ARCHITECTURAL DESIGN GOES BACK TO FUTURE

Submitted by Jeff Buster on Wed, 04/05/2006 - 18:14.

Sweet Daddy Tim's & MIT Gehry

MIT spent a bundle on the block-sized new Gehry designed "Stata" building. 

 

But, in my opinion,  the new building’s primary architectural purpose is to imitate – with its posed visual variety and whimsical as-if-in-foundation-failure tilts - the East Cambridge, Massachusetts canal dock warehouse neighborhood which grew organically there before. 

 

Sweet Daddy Tim’s, on Woodland in Cleveland, uses a similarly frivolous façade (looks like the back of a ‘59 Chevy – was the store built about then?) and Tim’s is hopping with convenience store action.    

 

Now Peter Lewis says that University Circle would be improved by whore houses, and he has a valid point.  UC has successfully sterilized itself – no Sweet Daddy Tim’s stores left there.  Is the solution a Gehry retro fix a la MIT? 

 

Funny,  our US business society skills tap know how to make  big, bigger, and biggest buildings (which we see Gehry goose up to look like they are a casual assemblage of smaller chronologically disparate and independently constructed buildings) .  But making built-from-scratch environments which incorporate pedestrian scale small, smaller, and tiny structures – we Americans can’t do that. 

 

We can barely do it with renovation of actual legacy buildings. 

Where the expensive present trend is to make the new buildings look old – having drunken widow mullions and staggering floor lines,  and not-so-vertical corners which appear to be on foundations which are sagging and ready to fall over – Wolstein should consider carefully before he demolishes the old strip clubs and bars and warehouses at the mouth of the Cuyahoga. 

 

And the Port Authority should refuse to use eminent domain (which is presently frozen as a tool in the State), and the Plain Dealer's very obnoxious April 5th editorial should clean its nose.  If Wolstein is such a clever and well heeled enterprenuer - what's wrong with his having to continue to negociate to purchase or work around holdouts without eminent domain exercised in what is supposedly our free market system?

 

 

 

 

 

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Many interesting points about NEO architecture and planning

You raise many interesting points. I agress the deconstructionist style of Gehry mirrors many other design forms - I find the MIT Gehry very organic - the Lewis Gehry is more fanciful - I love his stuff. And I think it is great for major Cleveland projects to go for major architects and designers. In the current public arts and education development world, in addition to major architectural investments by Case for the Gehry and lots of other major development around Case and University Circle, I can think of lots of other huge projects just in that area that represent $ billions spent in this community in the next few years, including for developing...

  • Cleveland Institute of Music expansion - $40+ million
  • A residential development on the former CIA/Gund site - slated to be sold to developers - $25 million
  • Cleveland Institute of Art consolidation and renovation in the "Factory" on Euclid - $30+ million
  • Museum of Contemporary Art relocation to high-architecture site in "Triangle" site on Euclid in University Circle - $25 million
  • The Triangle "arts and retail district" property development around Euclid and Mayfield - could spend $100s millions
  • The "Beach" parking lot property around Euclid and Mayfield - could spend $10s millions
  • Cleveland Museum of Art expansion - $250 million
  • Case development on the Mt. Sinai site - $100s millions
  • Misc. other projects around University Circle, not including the Cleveland Clinic and University Hospital expansions over time... $100s millions
  • The "Enterprise Corridor" or whatever they call the proposed freeway from I-490 to University Circle - $100s millions

So just around and for University Circle and a few institutions there, $ billions will be invested in major largely public and government funded projects over the next decade or so.

Such huge, focused investment offers great opportunity for large-scale urban planning and innovative design and architecture of "Group Plan" scale, but at huge expense.

I am concerned that because each of the major projects above are being planned independent of the others and are trying to compete at a global level they are collectively too costly for this communty to fund et. al., without really masterful planning. $100s of millions needed at the same time for just a few arts organizations... all largely funded by donations and foundations... not to mention the demands placed upon funding and leadership at Case, in these times... I hope Chris Ronayne (UCI CEO) is really up to a big challenge because this is one of the biggest development zones and visions in the country, and the economics are poor. Here, I think they really need to trench in and plan broadly and globally, even as they act locally.

Litt wrote an editorial on MoCA last Sunday that had the same demanding tone about supporting their process as the PD had today about everyone in the world supporting the Wolstein development of the East Bank of the Flats. I don't see any similarity between the two projects or zones - University Circle is largely a public asset requiring public planning - the Flats is a grid of private properties that are in the control of many private owners, just like any other neighborhood, and the property should be controlled by those owners.

 And I don't like that the PD has shifted into a very preachy, condescending mode and tone regarding regional planning and toward the citizenry, and our elected officials. Even as the PD tries to make its image more hip and youthful, its editorial positioning has become geriatric.

