Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Gwathmey's Debacle at Cleveland State

BOTC is crunched for time, but had to write about Charles Gwathmey's design for a new student center at Cleveland State and Steve Litt's rather warm critical embrace of the proposed building. We are cringing at both the building and the review.

The proposed building reflects Gwathmey's formal stagnation that has plagued his work since the early 1990's. There is nothing new in the formal amalgam--Gwathmey has been regurgitating these "modernist forms" for a life time and had not advanced the investigation. The grouping of shapes, forms, and space is not adequately raw, like Gehry's 1980's architectural assemblies in Los Angeles, or adequately refined and assertive, like John Hejduk's many theoretical paper projects, such as the Wall Houses. The proposed Gwathmey scheme is adequately luke-warm and acceptable for a campus that is plagued with many bad recent buildings, like the Levin College of Urban Affairs.

As much as BOTC is concerned about the office park-like building for an urban campus, we are more concerned with Steve Litt's unequivocal embrace of the design. We fail to understand Litt's acceptance of the cliched design within a city also plagued with cliched architecture. Litt asserts that not every new "iconic" building needs possess the ego and virility of a Gehry, Koolhass, or Libeskind building--and we agree. However, a major campus building, situated on a major urban corridor, replacing an assertive and potent modern structure, should possess an individual, site-specific and situated integrity and a campus enhancing authenticity that is lacking in the proposed scheme. That integrity and authenticity does not need to translate into aggressive formalism--intergrity and authencity can reside within the calm, serene, and sublime.

Although many dislike the modernist core campus of the University, one has to admire the intentions of that ensemble as a paradigm-changing notion. Those designers accepted Cleveland State as an urban institution, sustained by commuter students, and engaged in the new era of the American city. Within the brutalist concrete was hope, idealism, and the groping for the new American college campus, divorced form the historicism of Jefferson and the East Coast. The core campus possessed an intellectual endeavor, which cannot be said of the student center.

There is one last of note of concern pertaining to Litt + the Gwathmey proposal. In a recent posting on his blog, Litt asserts that Gwathmey is no enemy of Brutalism, pointing-out that the architect is currently designing an addition to the brutalist Yale Art + Architecture building. We must assert that Gwathmey is designing an abomination next to Paul Rudolph's masterpiece. The new structure appears utterly devoid of the spatial, formal, and articulated lessons and tactics so prevalent within the original Rudolph building. If Gwathmey is perpetrating this architectural crime against his alma mater, what can we expect the architect to unleash upon Cleveland State?

Monday, August 13, 2007

We're gonna put a Cap in your Ass-embled City

If we are going to spend millions of dollars on re-developing the entire Inner Belt, why not allow for future accommodation of an Inner Belt Cap? The erasure of the infrastructural scar as well as the emergence of a new, reclaimed urbanism would benefit the city and the institutions that compose the near east side. We have nothing else really to add to the essence of the debate.

However, BOTC challenges Steve Litt to get the Plain Dealer to challenge local architects to envision the potential part of the city, similar to what the Toronto Globe + Mail did this past June. The Maschke Plan was really just a pragmatic diagram with little intellectual or engaging content. Further investigation and informed speculation is warranted and needed to spur the dialogue further along.

BOTC believes that this healing scar does not need to be planted with the mythical urbanisms of the past. Rather, this scar should host emergent notions of urbanism and allow for the intellectual endeavors of enhanced + informed urban form.

Friday, August 03, 2007


BOTC and its brother Cleveland Design City sites are proud to announce:

L A U N C H:


This informal discussion group will begin its endeavors 8 August @ 6 PM @ Prosperity.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Discourse at Prosperity

After MOCA's "What's good for the city" Event, much "discussion" has occurred.

Hence, a local architectural dialogue has commenced that must be sustained.

As a follow up, some of your favorite Cleveland Design City bloggers and associated parties will be gathering at the Prosperity Social Club in Tremont on Wednesday 8 August @ 6PM.

BOTC feels the dialogues need to be tightened-up, focused, and rhetorically lead somewhere in order to engender relevance. A little intellectual autonomy would prove frutiful.

We shall see.