BEST VIEW - 2003
Most people think a great view is by definition a beautiful view. They want eye candy, be it glorious architecture, unsullied natural vistas, or some combination of the two. By such measures, the view from below the Lowry Bridge doesn't amount to much. But to our way of thinking, a great view connotes a certain breadth. It should contain elements of beauty and ugliness, decline and prosperity, hope and hopelessness. And by virtue of such contrasts, it should reveal something of the history and nature of a place. Such is the view from below the Lowry Bridge. The immediate environs constitute some of the bleakest, most forlorn patches of real estate in the Twin Cities--vivid evidence of the violence perpetrated on the land and waters. Just beneath the bridge sits a tiny, litter-strewn island that is topped by a single, scraggly cottonwood tree, its survival a testament to the natural world's ability to endure in the most degraded of settings. To the west is the American Iron & Supply scrap yard, where crushed-metal cubes are stacked in appalling mountains at the water's edge. Downriver a little farther are a few rusty barges, a dilapidated dock, and several heaping mounds of sand and gravel. All of this serves to evoke the fading industrial essence of the city. And then, in the deep background, is an utterly lovely sight: The gleaming Minneapolis skyline. With hundreds of lights reflected in the river's nighttime waters, it looks like a distant Oz, promising something clean and pure and vaguely magical, if only the gatekeeper would let us in.