So what does the PD editorial staff - the WE in the PD - want for the East Bank of the Flats? A little retirement village of high priced condos, a few upscale restaurants, private gated acess... sort of a Shoreby Club but downtown. Think of it as a reversal of the early ages of Cleveland prosperity - the rich people would build a mansion near the city and another mansion in the country or on the lakefront away from town - a retreat. Well, now the rich people live in the country but the concept of a city pad - or retiring back to a gated flats condo sounds nice. Add a golf course on Burke Lakefront, right by the private jets... yup, looks like the generation of our parents not only sucked the life out of Cleveland, and drove it to extinction, but now they plan to move back into the carcass to die.

Well, that may be an okay strategy for a dying region and city, planning to warehouse old farts like me, when I'm older, but that will do little to attract the young imigrants who will eventually flood into the area, when the paranioia of 911 passes and America again accepts outsiders into this land of the free.

Should the PD tell politicians and property owners how to behave? Is there anything remotely right about the Wolstein plan? No.

To shift things in the right direction, I'm hopeful Kent State will step up and that with CSU they will greatly expand their presence in planning here - immediately get their architecture program rooted here and grow that - expand the CUDC - collaborate more with the county, city and other learning insititions and become more vocal. I am also hopeful Mayor Jackson has found great talent to reassess all the planning work on the tables for Cleveland today - it is the Mayor rather than the PD who is responsible for management of our city, and I'd like to see how he does without threats from the media.

"MORAL" ARCHITECTURE

There is another consideration  we perhaps should apply when we critique architectural design like Gehry’s .  

 

How moral is it?

 

Now of course with morals there is a panoply of ever shifting standards and norms.  I think there is one universal standard to which we can relate and which is pretty steady …

construction cost (say per square foot of floor space in the building) of the architect’s design vs “conventional” construction cost (psf). 

 

Gerhy’s buildings are several times more expensive psf than more conventional, less twisted buildings.  The CAD/CAM requirements of cutting every steel beam to a different length, contouring surfaces, starting and stopping oddly shaped interfaces of brick-metal shingles-glass at whim all drive the psf building cost up to the point that the building becomes in many ways an extravagant monument to the donor.   It celebrates eqo.  Glitter.   I understand that the psf cost of the Peter B. Lewis building at Case  is 3.5 times  more than would have been the cost psf of a conventional run-of-the-mill office/classroom.

 

So is this moral design?  Is it OK to blow all this dough on novel looks?  Just because the architect and the fabrication specialties now have computers which allow the integration of all this convoluted design – does that mean it is a noble exercise?

 

Are  other criteria in the cost/benefit analysis  of design morally more weighty than the criteria of designing for novel appearance?

 

Let’s say Peter B. Lewis, instead of paying 3.5 Xs normal psf for Gerhy to whimsically convolute, rather had put out a RFP (request for proposal) for the  design/build of the most energy efficient building in the world.  You know, triple glazing, geothermal wells, ducted roof integrated azmuthing wind turbine, solar shingles, sod north roof, rain collection cistern, clivus multrum, composting methane recapture,  

 

Let’s say the goal was NO STREET CONNECTIONS.  No sewer line, No water line, No electrical line ( Perhaps the better standard here would be to have the electrical line connected to the grid, but have a transistor-like “gate” which would allow the building to “bank” kwhs of power in the grid, but never take more out of the grid than had already been banked) , No gas line (and no oil tank).

 

If  extravagant cost were directed towards looks or energy efficiency WHICH BUILDING WOULD LOOK BETTER?  WHICH BUILDING WOULD BE MOST MORAL?  WHICH BUILDING WOULD RETURN THE MOST SUBSTANTIAL EGO AWARD TO ARCHITECT AND DONOR?

 

green morals

I have to agree, but I don't think that good design and green building have to be mutually exclusive. Let's have a beautiful green building from our next funder.

Will the West Quad at Case be a green?

How does the new CMA building propose to deal with all that glass and the energy demands that it presents? Is it thermal? Does anyone know the energy issues associated with the new CMA?

If CIA is going to build condos, they might want to build them off the grid. Now that's worth the investment, and it can be beautiful to boot.

With all the new building going on at University Circle, I would think the Green Building Coalition might be camped out on Chris Ronayne's doorstep.

 

UC should be green as can be

No doubt any future developments must focus on green/energy excellence - the criticality has gone from good design and social consciousness to basic economics, and you are right that if we don't think of these things with huge new structures like the CMA (and CIM, MoCA, etc.), then operating these buildings may be cost prohibative in the future... e.g. HealthSpace. Have they planned for such concerns with the big projects currently under way?