About Art In The Plaza: Creative City Challenge


Art in the Plaza: Creative City Challenge at the Minneapolis Convention Center
The Minneapolis Convention Center (MCC) and the Mayor’s Office of the City of Minneapolis announce a new, annual, two-stage competition for Minnesota-resident architects, landscape architects, urban designers, planners, engineers, scientists, artists, students and individuals of all backgrounds to create and install a temporary, interactive, site-specific, eco-focused “portal” to the City of Minneapolis on the Plaza of the Minneapolis Convention Center beginning summer 2013.

Initial responses are due by 4:30 pm CDT Monday, December 3, 2012. The prize for the final selected project is $50,000, inclusive of all artist fees and installation and deinstallation costs. Email conventioncenterplaza@northern.lights.mn with questions. Click here for free registration to participate in the competition. A complete request for proposal document can be downloaded here.

 If this material is needed in an alternative format please call Ahmed Muhumud at (612) 673-2162 or email Ahmed.Muhumud@minneapolismn.gov. Deaf and hard of hearing persons may use a relay service to call 311 agents at (612) 673-3000. TTY users may call (612) 673-2157 or (612) 6730-2626

Background: The Minneapolis Convention Center Plaza
The Minneapolis Convention Center (MCC) is the largest indoor, contiguous, convention center in the Upper Midwest with over 1.5 million visitors annually, including 250,000 during the summer months. The MCC is more than a meeting place.  It’s more than a show space. It’s a building all about building something else…relationships. The MCC has a goal of connecting with its community as an activity center while also acting as a gateway to Minneapolis for Convention Center visitors. 

Minneapolis is the perfect blend of natural beauty and urban sophistication. “City by Nature” is the official tagline for Minneapolis as a destination for leisure travel and conventions. This tagline means we’re a city that is really made from nature. We’ve got a multitude of lakes in the city. The mighty Mississippi River flows through us. We have farmer’s markets that support the growing agricultural scene in Minneapolis. We mirror this natural setting with the dynamic vibe of a thriving city. We’re a city that is infused with and surrounded by nature as if concrete structures sprouted in the middle of a park.

The City of Minneapolis is green. Green isn’t just a concept in Minneapolis; it’s a lifestyle. As one of MSN’s “World’s Cleanest Cities,” Minneapolis strives to make every aspect of our daily lives uphold this belief. We bike instead of drive. Our transit system is eco-friendly. We harness rain through rain gardens and green roofs. Our businesses take part in green practices via green roofs to create healthier and more efficient buildings. Restaurants are sustainable and earth-friendly by using ingredients grown here in Minneapolis.

Minneapolis is known as a city infused with creative energy. From Internationally recognized theatre, world class museums and music venues to community art projects that transform neighborhoods, the arts are a critical element of what makes Minneapolis a city on the cutting-edge of creativity. The City’s quality of life is greatly improved as a result of cultural offerings and these creative enterprises also contribute to a vibrant local creative economy. Recent studies have shown that Minneapolis’ creative vitality outpaces the national average by four and a half times and the metropolitan area ranks sixth in the nation for creative spending, jobs and organizational revenue.   

The designated site for the Creative City Challenge installation is the Minneapolis Convention Center Plaza, a magnificent opportunity to contribute to the vitality of Minneapolis through creative placemaking.

Summary of Required Services
The Creative City Challenge is for an interactive, eco-themed, temporary structure on the MCC Plaza, which is intended as a conceptual and physical portal for residents and visitors to the MCC and the City of Minneapolis. 

Respondents to this call are requested to provide a project concept to a public ideas competition, including a sketch and one page description, for the Plaza Portal. After public online voting, five proposals will be accepted for further development. A jury will select a final proposal for implementation on the MCC Plaza no later than June 7, 2013.

The goals of the Creative City Challenge at the Minneapolis Convention Center are to:

  • Draw residents of the city to the MCC as a vital gathering space for the surrounding area;
  • Provide a compelling “gathering” site for the MCC’s thousands of visitors spring through fall, which also encourages exploration of downtown and elsewhere in the city. 

These goals are directly related to the goals and strategic directions for the City of Minneapolis, the Minneapolis Convention Center, and Meet Minneapolis:

  • To add character to the city through a site-specific commission, which enhances the health and enriches the lives of Minneapolis residents;
  • Through an eco-focused theme for the competition, to further identify Minneapolis as an internationally recognized leader for a healthy environment and sustainable future;
  • To recognize Minneapolis as a center for excellence in architecture, urban design and the arts;
  • To enhance community identity and a sense of place in the MCC plaza;
  • To contribute to community vitality;
  • To deliver a consistently excellent pedestrian experience that inspires people to explore Downtown block after block;
  • To position Minneapolis as a national and international center for creativity and design.

