IDS Tower and Crystal Court, 80 South 8th Street, Minneapolis, Minnesota

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IDS Tower and Crystal Court

Address: 80 Eighth Street S
Neighborhood/s: Downtown, Minneapolis, Minnesota
Minneapolis, Minnesota
Hennepin County, Minnesota
State/province: Minnesota
Country: United States
Year built: 1973
Primary Style: International
Historic Function: Office
Historic Function: Shopping center/mall/strip mall
Other Historic Function: Shopping center/mall/strip mall
Current Function: Office
Current Function: Shopping center/mall/strip mall
Other Current Function: Shopping center/mall/strip mall
Architect or source of design: Phillip Johnson & John Burgee with Edward Baker
Material of Exterior Wall Covering: Glass
First Owner: Investor's Diversified Services
Notes: renovated (Crystal Court), HGA, 1998

Downtown Minneapolis Hennepin County

IDS Tower and Crystal Court, 80 South 8th Street, Minneapolis, Minnesota
(44.975619° N, 93.272281° WLatitude: 44°58′32.228″N
Longitude: 93°16′20.212″W

Features the trend-setting Crystal Court atrium.


Considered the crown jewel in the Minneapolis skyline, the IDS center was a significant advancement for architecture in the downtown district, and played a crucial role in the development of Nicollet Avenue and the skyway systems. Designed by International Style pioneer, Philip Johnson, and Built by Shell Construction from 1969-1972 the $125,000,000 project houses 1.4 million square feet of office, retail and hotel space. This downtown complex pushed Minneapolis into a city of urban progress with a design remarkable for its time. The IDS, although it greatly stood at in its early years, was the skyscraper Minneapolis needed to compete with other cites as a growing metropolis.

Philip Johnson and the IDS Center

The IDS center, an icon to the Minneapolis skyline, was the dream project for Philip Johnson. Originally planned as a twelve story quarter block building; the realizations of the IDS center transformed the city of Minneapolis during an era of crucial Urban Development. In 1963 the city of Minneapolis selected its own Ed Baker to design an office structure on the block of eighth and Nicollet. Investors Diversified Services (IDS) joined the project as anchor tenant four years later. That same year Dayton Hudson Corporation came aboard as co- anchor tenant expanding the project to a 51 story tower complex to cover the entire downtown block. Philip Johnson and John Burgee are added as the architects in association with Ed Baker the next year. The first briefing called for a two story retail space for Woolworth’s and other shops along with a hotel and business office space to reach 50 some stories. Johnson’s believed this was “nearly impossible”. During the design phase Philip Johnson was especially pleased with the setting and location of the project. He considered Minneapolis a “delightful city” and was drawn to four pre-existing urban features for inspiration in his design. These including the “handsome successful pedestrian mall,” the skyway network, the two department stores, Dayton’s and Donaldson’s located on the mall, along with the central location of the site. Johnson referred to the proposed IDS site as the “epicenter” of Minneapolis. From the beginning Johnson was enthralled with the blending of Minneapolis’ business district with the downtown urban fabric and his goal was to complete a new type of city square within the complex. His first concern was the importance of identifying the separate parts of the center without boring the passerby. He situated the court at the interior of the space and broke up each 300 foot street front with a funnel entrance which brought the pedestrian into the internal court. Each funnel entrance was glass roofed, and the skyways- a glass walled bridge. Then he placed the 19 stories of hotel space along one side of the tower, and the consequent office space along the opposite side. When studying the material for the tower Johnson chose chrome coated semi-mirrored glass for its reflective quality. From the exterior one cannot see through only at which provides a “monolithic windowless effect” that is scale less. This isolates the tower as an object removing it from any type of association with other smaller buildings in its surroundings. Johnson’s fame at this point in his career was greatly centered on his findings and declaration of the International Style. This style in which the IDS center is designed includes three main features, asymmetry, volume over mass, and the rejection of ornamentation. In keeping with these rules it was essential for the tower to be of interesting asymmetrical form. Johnson played with the idea of stepping back the façade or creating a zigzag pattern to create visual interest. This study along with the choice of the reflective material concluded to the “zog” profile. This zigzagging wall surface created self-reflections that resulted in dark vertical bands. Here Johnson is able to create detail and greater visual effect without any ornamentation. The final piece of International Style regarding volume over mass is evident in the crystal court. 121 feet at its tallest point the court is covered by a series of pyramidal cascading blocks making a variety of volumes that seem weightless. Looking to San Marco plaza in Venice as a prime example of the type of piazza Minneapolis needed. The function of a town square is not only for gathering and relaxing but most importantly for pedestrian circulation. Johnson considered Minneapolis as a city which exists on two levels, referring to the skyways. Thus there would be eight entrances to his court one on each facing block with one entrance on top of another. In attempt to break up the circulation pattern none of the entrances are symmetrical to each other. While the bottom plan is rectangular, the second level pedestrian flow is at oblique angles to allow maximum views of the court and crowd below. Johnsons obsession with the passing on foot or procession though the space is what drove his design. His goals were to decrease the dependency on the automobile while downtown and hope that those who pass through his space would “get something out of getting around”. When designing this central space he played off the tension between outside and inside, because the crystal court is constructed of all glass the lack of walls prevents any in closed feeling. Also, the central area was linked to the street-scape through its intimacy with Nicollet Mall, and assortment of views to the outside from the upper levels. Minneapolis was truly grateful to have such a remarkable architect design its first skyscraper, setting the stage for a growing infrastructure downtown.

