The Xcel Energy Plaza is the redesign of an existing plaza at the utility’s corporate headquarters in downtown Minneapolis. Coen + Partners’ site plan seeks to create a flexible and contemporary outdoor space for downtown Minneapolis, while simultaneously designing for a variety of programs, including outdoor concerts and an annual fundraising event for the United Way. The presence of a large electrical substation from thirty to over 100 feet deep underneath the plaza (powering the electrical grid for all of downtown Minneapolis) both complicates the project and demands innovative design solutions.
The site strategy maximizes exposure of the 1965 Pietro Belluschi building, and the redesigned plaza, to Nicollet Mall and Fifth Street, while working within Xcel Energy’s strict security requirements and restrictions caused by the existence of the substation. A minimal palette of dark metals, black granite, overscaled concrete pavers, and native plants ties the plaza to its surroundings by reflecting the site’s underground layering and to the building through a darkened base plane. The plaza presents dual identities: a soft and inviting façade to the public, encouraging heavy daily use, and a serene datum to highlight the modernist architecture.