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

Home of the Weatherhead School of Management

Park Synagogue (1950)

Erich Mendelsohn, Architect

3300 Mayfield Road, Cleveland Heights, OH 44118

Map and Aerial View

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Visited June 1, 2011

While studying architecture in College, Mendelsohn’s Einstein Tower in Potsdam (1917-21) was always a prime example of Expressionist Architecture in the books and lectures. I also vaguely remember images of a hat factory  in Germany, but other than that I was not familiar with any other buildings by Mendelsohn. Doing some initial roadtrip research on notable buildings in northern Ohio, I was shocked to find a Synagogue in Cleveland Heights designed by “Eric Mendelsohn”. I did a little more research and found out it was the same “Erich Mendelsohn” that designed the Einstein Tower (he shortened his surname to “Eric” while in England in the 1930’s). Mendelsohn had moved to the UK in 1933 in reaction to the rise of antisemitism in Germany. He then moved to the United States in 1941 and taught at the University of California Berkeley, and lived in the USA until his death in 1953.

Well upon this discovery, I had to visit the Park Synagogue to see what Eric has been up to while in the USA.

While lacking the dramatic curving expressionist form of his Einstein Tower, the large copper clad dome and the light tan brick composition has a dignified presence. The circular shape of the dome is repeated in the porthole windows and planter walls in other parts of the complex. The main building is situated in the side of a hill allowing for the lower level on the northwest side to extend out beyond the footprint of the dome and open out to the lawn. I was a little disappointed that the building design was not as daring as Mendelsohn’s early work, but left satisfied with his mature work.

Cleveland Museum of Art Expansion (through 2013)

Rafael Vinoly, Architect

11150 East Boulevard, Cleveland, OH 44106

Map and Aerial View

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Visited June 1, 2011

When completed, the ongoing renovation and addition to the Cleveland  Museum of Art by Rafael Vinoly will flank the original Beaux-Arts building (1916) and the North Building by Marcel Breuer (1971). Here is a sampling of the exterior striped facade.

McKinley National Memorial (1907)

Harold Van Buren Magonigle, Architect

800 McKinley Monument Drive NW, Canton, OH 44708

Map and Aerial View

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Visited June 1, 2011

When I am able to take a few days and just go to a city I have never been to ( and know very little about), I love to just come upon unexpected discoveries. This was one of those discoveries. The monument is a domed classical building on the top of a hill with 108 steps leading up to it. The great lawn which extends 575 feet in front of the steps ( which I learned on a web site after my visit) was originally a five-tiered reflecting pool. The water was removed in 1951. The finely detailed building on the interior has a rotunda with a coffered dome and a round leaded stained glass oculus. Directly under the oculus is the final resting place of President McKinley and his wife Ida,  in a dark marble tomb raised on a pedestal in the center of the rotunda.

Not a destination that I would have planned a roadtrip around, but was a very pleasing diversion. It’s classical proportions and prominence on the hill with the great lawn leading up to it was impressive indeed. I am sure that the climb up the 108 steps was good for me as well.

I had just visited the Pro Football Hall of Fame building nearby – lets just say that strictly from an architectural standpoint – if you are in the area stick with the McKinley National Memorial…

St. Panteleimon Church (1999)

1123 44th St. NE, Canton OH, 44714

Map and Aerial View

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Visited June 1, 2011

Based on 14th-17th century churches in Maramures and Transylvania

This church was built in Sighetu Marmatiei, Maramures County, Romania in 1999.

It was disassembled and shipped to the USA and re-assembled on The National Mall in Washington D.C. for the Smithsonian Folklife Festival.

Following the Festival, the church was re-assembled at its present site, donated to the Romanian Catholic Diocese of Canton, OH

Feiman House (1954)

Frank Lloyd Wright, Architect

452 Santa Clara Dr., NW, Canton, OH 44709

Map and Aerial View

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Visited June 1, 2011

The north side of this inline plan Usonian house is very visible from the public street. The low slung flat roofed house and carport hug the site with a raised flat roof over the living room with unusually tall clerestory windows. The clerestory windows do not have the decorative plywood screens, but the low band of windows have the unique decorative plywood screens covering them. The brick wall extension shielding the private yard from the street also has an open abstract design in the brickwork.

Unfortunately, the brickwork has undergone extensive reworking or repointing with mortar that does not match the original mortar. These patches are obvious and are all over the wall and carport piers, but I guess the alternate of a crumbling wall and carport would have been much less desirable.

This is the 145th Frank Lloyd Wright Building I have visited (but who is counting…?).

A block away is Wright’s  Rubin House (1953). This house is not sufficiently visible from the street to warrant drive-by if you are looking for photos, at least in the summer with the heavily wooded lot fully “leafed out”.  (The 146th FLLW Building I have visited).

A little over a mile away is Wright’s Dobkins House (1953). This house, althought set back quite a distance from the road, is visible from the street if you look over the wide expanse of well manicured lawn between the trees. (The 147th FLLW Building I have visited).

Weltzheimer House (1948)

Frank Lloyd Wright, Architect

534 Morgan Street, Oberlin OH 44074

Aerial View

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From my Archives (visited 09/21/08)

The Weltzheimer House is the first Usonian house built in Ohio. It is an example of Wright’s L-shaped Usonian plan and is based on a 2’x4′ organizational grid. It has a radiant heating system within the red stained concrete floor slab.  The masonry mass contains the  “workspace” (kitchen) areas and fireplaces. The other walls are made of redwood board and batten construction and large floor to ceiling windows and french doors opening the rooms to the terrace and great lawn.

After undergoing unsympathetic renovations by a subsequent owner, an Art History Professor at Oberlin bought the house and restored it during her ownership.   The house is now owned by the Oberlin College Allen Memorial Art Museum and is open to the public twice a month. The museum has posted additional photos on its  Flicker site. The house has many pieces of Frank Lloyd Wright furniture, and provides visitors with an excellent example of what living in a Usonian house is like. You can walk around the house and really take in all of the details and experience the unique quality of the spaces.

While in Oberlin, visit the Allen Memorial Art Museum with an addition by Robert Venturi.