IDS Center : Icon of 70s Cool

One afternoon in 1972 I drove a rusted Beetle into downtown Minneapolis and walked into the future: the brand new IDS Center. It was unbelievably cool.

Photograph of  IDS Center in Minneapolis Minnesota

Its 775 feet of ultra-modern glass and steel towered over Minneapolis like a recently landed starship from some highly advanced civilization. On street level was the cavernous Crystal Court, an indoor public square with a glass roof w-a-a-y up there. Somewhere up at the top was observation deck with near-orbital view. The other 57 floors were a total mystery: guys in expensive suits doing Business and Finance, whatever those were. Big City stuff.

Photograph of  IDS Center in Minneapolis Minnesota

Also way up on top was a swanky night club, the “Orion Room”, with floor-to-ceiling windows that looked out over the city at night. The club and the observation deck eventually fell prey to soulless corporate bean counters who converted them to office space.

Photograph of  IDS Center in Minneapolis Minnesota

The building still seems cool today because architect Philip Johnson crushed it with all that bluish glass, the ‘stepped’ corners, and those timeless straight lines that go up, up, up. And it’s the hub of the downtown skyway system.

Photograph of the Skyway at IDS Center, Minneapolis

The Crystal Court has had ups and downs; originally an open public space, but later turned over to drab retail kiosks. A bar and night club overlooking it on mezzanine level was replaced with a boring walk-in bank. Years later, the pendulum swung back; the kiosks went away and comfy benches were installed. Today, you can once again go in there, sit down and kick back, although you’ll be on the radar of some very visible security guards; they enforce new rules drawn up to discourage transients from hanging around for any extended time. So don’t nod off or they’ll be on you – just look up.

Photograph of the ceiling of Crystal Court, IDS Center, Minneapolis

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