Allen Memorial Art Museum (1917)
Cass Gilbert, Architect
87 North Main Street, Oberlin OH 44074
on the Campus of Oberlin College & Conservatory
Visited June 2, 2011
After my visit to the Akron Art Museum addition, I decided to swing by Oberlin OH on my roadtrip back home to revisit the Cass Gilbert Museum and its controversial Post -Modern addition by Robert Venturi.
I had visited the museum once before on my trip to Oberlin to tour Frank Lloyd Wright’s Weltzheimer House back in 2008. I wanted to return to compare the Coop Himmelb(l)au and Robert Venturi approaches of connecting a “moderm” addition to the back of classical existing museum building. Unlike in Akron, the original Oberlin museum building was designed as a museum, by an internationally known architect at that. Therefore I have this post dedicated to Cass Gilbert’s Museum Building before I show the addition by Robert Venturi in my next post.
The original Museum building was built in 1917. It is a symetrical Beaux-Arts arrangement with Italian Renaissance design elements. The classic sandstone facade has red stone borders creating framed panels. The frieze band has red stone panels with round blue glazed decorative medallions. The color blue was also used extensively in the mosaics in the loggia vaulted ceiling. According to the Cass Gilbert Society, the architect was not sure about the appropriateness of the blue on the facade. Their webpage quotes him as having “fretted over the contrast , but ultimately decided that time would soften it”. Although the glossy blue glaze of the medallions and the blue glass mosaics do not really “soften” over time, they don’t seem inappropriate. They actually add a little burst of excitement to an otherwise fairly boring but exquisitely detailed facade.