Heart of the City | Rochester, USA   

The Heart of the City project in Rochester, Minnesota, USA, is true to its name, reinventing the city’s downtown core as a vibrant pedestrian environment that amplifies the true character of Rochester — invigorating civic pride, and sparking a new sense of community connection. 

Phase one of the project, centering around renovation of the Peace Plaza, is an example of exercising elegant balance in design. The public plaza connects the Mayo Clinic with two surrounding city blocks brimming with hotels, shops, restaurants, and entertainment venues. Its new ambiance and identity needed to be a bridge, serving equally as an uplifting, healing atmosphere for the world-renowned medical clinic and a dynamic public space that energizes Rochester’s downtown culture. 

A community planning exercise kicked off Heart of the City, bringing together firms like Coen+Partners and RSP Architects with public and private stakeholders to arrive at a design masterplan that best represented the needs of all. The group identified twelve core design goals, and a celebration of public art became a guiding method to elevate all of the unique aspects of this multifaceted space. 

Welcoming groups to gather and adapting the plaza for a range of community events, Landscape Forms’ Studio 431 custom division engineered and manufactured an innovative modular platform, stage and seating solution that can completely transform the character of the Peace Plaza. Consisting of twelve large-scale rolling wood and steel platforms weighing up to 2500 pounds each, the solution fully embraces the community’s desire for dynamic programming while enabling the space to remain flexible, uncluttered and celebratory of its permanent art installations and interactive water feature.  

“We’re fortunate to have a really amazing team at Studio 431,” says Studio 431 Operations Manager, Caleb Nitz. “Architects and designers come to us with amazing, creative ideas and it’s our responsibility to provide a solution and a space that matches their intent. So, in considering both the art installations and all the community activities going on in the plaza, it was important that we offer mobility and adaptability in a really elegant way.”  

In Shane Coen’s eyes, Studio 431’s solution was an overwhelming success, elevating both the aesthetic and functional aspects of Peace Plaza. “These are large benches that you can push and pull and transform,” says the landscape architect and CEO + Founder of Coen+Partners. “You can put them together as a stage, you can turn them into dining tables, you could keep them as sculptural benches, and it all can move across the water throughout the whole plaza.” 

Importantly to Coen, the rolling platform solution not only addresses the specific needs of the Heart of the City project, but also serves as inspiration for future public projects. “I think it’s a great model of how to see a stage not as a stagnant element,” he describes. “It’s a great model for flexibility and a great model for a new way to see these types of open public spaces.” 

Design Partners:  Destination Medical Center, City of Rochester, Coen+Partners, RSP Architects, HR&A Advisors, Kimley-Horn & Associates, Latent Design, El Dorado (Hesse McGraw), Ann Hamilton, Gwen Westerman, Eric Anderson, Iñigo Manglano-Ovall, Kraus Anderson, Carl Bolander & Sons, Windsor Companies, Hunt Electric Corporation, Precision Hardscape, Global Specialty Contractors, Merit Contracting, New Line Mechanical 
 Custom Manufacturing Team:Landscape Forms’ Studio 431 Custom Division  

Photography: © Sahar Coston-Hardy/Esto and © Corey Gaffer/Gaffer Photography 

Landscape Forms is a proud Sponsor of World Landscape Architecture

About Damian Holmes 3339 Articles
Damian Holmes is the Founder and Editor of World Landscape Architecture (WLA). He is a registered landscape architect (AILA) working in international design practice in Australia. Damian founded WLA in 2007 to provide a website for landscape architects written by landscape architects. Connect on Linkedin at https://www.linkedin.com/in/damianholmes/