This submission is for two Xcel Energy substation enclosures in Minneapolis, called Hiawatha West and Midtown. These enclosures have been designed to respond to multiple requirements and operate at multiple scales: the city, the neighborhood, and the substation-proper. Driven by extensive community feedback and requirements of the Public Utilities Commission, the architecture of these enclosures responds to their community settings as well as to substation functional requirements.
The upper walls of both enclosures are sculptural and iconographic, pushing their material capacities while enhancing the sense of urban connectivity along the city’s Greenway. A galvanized steel framework draws on substation tectonics to support brightly-colored anodized aluminum cladding. This cladding provides surfaces of shifting translucency and reflectiveness (based on viewing angle and lighting) that respond to the wall’s visibility at a variety of distances, travel speeds, and vantage points.?
In contrast, the lower walls operate at a more intimate scale, reflecting their unique neighborhood settings while accommodating safety and security requirements, vandal-proofing, and wind resistance. Hiawatha’s lower wall is gabion with a gridded mild-steel cage and trap-rock fill, responding to nearby railroad tracks and highway traffic as well as the character of a surrounding field and scale of passing pedestrians and bicyclists. Midtown’s lower wall is a modulating natural-cedar “picket fence,” responding to its residential context while alternately obscuring and revealing the substation beyond.
Night lighting for both projects utilizes low energy, color-changeable LED fixtures. The upper walls are illuminated to accentuate their sculptural and reflective surfaces. Additionally, light fixtures inside the substation illuminate the electrical equipment. The intent is to provide both surface articulation of the mesh and translucency to the substation beyond.
Overall, both enclosures have helped to transform the substation sites into community assets, providing visual identity while reflecting the character and scale of the context that surrounds them.