e-book A Cleveland Legacy: The Architecture of Walker and Weeks

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Starting in , the architectural firm of Walker and Weeks, in consultation with bank officials, began drawing up plans for a new stand-alone building to be sited at the corner of Superior Avenue and East Sixth Street. In following the early twentieth century American Renaissance style, the building mimicked the architectural design of the adjacent Group Plan , which is comprised of the city's major public edifices. Sitting on a foundation of pink granite, and clad in pinkish Georgia marble, the thirteen-story, foot tall structure is reflective of the Art Deco sensibilities of the renowned sculptors and decorators who worked on its exteriors and interiors.

Designed to reflect both safety and security, the building was also constructed to hold the world's largest bank vault door, which weighs one hundred short tons. Anonymous September 12, at AM. Newer Post Older Post Home. Subscribe to: Post Comments Atom. About Us We believe that the best way for Cleveland to move into the future is to engage with the past.

Let us be your guide to those local people, places, and events that made Cleveland and Northeast Ohio unique.

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Follow Us! Hulett Ore Unloaders in action! Cleveland: Home to the most attended baseball game In Search of Mr. Jingeling, Part Three: Hint - He' Jingeling, Part Two: Interview wi Why we must be the ones preserving old buildings The Cleveland Play House Looming over Rockefeller Park Identifying a year old house when it looks lik Send Us Your Questions! Don M. By the s, real estate values had surged to the point where artists and galleries were pushed out of the district by chic restaurants, hotels, boutiques, and stores for luxury furniture and lighting.

The artists and galleries decamped to Chelsea, the next Manhattan neighborhood to undergo transformation. Other cities around the country noted the phenomenon, and consciously tried to emulate it with public policies that encouraged artists to settle in formerly run-down areas. Economist Richard Florida boosted awareness of the positive economic impact of artistic activity in cities with his highly influential book, The Rise of the Creative Class. In it, he promoted the notion that high-tech workers are attracted to cities with strong physical and cultural amenities, where young, creative people feel at home.

Businesses need to follow workers to such cities, not attempt to lure them to corporate cubicles in suburbs.

On the surface, this would seem to be a positive trend. A sharp distinction needs to be made between the quality and merit of the artistic products coming out of neighborhood arts districts and the secondary economic benefits produced by the presence of artists in a community. The irony is that during the first half of the 20th century, the Great Lakes industrial region was a global hot-bed of architectural creativity.

Chicago architects such as Louis H. After World War II, the great German modern architect, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, designed some of the most elegantly skeletal steel and glass buildings of his career in Chicago, including the campus of the Illinois Institute of Technology. In Detroit, the Finnish-born Eliel Saarinen fused inspirations from Finnish vernacular design, Art Nouveau, and modernism in his masterpiece, the campus of Cranbrook in Bloomfield Hills. Kennedy Airport in New York. Although these architects were active throughout the region in Detroit, Buffalo, Pittsburgh, and other cities around Cleveland, none ever received a single assignment in Cleveland.

In , Wright designed his most famous work, Fallingwater , for the Pittsburgh department store magnate, Edgar Kaufmann, as a retreat in the Pennsylvania mountains east of the city. Wright did receive commissions in the Cleveland area, but they came much later in his career, shortly before his death in Wright created the term Usonian late in his career to denote a line of small, affordable houses he designed for middle-class clients, primarily across the Midwest. The movement adapted Beaux Arts neoclassical architecture to American urban settings.

The basic thrust was to sweep away the grime and slums of the Industrial Revolution and to impose the elegance and grandeur of Paris and Rome. But his greatest legacy is the Group Plan for downtown Cleveland, perhaps the largest intact example of City Beautiful planning in America, after the Mall in Washington, D.


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In Cleveland, the Group Plan called for a series of neoclassical civic buildings organized around a Burnham intended the three-block Mall to function as a vast promenade in the heart of downtown, with a large train station on the north end, overlooking Lake Erie. When the train station was built at Tower City Center, however, the Mall was deprived of its major activity generator. For decades, it has been a mixed legacy—a monumental space largely devoid of civic life.

