Friday, April 06, 2007

Fight to Save Downtown Building
Isn't Over Yet, Says Lawson Jones

I ran into Cuyahoga County commissioner
Peter Lawson Jones this morning at breakfast, and took a moment to congratulate him for his principled stand on the preservation of the Breuer Building, which some see as an architectural landmark but which his commission counterparts are itching to demolish. The Plain Dealer this week did what it always does, editorializing against preservation and thus throwing its weight toward what establishment players want rather than average citizens. In doing so, it thus ignored the ongoing and impassioned calls of its architecture critic, Steve Litt, who's been campaigning to save the building. Last week, he had this to say. In February, he wrote this column.

Last September, in a column no longer online (but the energetic Norm Roulet mentions it here), Litt got the whole debate started by writing that "the three Cuyahoga County Commissioners soon could decide to pull down a 29-story downtown office tower by Marcel Breuer to make way for a new county administrative center. That would be tragic and wasteful for a city with a limited supply of historic buildings worth saving from any period. In this case, apathy over mid-20th-century Modernist architecture is playing a huge role. Debate over the Breuer tower has been absolutely anemic." Imagine that, a PD writer trying to spark more rather than less community debate! It helps explain why Litt isn't merely popular in many quarters, but increasingly becoming at least a minor folk hero to some.

Anyway, Lawson Jones said this morning that all does not look so gloomy as some would assume. "It's now before the City Planning Commission, and I'm hopeful, knock on wood, that they'll do the right thing." He added that it wouldn't hurt if people were to call the commission and make their voices heard. Okay, folks, you have your marching orders (okay, more like a suggestion). That number is 216-664-2210.


At 2:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i know architecture is in your blood and you have an appreciation of it, but the Breuer building is ugly plus the inside of it is a disaster based upon the work that would need to be done to it. I would not think this is one of Breuer better designs. I find the old brewery buildings that used to dot the Cleveland neighborhoods more appealing and worth saving if still standing and can be further used. MFH

At 4:34 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

No, you're right. I should have stipulated that I also find the building pretty ugly, as do lots of people. So the preservation argument isn't an open-and-shut case, no matter what the purists say. On some basic gut level, if enough people find a structure ugly, all the testimonials from the preservation and architectural communities about the historical importance of a building aren't going to really matter.

I was just complaining about the lack of process in this town for even taking these conversations and inquiries seriously. And the Plain Dealer is the biggest offender (that is, the editorial page).

A lot of this, I should note (for me and perhaps others) is spillover frustration from the disgraceful way we disposed of the Hullett iron ore unloaders, those unique 19th century industrial sculptures that we pissed away, to our everlasting shame (though if memory serves, one was taken apart for storage, possibly to be repositioned at a later date, perhaps along the canal corridor, if and when federal money can be shaken free--can someone please refresh my memory on that?). I'm not convinced that any town with that kind of disrespect for icons of its shared past has much ability to build a real future. Intelligent, vibrant, progressive cities figure out how to make it all part of a seemless tapestry.

At 4:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cleveland might have once been the industrial revolution's Silicon Valley, which is why we have/had great inventions like the Hullets; however, few of us appear to recognize that the majority of Cleveland's 20th century was shaped by LBO artists and other vulture capitalists. This class of bottom-feeding business folks flipped companies among them, as each squeezed the lifeblood out while ignoring reinvestment. Now that we're left with the remnants of this era, we shouldn’t be surprised that no one with the means is interested in perpetuating this past.


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