Friday, November 13, 2009

In praise of excellence

Once in a while you find something that is just so well done, you have to say thank you. Last month I discovered such a gem: the newly constructed Silverwood Park in St. Anthony, MN. Here's a message I sent today to Mike Horn, the principal architect of that park and its beautiful visitor center:


Mr. Horn:

To the many accolades you have already received for your excellent work on Silverwood Park, may I add this one citizen's praise for a job very well done. You have created a most beautiful and original piece of work that I hope will inspire many others. Items I particularly enjoyed on my first two visits to the park last month:

  • The amphitheatre to the east of the visitor center. The large stones that provide its seating on its west side are beautifully echoed by the more widely spaced stones on the east side that complete a large circle. Then, within that, you have the semicircle of paving joined to a semicircle of earth. All this makes for a perfect gradual transition from the natural land of the east to the visitor center on the west. As a plus, the stones on the east side are low enough to be quite accessible as a play object, both mental and physical. My first impression is of stepping stones that children could run and jump from, one to the next. Then I become aware that the distance between the stones is too large for that (and rightly so, making the land beyond seem more open), but that somehow makes the imagined jumping and leaping even higher: a playground for the mind for us adults.
  • The beautiful bridge to the island, and the vistas from the bridge and the island. I imagine a wedding procession of twenty or more descending in pairs from the visitor center to flow gracefully and elegantly across the bridge up to the high point of the island, where the ceremony would be held under the large tree there.
  • The visitor center. The ambience of the circular room that includes the fireplace is astounding. To be present there at no cost gives me a feel of great luxury and a bit of a thrill, as if I were trespassing in the lobby of a very expensive ski resort. The fireplace reaching high, beyond sight level. The wooden mantle beam, all the more interesting and natural for its furrowed crack. The many windows forming the eastern view, encircling the viewer with a panorama! I want to be there someday during a vigorous snowfall, to see the snow descending and giving motion everywhere the eye can turn.

Thank you, thank you. I am very glad that the Three Rivers Park District had the far-sighted support to fund your vision. May it inspire and rejuvenate others for decades to come.

Wayne Farmer

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