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Minnesota Design Center Hosts Victor Gruen Event

The Minnesota Design Center hosts Austrian architect, Victor Gruen: Visionary Urban Designer | Cohosted by CAS and University of MN Press
November 14, 2017

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Press Contact:   Mason Riddle, 612.817.9888
                                Minnesota Design Center


Minneapolis, November 13, 2017 — The Minnesota Design Center is pleased to host Victor Gruen: Visionary Urban Designer, an evening dedicated to the life and work of the Austrian architect, Victor Gruen, on Monday, November 20, 2017. The event will celebrate Gruen (1903-1980), who designed Southdale Center in Edina, Minnesota, with a film screening, a panel discussion, a book signing, an exhibition, and a reception. The event is co-sponsored by the University of Minnesota Press and the Center for Austrian Studies, at the U of M. The event is free and open to the public.


When:                  Monday November 20, 2017, 5:15 - 8:00pm.

Where:                 100 Rapson Hall and 1 Rapson Hall, College of Design, U of MN, Minneapolis.

Admission:         FREE and Open to the Public.

Program Schedule

5:15:                      Opening remarks, by Tom Fisher, MDC Director.

5:20-6:15:            Film Screening: The Gruen Effect: Victor Gruen and the Shopping Mall, 2012. 54 min.  Written and directed by Anette Baldauf and Katarina Weingartner.

6:15-6:45:            Open Discussion: Tom Fisher, MDC director; Anette Baldauf, author and filmmaker, Vienna; Judith Eiblmayr, architect; and Alan Bruton, architect, Houston.

7:00-8:00:            Reception and Book Signing of Shopping Town: Designing the City in Suburban America, edited and translated by Anette Baldauf, Minnesota Press, 2017.

The event will begin with the screening of The Gruen Effect: Victor Gruen and the Shopping Mall, written and directed by Anette Baldauf and Katarina Weingartner. Following the 2015 film will be an open discussion led by MDC director, Thomas Fisher. The distinguished panelists will include cultural critic, author and film director, Baldauf, Vienna; architect and scholar Judith Eiblmayr, Vienna; and architect, Alan Bruton, who is the Director of Interior Architecture at the University of Houston, and who also plays the part of Protagonist in The Gruen Effect. Collectively, the panel will explore Gruen’s impact on the Twin Cities.

According to Fisher, “Gruen had an enormous impact on the Twin Cities.” Southdale Center, developed by the Dayton Department Store Company, was the first fully enclosed, climate-controlled shopping Center in the United States. It opened to great fanfare in 1956 and changed the personal shopping landscape, forever. Gruen also designed Brookdale Center (1962), Rosedale Center (1969), and Ridgedale Center (1974) and he was influential in the design of downtown Minneapolis. Gruen became known as the “father of the shopping mall,” a title he later vehemently rejected as mall culture, with its reliance on the automobile, evolved into something he never envisioned.

The open discussion will be followed by a reception where Baldauf will sign her book Shopping Town: Designing the City in Suburban America, recently published by Minnesota Press. The book, a collection of Gruen’s copious writings edited and translated by Baldauf, is a fascinating read, part memoir and part design philosophy. It follows Gruen from his early days as a radical theater performer, writer and designer in Vienna, to his escape to New York City as the Nazis took control, to his early elegant designs in New York City, to the flowering of his architectural practice.

The event also features a generous loan of didactic source materials from the Edina Historical Society Museum’s recent 2017 exhibition, Southdale: The Creation of a Cultural Landmark.  A selection of didactic panels and historic photographs from the EHS show includes images of the original farm site and early construction, photos of Gruen, the Dayton brothers, Southdale’s original public art program – Gruen insisted that the mall feature original visual art - and Frank Lloyd Wright’s much written about 1956 visit.

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The Minnesota Design Center is a research unit in the College of Design (CDES) at the University of Minnesota. It began in 1986, with a generous endowment by the Dayton Hudson Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the Dayton Hudson (now Target) Corporation.  Thomas Fisher, the former dean of CDES since 1997, became the MDC’s fourth director in July 2015.  Occupying studio space in the lower level of the Steven Holl-designed 2002 expansion of Rapson Hall, the MDC has a number of senior research fellows and Affiliate profession as well as graduate and undergraduate students working in the center, all of whom help our region achieve a more sustainable, equitable, livable, and resilient future through responsible design.