People, SOM in the Press

SOM Explains Exactly How a Raccoon Scaled its St. Paul Skyscraper

Photos © Hedrich Blessing

After completing Town Square, a mixed-use, double-tower complex in the heart of St. Paul, Minnesota in 1980, the late architect Donald Smith of SOM told Architectural Record magazine, “We must reorient our attention to the center [of] cities to save them.”

Smith’s words were prophetic, it turns out, but not in the way he may have expected.

Last week, Town Square—now known as UBS Plaza—captured the attention of the globe as a scraggly, wayward raccoon climbed up its southern tower’s 25 stories.


Architect Colin Koop—a Minnesota native and a design director at SOM New York—was in the state as the drama unfolded, and a social media manager at SOM alerted Koop of the varmint’s ascent via Instagram. “I sent them an emoji of an eye roll,” he says.

But, according to Koop, prevailing architectural trends during the late ‘70s and early ‘80s—inspired by the neofuturist work of firms like Archigram— enabled the raccoon to scale the building. “During that era of building, there were all of these big megastructure buildings with mixed-use of recreation, retail, and sometimes living. They’re all over the country,” Koop explains. “Town Square was St. Paul’s version.”

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