Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Calls for intellectual discourse . . .

As the past few weeks have shown, Cleveland institutions are running out of town to find architects for their "iconic' projects (see MOCA, Cleveland Institute of Art, and Cleveland State).

We can wallow in our typical Cleveland despair, looking up from the turf when the proverbial Steeler linebacker spits in our face. Or we can use these slights by our elites as critical moments of professional introspection.

We must face the fact that Cleveland architecture does not possess a substantial intellectual discourse. There is no sense of a city "school", like the Philadelphia School that arose around Lou Kahn and Robert Venturi or a Phoenix School that grew around the passionate architectural pursuits of Will Bruder or a LA School that emerged with Frank Gehry. There is no leading intellectual purveyor of a singular idea or set of ideas, based either in an academic rigor or rooted in a regional vernacular. A serious philosophical vacuum exists that is filled by empty formalism and contextual echoes.

Here is my call to action. In order to establish a critical mass of architectural thought, a sturdy infrastructure of academic presence, patronage, and media coverage must be established within Cleveland. Kent State, by moving all of its Master of Architecture programs downtown offers one rail of infrastructure. Cleveland "leaders" must also be open to provide opportunities for younger architects to explore via competitions and smaller commissions. And lastly the arts community, the Cleveland AIA, and various critics, including Steve Litt and the Plain Dealer, must push for innovative architectural and urban design approaches and research.

If these rails are established, maybe a vigorous and engaged architectural community will emerge, allowing Cleveland architects to enter a serious discourse and therefore enter the consciousness of our leading institutions.


Stan said...

Count me in. And, I really want to help as much as I can.

I'll copy this post on Improvised Schema as well.

Bradley said...

The move of the grad school to Cleveland is the most dramatic and nearly the most important component for creating an engaged architectural community.

Getting the design community together with more frequency (as the community came together for Friday evening's reception) is most important in creating a forum for thought and establishing a presence for the critical mass that already exists (and is growing), though scattered and completely unacknowledged.

My first thoughts are in utilizing systems already in place with a certain amount of influence and reputation (though full potential may be unrealized) to build a body of architectural discourse and advocacy.

Could the CUDC strengthen its Friday lectures (and push an hour later, or so) and provide an assumed afterward gathering? Events as these begin to bring the design community to one place at that same time... A thought.