SECOND + SECOND Courtyard  by

2022 Residential / Minnesota / USA / Built in 2020 /

The SECOND + SECOND Courtyard is a new urban fabric that stitches a private housing development into the Historic North Loop District of Minneapolis. The project re-imagines privately owned space as public realm, using texture, planting, and infrastructure to create a welcoming, immersive, and resilient place. Three key spaces- the Garden Street, the Portal, and the Foundry Court– connect to and through a city block amplifying the character and materiality of the district while scaling inspired spaces for residents and the public to interact. The project sets a new precedent for elevating developer-funded projects as an investment in quality urban space shared as a resident amenity.


The 1-acre site sits within the North Loop Neighborhood, a historic warehouse district listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and the former site of a foundry work yard. The site is also linked to the Mississippi River and first attracted early logging and milling, followed by commercial manufacturing and warehousing as rail yards were established. In later decades the character of the neighborhood changed again, and the site was cleared as a part of the city’s Gateway demolition project in the 1960s and turned into a parking lot atop a brownfield site.


The landscape architect engaged in a process investigation of the site using photographic methods, clay castings, collages, and drawings to capture the range of qualities of the site. This documentation was pulled together with an artist collaborator in an exhibition called “Residuals”. This work also generative during the design and documentation process informing and shaping the overall design and details.


The Garden Street is a pedestrian’s first introduction to the space. The boulevard planting is a lush garden experience featuring native and resilient perennials and trees, creating an immersive threshold for visitors coming to the space. Custom metal guards frame and protect the planting areas and strategically located furniture at intersections amplify everyday social interactions and scale the street.


Mediating between the courtyard and the streetscape, the portal links the Garden Street to the Foundry Court. A large opening is carved through the ground floor of the building, using reflective surfaces, lighting, and framed views to pull people into the heart of the space. The portal is lined with mirror polished stainless-steel, creating a playful illusion of additional space that draws walkers into the courtyard.


The Foundry Court creates a new activated heart for the neighborhood that reflects its past use as a work yard for the adjacent former brass and aluminum foundry. The entire courtyard sits atop above a parking structure, and integrates stormwater, lush planting, and dynamic surfacing.

Three types of Bluestone paving patterns indicate different space use. Inspired by the process of metal casting, custom precast site furnishings provide a series of seating and retaining assemblies. Large soil volumes are accommodated through these retaining walls and small landforms to support large caliper trees and deep-rooted plantings. The custom site furniture incorporates reclaimed Douglas Firm to recall the stacks of wood used for the foundry furnace and bring warmth to the site.


As part of the Mississippi Flyway, the plaza hosts a planting palette that embraces the scrappy urban vegetation while incorporating native species that support insect and bird life. In addition to the native plants, the team also introduced native cultivars such as Tiger Eye Sumac to ensure resilient plantings that illustrate the unique urban plant history of the district. In addition to being adaptive, the plant palette requires only small volumes of water.


With its connection to the river, the project deploys strategic stormwater strategies, exceeding city requirements. The rooftops allow for ponding and rate control while connecting down to a sand filtration layer below the courtyard. A long trench drain within the court also collects surface stormwater moving it through the sand layer before it is released to the city system. Water that runs off the sidewalk flows into long, linear street planters inhabited with long-rooted native species and resilient street trees that provide biofiltration to increase the quality of stormwater that makes it back into the city system.


With a rich pedestrian realm, immersive gateway, and dynamic central space, the project establishes a vision for critical landscape can enrich the urban fabric. The project demonstrates the power of process-based design investigations that help honor the past while projecting the future of this vibrant neighborhood. This project is worthy of consideration because it demonstrates the agency of landscape architects to shape the future vision of our cities and urban fabric as inspired, contextual, and multi-functional places.

Architecture offices involved in the design
Snow Kreilich Architects

Project location (For publicly accessible projects please include exact address. For Private gardens place write Country or State): 120 N 2nd St, Minneapolis, MN 55401

Design year: 2016

Year Built: 2020

Photo Credit: VONDELINDE


LILA 2024 Sponsor