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The Capitol Area Architectural and Planning Commission

Created by statute in 1967, the Capitol Area Architectural and Planning Commission (renamed Board in 1975) consisted of appointed citizens—four selected by the governor and three by the mayor of Saint Paul—and chaired originally by the governor (but now by the lieutenant governor).  Among its charges, the commission was "to preserve and enhance the dignity, beauty, and architectural integrity of the Capitol, the buildings immediately adjacent to it, the Capitol grounds, and the Capitol area."  In 1975, legislative action to more clearly define the numerous boards and commissions changed the commission's name to Capitol Area Architectural and Planning Board and allowed for appointment of one member each from both the house and the senate.

Under the scrutiny of the board, a number of changes have taken place that modify the Nichols and Nason plan of 1945.  In 1970, a "Comprehensive Plan for the Capitol Area" by Interpro, Inc. identified the relationship of streets, parking, and the garden areas which the streets segmented as "neither a pleasing visual setting or a functional motorist-destination relationship."  The plan further noted that "the mall must be designated for activities and facilities focusing on the human scale."(78)  Efforts to alleviate this problem and enhance the "human scale" goal included street closings such as Iglehart Avenue between Central Avenue and Twelfth Street in 1979; Wabasha between Central and Columbus in 1983; and the planned vacating of Fuller between Rice and Park streets in the fall of 1985.

A 1975 plan by landscape architect and CAAPB advisor, Dan Kiley, endorsed such street closings and provided for a mall with more human attractions including:  an outdoor café shaded by an arbor, formal gardens with native plants, an amphitheater set in a woody glade, and a lively pool with fountains in front of the Veterans Administration Building.(79)  The legislative appropriation of $1.2 million in 1984 for landscape improvements to the Capitol mall not only gave the CAAPB the means to move forward in implementing these plans but bro7ught forth many other ideas on the form these improvements should take.  Thus, understanding the responsibility inherent in making changes and improvements to the mall, the CAAPB began in 1984, together with numerous design professionals and interested parties, the process of reassessing the mall design and ascertaining what remains of Cass Gilbert's vision.

Map of Capitol grounds today
A map of the Capitol Area with the grounds as they appear today.  Wabasha, Iglehart and Columbus Avenues have been vacated to provide more unbroken landscaped areas south of the Capitol Building.

The CAAPB, as the agency responsible for protecting the architectural dignity of the Capitol Building and grounds, has legislative authority to sponsor competitions to determine the architectural design of all new state office buildings and significant projects in the Capitol Area.  To date, such competitions has included:  the Centennial Parking Ramp in 1970 (constructed in 1976); the 1977 Terratextural Competition for an underground annex to the Capitol, in which Historical Society exhibits and legislative offices would be housed (rejected for funding by the legislature); and the first Minnesota Judicial Building in 1985.  By legislative action, the Judicial Building will occupy the original Historical Society Building.  Thus, in 1984, the CAAPB undertook a comprehensive site selection process to find a suitable location for the new Minnesota History Center.  This facility will also be designed via an architectural design competition sponsored by the CAAPB.

As state government has grown over the last two decades the needs for proper design in the Capitol Area have quickened, challenging ingenuity.  It is fitting that today's ideas. As Cass Gilbert originally intended, seek to attract people to the State Capitol.

"There the rich and poor alike may find the history of the state and the ideals of government set forth in an orderly and appropriate way in noble inscriptions, beautiful mural paintings and sculpture and in the fine proportions and good taste of the whole design.

"It is an inspiration toward patriotism and good citizenship.  It encourages just pride in the state, and is an education to oncoming generations to see these things, imponderable elements of life and character, set before the people for their enjoyment and betterment.  The educational value alone is worth to the state far more than its cost—it supplements the education furnished by the public school and the university—it is a symbol of the civilization, culture and ideals of our country."(80)

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