Preserving Our Built Environment
Office of Citizen
Rest in Peace,
Love letters for the Breuer Tower
Submitted by Susan Miller on Tue, 07/17/2007 - 05:09.
Here in Cuyahoga County we do have some arts leaders who are not holding their cards. Al Albano like others sent a letter when the news of this Breuer business came out. Didn't see it? It wasn't published -- here it is. Thanks Al! Attached are letters from the Museum of Modern Art and The National Building Museum as well.
Dear County Commissioners:
As I will not be able to attend tomorrow’s important meeting which may decide the fate of Marcel Breuer’s tower, I am writing this letter to voice my informed position on this issue, which I know to be shared by many of my equally informed and respected colleagues in the field of art & architecture conservation/preservation.
It is obviously unnecessary at this juncture to elucidate the international, art historic and architectural stature of Marcel Breuer, and I will thus address the more ruthlessly pragmatic issues which I assume are driving your collective decision making process in considering the building’s future. I should add that I have had a complete tour of the building’s interior by a county architect, and am thoroughly aware of its generally fine condition, and excellent state of preservation.
Because of its conception, expensive materials, and fine craftsmanship, given our county’s current resources, the tower like the Rotunda, would be nearly impossible to duplicate in today economic climate. But can the tower be saved and be economical and functional at the same time?
For a building to be economical it is critical to have the right percentage of square footage used for utilities core, to useable office space. Breuer’s tower as built includes the utilities core that was also to be used by the second phase, or addition to the tower along Euclid Avenue. Should a tower be built in this location embracing the Rotunda on two sides, the useable office space per floor would be approximately 80 percent, which is highly efficient.
An additional tower offers all the custom opportunities of a new design, and eliminates the vast amount of demolition rubble and asbestos mitigation necessary from the existing tower if demolished. In addition, 50 percent of the imbedded cost of a new building is in its structure and shell. Why throw this existing structure away when new mechanicals could be added to the tower allowing for a substantial savings of our collective tax dollars?
Most importantly, Breuer’s tower is an icon of its time. How many good buildings do we have from this late 1960s early 1970s period in Cleveland? The answer is very few. If this prestigious building is torn down, future generations are likely to ask why, as many now ask about so many other important buildings lost to Cleveland because of a short sighted view of our cultural history.
There are few worse legacies in history to carry on, than that of being a destroyer of culture. Cleveland is already a recipient of numerous “black eyes” for many parochial decisions, often predicated on vested self interest rather than the community’s well being. The Cuyahoga County Commissioners have the responsibility of stewardship of an important piece of our collective, modern architectural heritage. Given the county’s economic resources appropriately available for its county office building, it is highly unlikely that a building of the quality and historic stature comparable to Breuer’s tower would be achieved again.
Albert Albano, Executive Director
Now click on the attachments to see letters from the National Building Museum and the Museum of Modern Art. They echo the strong case for retaining the building.
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