HIBBING — When Andrew Lucia was back home in Hibbing last spring, a newspaper article about the relocation of the Hull Rust Mine View caught his attention.
“I’ve long stood in awe at the vista afforded by the mine,” he said, noting the Mine View was something he had grown up with. “It’s a sublime landscape like no other — something to admire and by which to be humbled. The resources embedded in the land and the mine are responsible for the City of Hibbing, and ultimately the people.”
As he read on, Lucia quickly knew he wanted to be involved in the project and offer his support.
“I reached out immediately,” he said. “The history of Hibbing, the mine and the surrounding area are incredible, unique and personal. I have a deep respect for the land and town that I come from. …This is a very personal project for me.”
Lucia, who’s been practicing and/or teaching architecture for 10 to 15-plus years, volunteered his time and talent to work on concept studies for the new Hull Rust and Hibbing Taconite Mine View and surrounding site. He has a pro bono agreement with the City of Hibbing to do these studies and to consider possible expanded uses of the site for future development.
“The vision is to activate the plateau and surrounds of the Eastern portion of the Susquehanna mine dump as a mechanism to observe the mine, the city of Hibbing and beyond to the larger Mesabi Iron Range,” said Lucia. “The intent is to go beyond a mere look-out and truly engage the landscape as a lens on itself, while taking into consideration the many diverse factors and interests involved in this project.”
The Susquehanna is located due north of Brooklyn, where Cliffs Natural Resources has agreed to swap acreage with the city. The move of the Mine View location is being spurred by expanded mining operations by Hibbing Taconite.
The project will be multi-phased and may take several years to complete.
The initial vision is a primary structure overlooking the mine that will accommodate the similar needs of the existing mine view.
Lucia unveiled the first renderings to the Hibbing City Council earlier this month. Representatives from Cliffs were also present, as were several seniors who volunteer at the current Mine View.
The design concept is a response to the many complex and unique circumstances that have shaped the community and region, said Lucia.
“The geology of the Mesabi Range is vital to the region and is also one of the primary drivers of this design,” he explained. “But the richness of the area and its communities has not solely been formed through this one geologic aspect, though no doubt critical.”
Also playing into the concept design is the generations of people from around the world who have came to this region and influenced it through their diverse heritages, thus leaving a rich legacy.
“The mining companies obviously play a prominent role in this history, especially in the vital resources they export around the world. This is an educational factor we wish to highlight through the design,” said Lucia. “As noted, however, the region’s exports are not only mineral in nature but can also be found in the area’s unique culture that has developed over generations. So there is a wonderful reciprocal relationship existing here between the earth and the people that inhabit the communities of the Mesabi Range.”
Also taken into design consideration are the existing needs of the current mine view and how they will carry over to the new site, especially the educational aspects about the mining operations and its history that are currently carried out by the Tourist Center Senior Citizens.
“All that stated, this new mine view project resides at the center of all these many influences and synthesizes these factors that are so vital to the Mesabi Range,” he added.
Yet the biggest driver of the project is the site itself, which affords incredible 360 degree views to the Hull Rust Mine, the City of Hibbing and the region.
“In many ways this project is quite literally of the earth and as such an appropriate design response is to activate the ground as a major element in the design,” said Lucia. “What we are proposing is as much an earthwork or landscape project as it is about an overlook building proper.”
The design intent is to intervene as minimally as possible while leveraging the grounds of the site and its context to maximum effect.
The project’s name is “Windows to the World.”
The proposed concept design is a series of framed views outward from the perimeter site.
“These overlook windows would be chosen to capture moments from the surrounding vista — those of the mine, the landscape and the community while visually bringing together all of these unique aspects which make up the Mesabi Iron Range,” said Lucia.
The design uses precast concrete box culverts etched with historic imagery as the basic units for these overlook windows. These box culverts would be situated along the perimeter of the stockpile.
The primary mine view, or overlook, building also will be constructed from these units and would act as its own window to the ongoing mining operations beyond.
“This building would house many of the same elements as the existing building, yet in the new design,” said Lucia. “A more thoughtful layout has been considered in response to the space and resources necessary for the mine view building. For instance a dedicated maps, mining and geology room is being proposed as separate from the gift shop in order to give each area much needed breathing room.”
The building has also been designed with multiple toilet rooms, a lounge and a glass balcony overlook.
Using prefabricated units would allow for phased additions, and modularity would allow for flexibility of design, noted Lucia.
On the top plateau of this site would be a primary view corridor, which would be carved into the earth from east to west to allow for extended views across the entire Mesabi Range.
“On a clear day views are afforded to the windmills at Minntac, and so this proposed corridor serves as a major visual axis that brings the whole of the Mesabi Range directly into the center of the project,” said Lucia.
Also sketched into the site design are picnic units and mining artifacts such as mining buckets, trucks and core samples.
Lucia had met with focus groups and several constituents with a vested interest in the project, for instance the Tourist Center Senior Citizens, prior to gain insight. The concept visions are intended to build interest around the project and to garner support from the community.
“My intention is to project a vision for what this project can be and excite the community in kind,” he said.
Now that the concept visions have been presented, there will need to be discussion among the community and the city council as to whether the project will go forward.
“Again, what my team has put on table are ideas that are intended to stimulate conversation, support and enthusiasm around the project,” he said.
Some of the design concepts will need to be reviewed by mining inspectors for safety, and costs and timelines have yet to be discussed. Lucia simply shared his “Windows to the World.”
“I’m just extremely thankful and humbled to be able to have a voice in this project, and hopefully give something great back to my hometown,” he said. “I’ve long thought about what an amazing experience it would be to work on a project related to the mine and the city. I understand that this is a project of significant cultural and environmental importance to the people of Hibbing and the area. I don’t take this charge lightly.”