The Creative City Challenge at the Minneapolis Convention Center refers to the following terms and ideas, against which the success of a proposal will be measured. These brief descriptions are intended to be indicative but not prescriptive and compelling creative interpretation is encouraged.

The Creative City Challenge at the Minneapolis Convention Center is an annual event and the Plaza Portal is intended as a temporary structure, which must open no later than June 7, 2013, and will be closed no later than September 30, 2013. The Portal must be de-installed within 14 days of closing. The Portal should function as planned within the budget provided for the entire period.

The Plaza Portal should have a dynamic component to it. This can be, for example, generating electricity through participation, responding physically or visually to audience input or input from other sources, such as weather or selected data streams. It may “interact” with varying light levels from day to night simply by mirroring them. Interactive does not necessarily imply a computational component to the proposal, although it can be. Note that the Portal should be designed as a stand-alone site, which does not require formal programming to activate it. It is not a stage.

The Portal will be installed on the MCC Plaza as defined above. It should take into consideration the Plaza itself, the MCC, the surrounding neighborhood, and the City of Minneapolis as its site. To download a dwg file of the Plaza, click here.

“Eco-focused” refers to one of the five primary goals of the City of Minneapolis to be an “internationally recognized leader for a healthy environment and sustainable future” with a particular focus by the MCC on waste, energy, and water. The Plaza Portal should promote, embody, and/or engage the public with a meaningful eco-focus.

The idea of the Plaza Portal refers to the MCC’s goal of connecting with its community as an activity center while also providing a gateway to Minneapolis for Convention Center visitors. As such it is a conceptual connection between residents, visitors, the Minneapolis Convention Center and the City. This may or may not be an actual portal, although it must be a physical structure.

Note that an event, even with architectural scale props, does not qualify as a temporary, site-specific installation. The intent of the Creative City Challenge is for an architectural installation of limited duration.

Creative Placemaking
“In creative placemaking, partners from public, private, non-profit, and community sectors strategically shape the physical and social character of a neighborhood, town, city, or region around arts and cultural activities. Creative placemaking animates public and private spaces, rejuvenates structures and streetscapes, improves local business viability and public safety, and brings diverse people together to celebrate, inspire, and be inspired.”¹

The MCC is a site of convergence for visitors to Minneapolis from around the world. It is also part of the local neighborhood and an important site in Minneapolis’ Downtown. No other American city has a chain of lakes, the mighty Mississippi, and 200 miles of walking, biking and cross country ski trails within the city limits – literally steps from the most vibrant arts and music scene outside NYC, the best shopping in the region, and museums among the finest in the nation. From ski hills to shopping malls. Muskie to Monet. Biking to Beef Bourguignon. Minneapolis is the American city where natural and urban drama share a single stage.

The goal of the Creative City Challenge is to knit these opportunities together to create an engaging site-based experience for both visitors and residents to enjoy their time in the city.

The Convention Center Plaza is an 87,000 sq ft (~2 acres) area bounded by the Convention Center, Marquette Ave and 12th St. South in downtown Minneapolis. It is the green roof over an underground parking lot, which means that there are weight restrictions—no more than 60 lbs per square foot--and no significant staking into the ground is possible. All final proposals will be reviewed by MCC and Walker Parking Consultants. Electricity is limited. The sprinkler system will have to be adjusted to accommodate the installation. The installation cannot prevent events from taking place. For an example of a large-scale event layout see here.

The triangle marked A on the diagram below is a good, self-contained area, which will not interfere with any events, but any part of the plaza, including the walkways, is available for a project as long as it does not preclude normal uses of the plaza, meets all code and regulatory requirements, and is an asset for the local neighborhood.

Minneapolis Convention Center Plaza

The Creative City Challenge at the Minneapolis Convention Center is open to Minnesota-resident architects, landscape architects, urban designers, planners, engineers, scientists, artists, students and individuals of all backgrounds. If submitting as a team, which is encouraged, at least 50% of the key members of the team must be residents of Minnesota.

Family members and employees of MCC or the jury are not eligible as finalists for the challenge.