Neoclassicism, fundamentally a backward-looking style, was chosen for all major buildings in the city, from the Federal Reserve Building and Public Auditorium to the Cleveland Museum of Art, Severance Hall, and the Terminal Tower. Cutting-edge modernist architecture remained a minority taste throughout the 20th century in Cleveland, although it was embraced on occasion by a handful of private patrons. Little , and Ernst Payer. The impression left by the show was that this handful of houses represented a high-water mark for design innovation during the period.

Tellingly, the Cleveland Chapter of the American Institute of Architects published a guide to Cleveland buildings in , which avoided critical perspectives on local architecture. The pattern continued after World War II, and in many ways, continues to this day. Local architects fumed at having been sidelined, even though most lacked the expertise to design skyscrapers. Most of the postwar towers in downtown Cleveland are mediocre, grade B efforts by big, brand-name firms. Downtown gives permanent form to the impression that in architecture, Cleveland is a follower, not a leader.

The son of a prominent Cleveland attorney, Johnson was briefly fascinated by fascism and Nazism in the s, a phase he later bitterly regretted. After World War II, he established himself as one of the most influential American architects of the second half of the 20th century.

In , he designed his famous Glass House residence for himself in New Canaan, Connecticut, now owned and operated as a house museum by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. As an architect, Johnson was a complete chameleon; he changed styles rapidly and capitalized on every new idea that emerged between the s and the s, often winning extensive media attention, which may have been the point.

His outspoken style and flamboyant personal lifestyle—he was gay and came out of the closet proudly in the latter decades of his life—did not go over well in his hometown.

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At times, Cleveland embraced innovation, but only at its most destructive. The Erieview Plan , masterminded by a young I. Along Superior Avenue and East Ninth Street, large towers are interspersed with parking garages, creating streetscapes of deadly and long-lasting dullness. During the same period, the city allowed building owners to demolish half of the buildings in the Warehouse District, to make way for surface parking lots that would serve the new City-County Justice Center.

A modernist architect named Peter van Dijk , a native of Holland who grew up in Venezuela and suburban New York, played a key role in the movement. Van Dijk moved to Cleveland in the s, after having spent a decade working for Eero Saarinen in Detroit on assignments including the Gateway Arch in St.

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Frustrated thereafter by his inability to capture an assignment to design a major skyscraper downtown, van Dijk became a preservation architect, almost by accident. He played a key role in unifying the movie palaces of PlayhouseSquare with interconnected lobbies. His firm, capitalizing on the expertise in theater renovation it gained at PlayhouseSquare, subsequently renovated more than historic theaters across the country—showing how a single assignment in Cleveland led to the strengthening of a hometown architecture firm.

Today, Cleveland has a national reputation for high quality historic preservation, and for having saved much of its historic fabric. Ohio is a national leader in architecture and development firms taking advantage of federal historic tax credits to complete detailed, historically respectful renovations of important early 19th- and early 20th-century buildings. And within Ohio, Cleveland ranks first in tax credit work. Consequently, residents and elected officials put up little opposition in the s, when highway engineers walled off Lake Erie and the Cuyahoga Valley. At the outset of the 21st century, a broad social movement is underway to reclaim polluted industrial landscapes and turn them into parks and bikeways.

Progress is slow, painfully so. But the landscape urbanism movement, also present in other cities around the country, is a highly positive trend and absolutely necessary if Cleveland is to survive in the future. No city is monolithic in its cultural tastes and that is certainly true of Cleveland.

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Throughout the 20th century, artists, collectors, and architects have championed new ideas, sometimes with truly amazing consequences. In , progressive energies in the visual arts coalesced around a tiny institution called the New Gallery, later known as the Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland. When Talalay and Sundell opened their gallery in a former dry cleaning storefront on Euclid Avenue, the tiny space upstaged the Cleveland Museum of Art by hosting important exhibitions on the works of artists including Robert Rauschenberg, Andy Warhol, and Christo.

Chief among them were Peter and Toby Lewis. In one celebrated instance, a creative spark ignited at the center had global significance. In the mid s, the institution staged a lecture series on contemporary architecture, which brought the pioneering Los Angeles architect Frank Gehry to town.