Located in downtown Minneapolis, Xcel Energy Plaza is situated between the bustling pedestrian avenue Nicollet Mall and transit-oriented Fifth Street, a unique parcel of open space in the city core. The site itself is embedded in the density of city systems both above and below ground, demanding innovative design solutions to blend into both. Just thirty feet below the plaza, a large electrical substation continuously powers the electrical grid for all downtown Minneapolis, giving yet another meaning to the Xcel Energy Plaza and demanding detail, compliance, and careful foresight in the design. This project seeks to create a flexible and contemporary outdoor space for downtown Minneapolis through the revitalization of an existing plaza at Xcel Energy Plaza’s corporate headquarters.
The overall design strategy maximizes exposure of the 1965 Pietro Belluschi building to the plaza, extending both to the street and into the public realm. A minimal palette of dark metals, black granite, large-scale 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. In its serene datum highlighting the modernist architecture and its soft and inviting edges, the plaza blends the dual identities of a functioning piece of infrastructure and a public space in the city’s center. From casual lunch meetings to various outdoor concerts and large fundraising events, the design embraces a variety of people, programs, sizes, and seasons.