Experiencing Great Architecture and Creative Built Environments

-OH-Cleveland Area

Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland (2012)

Farshid Moussavi, Architect

11400 Euclid Ave, Cleveland, OH

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Visited June 22, 2014

This dark modern faceted building is located close to Frank Gehry’s building on the Case Western Reserve University Campus, and the Cleveland Museum of Art. Inside it is a deceivingly large space, although a substantial portion of it is dedicated to a rambling white staircase with various landings and overlooks into the dark indigo shell of the building’s exterior wall. Unfortunately the galleries were closed on the day of my visit, so I have no idea of how the galleries work as galleries.


Need a place to stay in Cleveland? The Hyatt Regency Cleveland at The Arcade, downtown in an historic 1890 building.

Looking for some entertainment in the Cleveland Area? Try the great Old-School Bowling and entertainment complex Mahall’s 20 Lanes in Lakewood. I was there for a party and had a great time, see my blog post here.

 Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland website

Oberlin Conservatory of Music (1963)

Minoru Yamasaki, Architect

39 West College Street  Oberlin, OH

on the campus of the Oberlin College and Conservatory

Aerial View and Map

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Visited June 2, 2011

Minoru Yamasaki, the famed architect that is probably best known for designing the World Trade Center twin towers, designed this cluster of 3 buildings for Oberlin in 1963. His buildings at Wayne State University in Detroit are more successful, but have posted these for reference.

Kohl Building (2010)

Westlake Reed Leskosky, Architects

44 West College Street Oberlin, OH 44074

on the campus of Oberlin College & Conservatory

Aerial View and Map ( the aerial view was taken prior to the construction of the building)

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Visited June 2, 2011

The Bertram and Judith Kohl Building is the College’s home to the jazz, music history and theory programs. It sits in the back corner of a parking lot, behind a block of Main street storefronts. I happened upon the building by accident, and what a happy accident it was. The LEED building is a sculpture of metal panels with a syncopation of windows on the east facade. On the west side there is a 3rd floor skybridge which takes a jog before the glass clad tube truss crosses the sidewalk below and connects to Yamasaki’s 1963 Conservatory Building.

What appeared to be a grand opportunity, there is a grand stairway up the side of the building to what promised to be a grand rooftop garden. What a disappointment the rooftop garden was. It was a small area, mostly hard surface, with planters around the perimeter. The parapet wall is too tall to get a view from the center of the deck, and the planters prevents anyone from getting close enough to look over the parapet for a view. Perhaps a nod to the Fontainebleau Hotel’s “Staircase to Nowhere”? Once you climb the stairs to the third floor, the only thing to do is to come back down. (to be fair, I think there is a cafe inside adjacent to the deck, but it was closed the day I climbed the stairs).

For more information on the Kohl Building, check out these links:

Westlake Reed Leskosky Website


Architect Magazine Article

Allen Memorial Art Museum Addition (1977)

Venturi, Scott Brown and Associates, Architects

87 North Main Street Oberlin, OH 44074

on the campus of Oberlin College & Conservatory

Map and Aerial View

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Visited June 2, 2011

A “Decorated Shed”, using Venturi’s own terminology, is his description of the Allen Art Museum addition. It  is one of the milestone Post-Modern projects of the period. Again showing my age, this project was widely discussed in my college architecture classes.

The addition is set far back from the original Cass Gilbert building on the south (right) side. Venturi’s facade references the original facade by using stone of similar color as the original museum, but it is implemented in a contemporary basketweave pattern. Although the addition respects the original building with its setback and the “matching” of facade materials, the actual attachment to the building is a surgical crash. The addition slices right through the middle of a blue terracotta medallion, and cuts the building frame panels in half. The window fenestration, stone banding, base, roofline and fascia do not align with any of the original building organizational lines. This is not to imply that I think it is “wrong”, or that I do not like the addition (which I do in some respects), it is just an analysis of what Venturi felt was appropriate and important to him in creating a new, current architectural diologue and statement.

I revisited this addition the day after my visit to the Akron Museum of Art Addition. I wanted to refresh my memory to compare how the two architect’s attached the additions to the original building. I found the differences to be interesting.

