet is aimed at "metropolitan" customers.

Twin Cities work/live buildings have roots in the streetcar era

The live/work model isn't new. It's as old as the streetcar system in the Twin Cities.

One of the quirkiest buildings in downtown Minneapolis began as a roller rink

Buildings often went through multiple uses in 19th-century Minneapolis. The Crocker-Leland rink was no exception.

Following Minneapolis' lead, wood office buildings are popping up nationwide

Developers are turning to wood for its versatility and sustainability.

Archives of an architecture firm reveal a Minneapolis that was never built

Ed Baker's drawings and models of past projects give us a glimpse of what might have been.

1970s Mpls. activists saved Milwaukee Avenue's modest homes from teardown + Photo Gallery

A grassroots effort fought a plan to raze modest "Joe Sixpack" houses on Milwaukee Avenue that dated to the 1890s.

In 1950s, modernizing Minneapolis saw a major loss of modest buildings

At least 300 small buildings have disappeared from downtown Minneapolis since 1950. Here's just one worth mourning.

While workers were away: Six new buildings on the Minneapolis skyline

The pandemic hasn't stopped construction in downtown Minneapolis, where the skyline continues to change.

Outdoor dining has breathed new life into Minnesota restaurants

Because of safety concerns, ease and aesthetics, outdoor dining has caught on in Minnesota.

Twin Cities auto showrooms once were as beautiful as the cars

Back when cars were things of wonder, the showrooms boasted architectural elegance.

What's the future of Minnesota's small-town downtowns? Hint: It's not Mayberry

Minnesota's small-town downtowns have a future, but it won't look like past.

3 Black architects on how race has shaped our environment in Twin Cities

It's time to take a hard look at who has the power to shape our environment today.

Minnesota's 'front porch,' the State Capitol Mall, is a graveyard of Victorian architecture

Now Minnesota's "front porch," the Capitol Mall was home to mix of Victorian dwellings.

Minnesota's Great River Road is a lesson in history, ecology and design

A drive along the Great River Road follows the Mississippi from the past to the present.

With pandemic and protests, Minneapolis streets transcend transportation

How can we facilitate a wider range of uses for our roads?

Minneapolis' skyways are getting little use now, but they'll eventually be popular again

While they're getting little use now, these essential downtown connectors will eventually come back to life.

Key Twin Cities malls are being transformed into town centers

Well-located and managed by savvy owners, a few powerhouse malls continue to evolve and thrive.

Often overlooked, parking ramps reflect Twin Cities history

Advancements in engineering transformed the technology, scale and design of parking structures.

The 1913 widening of St. Paul's Robert Street gave the city room to grow

More than 30 buildings, many dating to the 1880s or earlier, had to be torn down or have their front lopped off 20 feet.

Where does Minneapolis seem most deserted? The skyways

City sidewalks aren't the real measure of how vacant Minneapolis is right now.

How closing Kmart and finally reopening Nicollet Avenue will change Mpls.

Reviving the once-busy thoroughfare can help create a more vibrant, connected city.

Why do new plans for Upper Harbor Terminal in Mpls. repeat old mistakes?

Analysis: We need new kinds of development that will eliminate disparities, increase affordability, and generate jobs.

With Kowalski's coming to Southdale, the first U.S. mall gets closer to roots

With the addition of a grocery store, Southdale moves one step closer to its original vision as a community hub.

How the Twin Cities could be designed for winter livability

A few humble street corners show us how to create a "patio culture" year-round.