Breuer Building on World Monuments Watch List

Submitted by Susan Miller on Wed, 06/06/2007 - 15:53.

The Central Library in Grosse Point Michigan designed by Marcel Breuer made it onto the World's Most Endangered Monuments list for 2008. Here's an except: "Main Street Modern: Buildings of the recent past that lack a consensus on preservation but are considered worth saving by the monuments fund include Paul Rudolph's Riverview High School, built in 1957 in Sarasota, Fla., and Marcel Breuer's Grosse Pointe Public Library, built in 1953 in Grosse Pointe Farms, Mich." from the AP today titled, "Warming threatens cultural gems". Yeah, here in Cleveland it is not warming that threatens our Main Street Moderns; it's lack of foresight.

I thought the library had been saved... maybe not... It's caused quite a stir though in the preservation community. Read about it here in the National Trust publication. MAPA is hosting a design charette to SAVE the library.

From an article in the Seattle Post:

"In 2007 the community's library board plans to demolish the Grosse Pointe Central Library and replace it with a newer, bigger structure"

No renovation, no preservation, no restoration just demolition.

If the site doesn't work for the library they should sell it or donate it to a historical society. I can't imagine there isn't another property available in Detroit where they can build their dream home.

The sanity award of the day goes to local architect and member of the historical commission William Hartman who told the library trustees- "that destroying Breuer's library would be a form of cultural illiteracy -- a plundering of the contribution that modernism has made to Michigan"."


Who might get the sanity award in Cleveland if we don't let the county demolish our Breuer Tower? Therein lies the legacy... there is no legacy in destroying a cultural icon. (And, I must add, just after passing a sin tax to fund the arts and culture. Who made Tim and Jimmy the arbiters of taste? Watch out arts community!) More than likely it won't be awarded to our local preservation society. It must go to David Ellison who said tearing down the tower to build a green building is hypocrisy. Right on David! Anyone in elected office listening? The World Monuments Watch has us in the crosshairs. Just salivating waiting for Cleveland to do something right!


Check out the list at World Monuments Fund. Here's an excerpt: "The work of these designers was united by certain core principles, including a departure from traditional forms, the integration of arts and design disciplines, and the use of industrial materials and innovative technologies. 

The primary threats faced by Modern architecture are demolition or inappropriate renovations, and the technical challenges of conserving the experimental materials and innovative building systems used in their construction. The greatest threat, however, is perhaps public apathy-a lack of consensus or confidence-that buildings of the recent past can be important enough to be preserved for the future.

It is hoped that this Watch listing will encourage these and other communities (insert Cleveland, Ohio) to consider alternatives to the demolition of these buildings, which are important pieces of American architectural and social history."

What will we see happen to our Breuer? His only high-rise? Sanity or stupidity?

Good comparison to situation in Grosse Pointe

I suppose the next steps will be determined by what happens tomorrow, at the City meeting, but I imagine the fight has just begun. May be a good idea to reach out to the Grosse Pointe folks to work together saving Breuers and modern architectural icons. Who in NEO is leading the charge to save the Breuer? You, Susan?