The Venturi addition’s use of the similar exterior materials and the setback from the original building shows how he respects the original building, but the chainsaw-like slicing of the Gilbert building decorative elements and the ignoring of any reference to the original fenestration banding seems purposefully implimented to show it is a new and independent statement.

Coop Himmelb(l)au’s Akron Museum of Art Addition shows an almost diametrically opposed approach. The metal and glass building materials and angular jutting forms have nothing to do with the original building’s materials, and it is crystal clear what is addition and what is original building. The addition is also set back from the original building (mostly due to the site constraints), but Coop Himmalb(l)au must have felt that they had to affect the front view of the original building by hovering a large metal “cloud” over the building, almost patting the original building on it’s hip-roofed head. What Coop Himmelb(l)au did pay very close attention to was the actual attachment to the original building. The main attachment is a glass and steel first floor connection that carefully intersects the existing facade just below the horizontal stone band in the center of the original building’s rear facade. The two story glass and metal addition actually jogs around the existing roof overhang to not disrupt the eve and overhang, and allows the second floor window band to continue intact all the way around the original building. The hovering “cloud” over the original building also has a structural attachment through the original roof, but it is carefully placed to be as invisible as possible. They were very careful not to disrupt the original building’s details with the physical connection of the addition.

The Allen Memorial Art Museum Addition was closed both times I had visited. I searched the exterior of the building to see if I could see an architectural  element that was widely discussed in architectural circles when the building opened. Venturi is known for his references to architectural terms using humorous analagies such as “Decorated Sheds” and “Ducks”. At this museum he introduced us to the “Ironic” column. The “Ironic” column is a short, stubby column cover composed of vertical wood boards capped with a simplified exagerated cartoon-like  ionic capital. When the building was new, this generously published image always seemed to be a main feature of the building. It is usually photographed from within the gallery through a large square window.  In reality I discovered this column is religated to the back by the loading dock and the HVAC equipment. Because the galley has always been closed when I have visited, I have only been able to view this important architectural feature by walking to the back of the “Decorated Shed” and viewed it above the loading dock – not from within the art gallery carefully framed by the square window frame . I think that is ironic.

Allen Memorial Art Museum (1917)

Cass Gilbert, Architect

87 North Main Street, Oberlin OH 44074

on the Campus of Oberlin College & Conservatory

Map and Aerial View

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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.

Akron Museum of Art Knight Building Addition (2007)

Coop Himmelb(l)au, Architect

One South High, Akron, OH 44308

Map and Aerial View

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Visited May 31-June 1, 2011

The Knight Building Addition was the focus of my last roadtrip, and it did not disappoint. I had seen a few photographs on line and wanted to experience it for myself.

The dynamic composition is composed of 3 main elements- the angled glass entry “Crystal”, the cantilevered roof “Clouds”, and the rectangular “Gallery Box”. All of this is placed in the 1899 original Museum Building’s back yard. The link to the original building is a main level glass connection in the middle of the rear facade, the top of which aligns with an existing stone sill band. The angled glass framework of the “Crystal” has a chevron shaped edge which keeps its distance around the eave of the original building.

Driving up the hill on Market Street, one of the  cantilevered “Clouds” dramatically hovers over the original museum- in fact beyond the building, over the sidewalk and a portion of the street to announce the presence of the addition behind.

What I was curious about was how were the galleries handled in the addition. Was this attention-getting concoction just a folly? Was is designed to showcase and display Akron’s artwork treasures, or just to display itself and promote Coop Himelb(l)au? I am pleased to report that the galleries displayed a pretty impressive collection of artwork very well indeed. The architect’s flair for the dramatic stopped at the tall glass gallery doors, and once inside the artwork was the star. After wandering by Warhol’s Single Elvis and Brillo Boxes; and Chuck Close’s Linda,  I ventured into the M.C. Escher temporary exhibit. I was impressed with the incredible detail in Escher’s original lithographs and wood cuts, which is lost in the ubiquitous monographs on the sale shelf at the Border’s and Barnes & Noble stores. I clearly remembered the artwork.  The gallery did what a gallery should do – displayed the artwork. Well Done.

Peter B. Lewis Building (2002)

Frank Gehry, Architect

11119 Bellflower Road, Cleveland, OH 44106

On the Case Western Reserve University Campus

Map and Aerial View

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Visited June 1, 2011

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