View the full June issue of Matrix.

Pausing and Asking

By Mary-Margaret Zindren, AIA Minnesota Vice President

Architecture MN magazine and AIA Minnesota had months ago begun planning an event with the Walker Art Center as part of the grand re-opening of the Sculpture Garden. The event was to be a panel discussion focused on the interplay among architecture, landscape architecture, and public art.

And then the context changed.

“Scaffold” was erected. Outrage was swift and deeply felt, particularly by Dakota people who had not been engaged in advance. Debate swirled about the nature of public art, appropriation, provocation, how history is told and who tells it, and who our cultural institutions are cuing toward in their decision making. Calls for boycotts. A mediated plan to ceremonially remove the structure. Promises to restructure governance, to revisit agreements; to learn and to change.

Prior to the results of the mediation being announced, we reached a joint conclusion with the Walker staff that the panel originally scheduled for June 15th would be cancelled or postponed indefinitely. This will allow for re-conceptualizing of both the content focus and who should be included in this public engagement event, and will provide time to determine whether Architecture MN magazine and AIA Minnesota would be the appropriate co-sponsors of such a reconceived program.

Cultural institutions and nonprofits throughout the state – especially those with connection to the arts and design, and who work to engage the general public through their programming – are working to glean lessons from this situation as it continues to unfold.

It’s worth pausing as a profession to ask some of the same questions of ourselves that are currently being asked of the Walker. Questions like:

  • What is the architect’s role – currently and historically – in creating spaces that are inclusive?
  • How can we determine the degree to which an environment is inclusive?
  • Are there circumstances where it might be appropriate for a space not to be designed with inclusion in mind?
  • What complexities and challenges are involved in addressing these questions?

We would welcome your take on these questions – and any others you think need to be explored. Let us know your thoughts at  The member perspectives received will be shared with the AIA Minnesota Board of Directors and staff, and will inform our work over the weeks and months to come.

View the full June issue of Matrix