Posted by & filed under Design Competitions.

Orphaned ship in former Aral Sea, near Aral, Kazakhstan. Source:


It is well known now in the Twin Cities that White Bear Lake is shrinking (I think). Reports have shown that though the lake level goes through cycles depending on precipitation, the recent changes in water level does not seem to correspondent with changes in precipitation. There has been a constant drop in the amount of water in the lake to the extent that there is clear visual evidence of this. A short walk along the lake shore and one is bound to see emerging dry land where it used be marshy or wet, unusable beaches dot the shore, and boat docks have had to extend a city block to reach water.There is no question that this needs to be addressed, and soon, but I’m not here to make an architectural argument for what could be done (thankfully). Architects have the tendency to think they can solve all ills. If this were to be a developing country, there probably would have been a thousand design proposals (from around the globe) on how design can save the lake and the community around. Thankfully, the Minnesota architecture community seems to have more important things to do and the job is left to scientists and policy makers. However, architects as great opportunists, should be looking for the design opportunities that exist in White Bear Lake. Consequently, it does not matter whether the Lake is dry or full (selfish I know), design opportunities abound. A quick Bing search (or Google) of dry lake beds will reveal how these opportunities have gone to waste around the world.

The opportunities are even more pressing in an urban environment and there is definitely an urban impact

“Waterfront” of Aralsk, Kazakhstan, formerly on the banks of the Aral Sea. Photo taken Spring 2003 by Staecker. Source:

with the changing lake levels. A dry lake bed would result in a drop in property values and diminished recreational activities around the lake; on the other hand, a replenished lake would signal perhaps an increase in property values, continued privatization of the lakefront and diminishing public access points to the lake. So people of White Bear Lake do not fret, let the scientist and policy makers deliberate, we are here to tell you that you can eat your cake and have it. The lake may be dry or wet; you will be happy all the same. We can help you adapt to a dry lake or a wet lake. Design will not save the lake, it will use it; after all, the lake is just a canvas and here is the art.

You are mightily welcome.

….the eagles you say? Someone please design a home for them.

The Neighborhood Interface at low water level


The Neighborhood Interface at high water level

The Neighborhood Interface; Winter

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.