Walking the Skyways

Photograph of a skyway in Minneapolis

Sometimes I walk the Minneapolis skyways, especially in the winter. I don’t see any interesting wildlife, but it’s an upbeat experience.

You can go for miles – through hallways, food courts, hotel and corporate lobbies, past offices and restaurants, and of course through the glass-and-steel corridors of the skyways themselves. The system touches 80 downtown blocks and is claimed to total 11 miles. So your route can be varied.

The skyways got started in the 1960s as a panicky response to the success of enclosed suburban shopping malls like Southdale. That battle was eventually lost, and downtown Minneapolis is no longer a big retail center. But more skyways got built regardless, in part because downtown companies wanted to attract employees. Today they connect all sorts of buildings new and old; you walk through decades of architectural trends, design fads, and remnants of long-gone businesses.

In a Minnesota winter, people need daylight; and the skyways deliver it, sometimes through glass ceilings that connect with the sky and the tall buildings. The architecture can be dated or futuristic, with touches of art and design here and there. I like to use a wide angle or fisheye lens to capture the feeling of stepping out into sun and open space.

Skyway in downtown Minneapolis

Being no longer employed, I get a strange buzz while passing through masses of white-collar workers on their way to lunch, chattering about office politics and IT problems. I can sit nearby with a sandwich and feel good that I’m not on my way to a “server upgrade status meeting.” Or I can drift over to the western rim of the system and look out over creaky old Hennepin Avenue, where the issues are more down-to-earth.

The frozen streets, the ice and slush – and the deeper problems and conflicts – are all just outside the big windows… down below….

Minneapolis downtown in winter

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