Disrupt IT

Breuer plan 2 -- a boondoggle

In this morning's Cleveland City Planning Commission meeting, attendees heard and saw a presentation by the RP Madison group's experts who gathered to discuss the proposed demolition. There were experts on earthquakes (a gentleman who raised the issue of an earthquake happening along East Ninth street -- It was a new scare tactic thrown out there and countered by Daryl Davis who noted that if we feel we need to dismantle something that is on a real fault line, we should get busy dismantling Perry Nuclear Power Plant today), we heard unfounded numbers that refereed to the number of square feet needed and available -- numbers that contradicted last week's presentation ( members of the planning commission were clearly boggled when faced with these numbers floating in space, and we all were unprepared to see the issues in a comparative manner -- side by side). We were told that asbestos removal would be very expensive and that the idea of encapsulating the asbestos in the outer portion of the building was untenable. We heard from a contractor who described the deconstruction process; when asked if he had been involved in deconstructing a skyscraper before, he treated us to a long silence and after some uhs, came up with an unconvincing story about a 13 story building that his company had taken down. We were all slogging through this painful account of the process and reasons for tearing down this piece of art while we waited for the renderings of the gorgeous and functional new "signature" building which is to be LEED certified. But no. There was one drawing which showed the Post Rotunda, referred to repeatedly throughout the presentation as the "jewel" and the reason for siting the new county administration building at East Ninth and Euclid, stranded and separated from some unknown new structure behind it to the southeast. When asked by Lillian Kuri what the program for the Rotunda was to be, nothing was offered. Quite simply, this lack of any vision for the future of the "jewel" is shocking, glaring and totally unreassuringly.  The planning commission is being asked to sign off on the demolition of a globally significant architectural building without having the vaguest idea what will replace it. Former Cleveland Planning Director Hunter Morrison suggested that the Breuer building is an acquired taste -- like a dry martini. I had to wonder if Tim and Jimmy had yet acquired taste. In fact since we have recently passed a sin tax to fund the arts and culture it is concerning to imagine that the county might consider themselves the arbiters of taste -- clearly this is not the case. More reports to come after Martha and I view the final hours of the Shrinking Cities exhibit. Shrinking indeed -- but more to the point the shrinking of innovative thinking as regards our built environment. Stay tuned for comments by Cimperman... oh boy!!!

they have no plan, yet they want to demolish

I think what was most telling about yesterday is that Cimperman, DiMora, and Hagan have no firm plan yet for the rotunda, the hole left by a demolished Breuer Tower, or the site around the two--it's all just feel-good speculation about being something way better and more appropriate. They're asking us to grant a demolition permit when they haven't even told us what the outcome will be when the building is demolished. They're asking us to trust their judgment, their values,  and their exquisite and well-informed good taste.Cimperman wants to grant the permit so he can continue to work with the county--and that's his only reason, weak as it is, nonrepresentative as it is.

We had a lot of good public commentary yesterday--from Jennifer Coleman, Hunter Morrison, Steve McQuillin, Todd deGarmo, Tom Yablonski, Bob Miller, Susan herself, Paul Volpe, David Ellison, Daryl Davis, Anthony Hiti and the AIA, Gloria Ferris, myself, and others whose names I can't remember. Is there going to be a transcript of this, or a recording available? Cimperman's and Trotter's comments were especially ridiculous and meretricious, and they need to be aired to the public at large. Krumholz, Morrison, and deGarmo weighed in with some extremely professional commentary, and that needs to get into the public dialogue, as well.

confusing take on vote

Tim, Gloria, Martha, Norm and anyone else who was there,

I am confused about the whole voting thing. Here's Tom Breckenridge's take from this morning's PD. " The Cleveland City Planning Commission needs more information before it decides whether to give Cuyahoga County a permit to tear down the historic Ameritrust tower at East 9th Street and Euclid Ave.

The commission voted 4-3 Friday against a motion from member Norman Krumholz to deny the permit.

Commissioners want to raze the tower to make way for a new county government administration complex.

The commission wants more detail on issues, including: savings realized in restoring the building, rather than building new; the availability of federal and state historic tax credits; floor-to-ceiling heights in a restored tower; and how the historic rotunda will be used in the new complex, which is projected to cost $150 million."

I thought they voted to deny the permit to demolish and then they went back and said they needed more information from the applicant. Coyne suggested three options, allow the permit with conditions, table the vote to allow for more time for the applicant to provide information, deny the permit, but allow the applicant to reapply with more details. Now this was hard to hear and harder to follow at that point. It seemed obvious that if we had all been Joe's constituents we might have made headway with the hours of intelligent testimony, but then Joe piped up with this idea that the county are our partners (our brothers I believe he called them) and that we should not begrudge them their plan (despite the fact that there was no suggestion of what would replace the tower except a hole and the promise of somehting cool that would function and that would be green (despite no track record of green buildings). He mentioned that city planning should honor the work of county planning, but then the question was raised as to what role county planning had played in the process. (We were all anxious to hear this answer and strained forward to hear whether or not our hero Paul Alsenas aa voice of reason in the region had put his stamp of approval on the project...). The answer: no we have not consulted county planning. Please correct me if I am wrong.