Building's History

Originally containing an observation deck, the IDS center allowed for beautiful views over the entire city because of its central location. The observation deck was closed in 1993 and converted to office space. Many different restaurants, retail space, and owners have occupied the IDS tower over the years; most significantly the move of Target Corp (formerly Dayton Hudson) to its own headquarters in 2002. Also the original owners Ameriprise Financial (formerly Investors Diversified Services) vacated the building in 2000. The building was sold to John Buck Company in 2004 only to sell it the next year to Inland Real-estate Group, the current owners. Construction began in 1969 and finished in 1972. A grand opening celebration and symphony ball took place in the crystal court. Much publicity accrued over the span of construction and many important figures including Andy Warhol attended the opening gala. In 1998 the crystal court was reinstalled and rededicated after local architects HGA designed the 105 foot fountain that falls from the ceiling. They also added olive trees skirted with white benches. This redesign wins an AIA honor award the following year along with a merit award for the environmental improvements they made to the space. The crystal court also went under a minor makeover in 1993 when Shea architectus redirected the lobby’s elevators for greater elegance. They brightened the space though lighting remodel. Also in 1993 the two story Woolworth closing store closes replaced by Gap, Banana Republic and other retail stores. The Orion room restaurant and is replaced by Windows on Minnesota. April of 1994 Bill Clinton holds a rally for his health care campaign in the crystal court. Glove University moved into the IDS and opened its doors September of 2008 after a concourse upgrade by twenty below studios. Their renovation is set by the standards Philip Johnson set for maximum natural light. In more recent years the IDS has received multiple awards and recognition for its progress in sustainability measures. Massive energy efficiency capital improvements have occurred including a closed loop water system saving 40 million gallons of water per year. The building has received energy star certification for superior energy efficiency. The IDS center won local and regional office building of the year for properties over one million square feet in 2011 and will advance to the International ranking.

In the News

At 792 feet the IDS center is considered the tallest building in Minneapolis. Although it received competition from its neighbor the Capella tower debate continues over what is to be included in this height factor. An extra 16 foot garage for window washing equipment was added to bump the IDS tower’s height, but most architecture critics do not consider this to be an internal component, thus not contributing to the buildings actual height. However the height of the tower including the information spires is the tallest point in the state at 916’. Since the IDS center opened in the 1970s it has been used as a backdrop for many major motion pictures and television shows. Most notably the introduction scene of the Mary Tyler Moore show where Ms. Moore walks across the Nicollet mall flips her hair and continues through the revolving doors of the crystal court. She is also seen riding up the elevators of the crystal court, eating at the original Basil’s restaurant and the third floor of the Marquette Hotel where the most superb views of the city can be seen. Also, scenes from the 1990 Mighty Ducks Movie were shot in the crystal court along with a (then) Dayton Hudson meeting room on the 15th floor. Prince also shot scenes for his Purple Rain music video in the crystal court in 1983. A Tim Allen movie, Joe Somebody, includes scenes filmed in Huber White men’s store that were shot in 2000. The IDS tower was also in the news for more tragic reasons. Three deaths have occurred due to fallings from the tower. Two of these deaths were suicides one in 1996 the other in 2001. Also, an IDS tower worker clearing snow off the roof of the crystal court fell six stories to his death in December of 2007.


Baymiller, Joanna. "Cities: Should a 12-year-old Building Become a Historic Landmark?" Architecture: The AIA Journal 8th ser. 73 (1984): 11-12. Print. Buchta, Jim, Tim Harlow, and Jim Adams. "Worker Falls to His Death at Crystal Court in IDS Tower." Star Tribune [Minneapolis, MN] 6 Dec. 2007. Print. Canty, Donald J. "Evaluation: Single Complex City Core: IDS Center Complex, Minneapolis, 1973; Architects: Johnson Burgee Architects." AIA Journal 7th ser. 68 (1979): 52-59. Print. Carpenter, Edward K. "Making Minneapolis Work." Design and Environment 6.2 (1975): 32-47. Print. "Grist and Gusto." Architecture Forum 140.4 (1973): 40-43. Print. "IDS Center." Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. 4 Oct. 2011. Web. 09 Nov. 2011. <>. "IDS Crystal Court in Minneapolis, MN." Vacation Packages, Hotels, Show & Activity Tickets - Vacations Made Easy (800)987-9852. Web. 09 Nov. 2011. <>. Johnson, Philip. "A There, There." Architecture Forum 140.4 (1973): 38-39. Print. LeFevre, Camille. "Swedish Sensibility [Restaurant Aquavit, Minneapolis]." Architecture Minnesota 26.4 (2000): 39. Print. Littleton, Gregory. "A Sensitive Renovation of the IDS Tower Marks the Passage of Time." Interiors (188): 52. Print.

"Timeline « IDS Center." Home « IDS Center. Inland Realestate Group. Web. 09 Nov. 2011. <>.



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