  • Competition registration opens October 5, 2012. All registered entrants will be informed of upcoming deadlines and events, so we encourage you to register early, prior to finalizing and submitting your proposal. Register here now.
  • Questions about the Challenge must be submitted via email to conventioncenterplaza@northern.lights.mn before 4:30 pm CDT November 4. Answers to all questions will be posted on the website by November 11
  • Public information session at the Convention Center, 5 pm, Wednesday, November 14
  • Webinar presentation, 8:30 am, Thursday, November 15
  • Responses to questions will be posted by November 16
  • Phase 1 submissions are due by 4:30 pm CDT, December 3
  • Public voting will commence December 7 and finish January 7, 2013
  • The top 5 respondents will be notified by January 14 with additional instructions
  • Final proposals from the top 5 respondents are due by 4:30 pm CDT, February 18, 2013
  • Juried final selection with public presentations made by March 1
  • Installation no later than June 7
  • Installation closes September 30
  • Deinstallation and removal by October 14

Submission Requirements
A complete Request for Proposal can be downloaded here.  Free registration is necessary to submit to the Creative City Challenge. Click here to register now. Further instructions for the submission process will be provided upon registration.

Phase 1: Public Information
This information will be posted to the MCC website for voting

  • Project vision
    In no more than 500 words describe your vision of the Gateway Portal. It can be precise, pragmatic, poetic, visionary, but it should be realistic and convincing.
  • Project illustration
    Provide one and no more than 3 images of your proposed project. These do not need to be detailed plans, but should give some sense of the envisioned result. It can be based on a sketch, a CAD drawing, an altered image, or a construction, but the file itself must be in jpg, gif or png format, or a movie file in a .mov format no longer than 60 seconds.
  • Names of Team Members

Phase 1: Non-Public Information

  • Primary contact
  • Personnel
    Short description of team member strengths, special qualifications for this project, and anticipated project involvement, as well as biographical data of the primary participant(s). List the names and titles of key professional staff that are expected to work on the project if awarded the contract for professional services.
  • Relevant previous experience
    Relevant previous experience demonstrating the team’s ability to execute public park projects of a similar scope and size with a traditional as well as an innovative design approach. Include recent relevant projects with a list of references including reference name, title, address, telephone numbers and e-mail addresses, qualifications and awards.

Phase 2

  • Detailed proposal
  • Drawings and schematics
  • Budget
  • Installation timeline

Further information about what the 5 finalists need to present will be provided at the time of their notification.

Selection Process
The competition will be in two parts.  Initial responses will be juried by the public via a website; the top five viable candidates² will be given a $1,500 honorarium to submit detailed proposals, which will be juried by a panel of local and national jurors. The winner, who will be announced by March 1, 2013, receives a $50,000 all-inclusive fee to design, create, install and deinstall the project.

The jury has yet to be finalized. When it is, it will be posted to the competition website, and emailed to all registered participants. It will include the following:

  • 1 person chosen by the Convention Center
  • 1 person chosen by the Mayor’s office
  • 1 person from the Minneapolis Art Commission
  • 1 academic from the field of architecture, landscape architecture or urban planning
  • 2-3 outside architects and/or landscape designers

Evaluation Criteria

Phase 1 - Public
The public will be asked to vote for their favorite proposal.

Phase 2 - Jury

Artistic Excellence: The primary criterion for the project is artistic excellence. Does the proposal represent innovative ideas? Form? Community Participation? 

In addition, proposals will be evaluated as follows:

Temporary: Is it clearly a temporary proposal, which will last for the summer but which can be deinstalled without major repairs being needed to be made to the Plaza site?

Interactive: In what way(s) does the project engage the audience? Is the engagement dynamic? Is it compelling?

Site-Specific: In what ways does the project engage the physical site of the plaza?

Eco-focused: What ecological theme(s) does the project address? Does it demonstrate an ecological approach to creative placemaking? Does it engage the audience to think and/or act ecologically? Does it use in a significant way recycled materials? Is there an re/upcycling plan post-deinstallation? The ecological footprint of the proposed installation is an important criterion for the project.

Portal: How does the project address the concept of being a portal to/from the Convention Center and the City of Minneapolis?

Creative Placemaking: How does the project encourage and engage a social and/or community not just individual response to place?

General Guidelines

  • The project cannot prevent or unreasonably alter the use of the plaza for events or general enjoyment 
  • The project and the budget should address all of the necessary permits, requirements, codes and reviews, including sound.
  • The project should have insurance as required by the City of Minneapolis
  • Final details regarding the project will be subject to a contract with the City of Minneapolis.

Register here to participate. Email specific questions to conventioncenterplaza@northern.lights.mn before 4:30 pm CDT November 4. Answers to all questions will be posted on the Challenge website by November 16.


[1] Ann Markusen and Ann Gadwa, “Creative Placemaking,” A White Paper for The Mayors’ Institute on City Design, a leadership initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with the United States Conference of Mayors and American Architectural Foundation. http://www.nea.gov/pub/CreativePlacemaking-Paper.pdf

[2] Only projects that are deemed feasible as determined by the MCC will be sent to the jury to review

  • tripadvisorCheck out what other travelers say about Minneapolis on TripAdvisor.
DATES Check-in Check-out
» Advanced Search