CCF and CPH

Submitted by Susan Miller on Sat, 05/23/2009 - 08:57.

Tony Brown and Steve Litt take a turn in front of a camera to discuss the impending sale of the Cleveland Playhouse to the Cleveland Clinic. The video is so poor that Brown comments asking for our forebearance. I really couldn't hear much at all, but IMHO Philip Johnson's design is worth saving not for design, but for the horrible waste of embodied energy. The Sears building on the Carnegie side has been put to good use despite its plebeian design for years by the not quite ready to move MOCA.

It is often said that we tend to get great designers long after they have hit their zenith. In this case, Cleveland native, Johnson, a great modern architect - known for his midcentury modern buildings. His work for CPH is the postmodern nostalgia of an old man. Save the Brooks and the Drury and let the Bolton go. Keats need not return to life to write an ode to this wannabe oldschool brick edifice. The original buildings should be saved as should the theater's archive reputedly in a mess - but they should be saved unlike those of the Cleveland Ballet that were loaded into a dumpster at Playhouse Square once the chains were on the doors.  Cleveland should be admonished for not commissioning Johnson in his heyday. Once he began adding postmodern dodads to his beautiful buildings his work slipped toward architecture school nostalgia. That's my plebeian unschooled opinion, not one informed by years of architecture school. His hometown got the rear end of a fabulous career. Likewise, we got over-the-hill designs by Pei and Gehry. These buildings all make up a statement about Cleveland's late to the game way of doing business. We have to suffer the E. Verner Johnson Great Lakes Science Center, Cleveland's nod to amusement park architecture. So... enough said.

As to the comment about CCF and historic preservation, I don't know where that comes from especially in light of CCF's plan to tear down the Carnegie Medical Building to make a surface parking lot. Of course, CRS has jumped in to make a comment about this preservation effort. I would guess that board members overlap here while they did not around the Breuer. Many of us can see that CCF is just making an outflow place for their politically guaranteed highway/personal driveway which they have aptly named the Opportunity Corridor (translated - opportunity to get taxpayers to build us a driveway after they build us a retail center call medmart.) By the way, Kathleen Crowther's husband, Herb, was an early consultant on the Opportunity Corridor, so I did not expect Crowther to be crowing to save the Carnegie Medical Building. She did jump up to notice the potential demise of CPH. "It does seem to be quite a waste to throw the building away," says Kathleen Crowther, executive director of the Cleveland Restoration Society. This sounds more like a lament from a beleagured nonprofit exec than a rallying cry to me. I guess this is how its done in polite society.

One more thing - no welcoming benches by the new reflecting pool? What sort of greenspace is this? One you view when you turn your head from the screen and gaze out the window from your CCF climate controlled office perch? It certainly does not welcome visitors except those who drive by. CCF's entire campus says - be inside; it's a fortress. When it does get away from the stalag idea (prisoner of ill health), perhaps it could use the Euclid Avenue grand entrance to the CPH as a welcoming greenspace. CCF buildings do not dialogue with the outside world. Drive through, ride through, hope you don't have to park or get off/out and go inside. Their nods to the outdoors are pesticide and herbicide manicured non-native grass borders. "Sit on these and breathe automobile fumes; then come in and we'll treat your cancers."

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