The issue of the planning commission allowing the demo and ending up with a parking lot and no building made it out from someone's lips, but some conversation that came from the planning commission members like a low contentious argument ensued. Something about having allowed demo permits before and ending up with surface parking and Mall C being one of these such permits. I don't know the history here. can someone enlighten me?

Still, with no plans and stranding the Rotunda (which was shown in photos uncredited from the Luminocity public art project which was a CPA project and does not represent the way the Rotunda looks regularly) and no program -- it's never planned to be exposed backside facing some undescribed walk through; their plans to close and or rearrange the alley behind the buildings (isn't this a public thoroughfare?) and ignoring the issue of state and federal historic tax credit allowances that might be had by saving the tower and or adjacent buildings, this plan was shot through with holes. No program for the "jewel" and no program and no building for the promised functionality.


I was disturbed by the business of "follow our brothers" suggested by Cimperman. He noted that he has calls from his constituents who have failing businesses along the Euclid Corridor mess. Well, I am curious as to his vote on allowing the Euclid Corridor and what sort of assistance might have been offered to help sustain the businesses which have become largely inaccessible while this project goes on and on and takes up more and more blocks of the city's main travel route. Maybe Joe could suggest that the city pay for advertising of ways to reach the suffering businesses, free ads somewhere or maps showing the options for getting to these spots (parking and detour routes etc., a sort of "please excuse our dust campaign" launched by the city and the RTA to keep the businesses alive during construction. But not, he recommends we add to the confusion by allowing the county to add another disruption at East Ninth undertaken by a contractor who is under indictment in Lorain and cannot recall experience deconstructing a skyscraper.

Oh jeez. Does anyone know where we can see the video taped during the event?

I'm confused, too

The way I thought the vote went down was that three were against Krumholz, and four were on his side. That is, four voted to deny the pemit to demolish right then and there.

Then, it seemed to me that the vote "wasn't for real" or wasn't formal or something, because they backed off it and went into that silly, simpering display of nonsensical yet desperate waffling by the simpering, pimping, Cimperman (a name helps forge destiny, you know...).

I know that Cimperman voted against the motion to deny the permit. Bowen (?) voted against denying it because he didn't have enough information to approve or deny it. Krumholz and Kuri voted to deny it. As for the rest, I couldn't figure who hollered out what when. It was sloppy.

They need to make these votes by roll call, so there is no doubt about who stands for what. There's too much room for slippage the way things went down yesterday. I left with a sense that this process will be jiggered and tweaked until Cimperman, DiMora, and Hagan get the vote they want, tear the thing down, and once again embarass us to the world as being unappreciative, no-class klutzes from Cleveland.

I now have a sense that Tom Breckenridge at the PD got it all wrong as well, and this ( is going to stand on the record as gospel. I think Tom got it backward. This is a mess.

where's the tape?

In Cleveland Heights, the local cable shows the city council meetings and the roll is called and the votes are recorded. As a citizen and taxpayer, I can watch and learn. These meetings inform my votes in future elections.

Speaking of which, which commissioner is coming up for re-election and when?

Where in Cleveland are these meetings televised? Is there a Cleveland cable station that runs a sort of CSPAN of government meetings, boring and sloppy as they may be? I think we need to review the tape and know what actually happened. If a correction is required at the PeeDee, then we should launch a massive letter writing campaign. Someone yesterday said they were glad the thing was being televised... but where and for whom?

It is inexcusable the too casual way this issue was treated yesterday. What are the rules of the game anyway? Shouldn't the citizens of the city have access to them so that they can serve as watchdogs?

Commission -- "a group of people authorized or directed to carry out a duty or task"

OK, but by what means and under what rules or guidance? Citizens of Cleveland are paying for this shouldn't you know what you've purchased -- buyer beware...