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    Tuesday, June 19, 2007

    Hideous Tower to Meet Hideous Fate?

    The 2-1 vote by the Cuyahoga County Commissioners to tear down The Cleveland Trust Tower -- the only Marcel Breuer skyscraper ever built -- has now caught the attention of the New York Times.

    This building has been empty for years. I even remember looking at that building from Jacobs Field -- when it opened in 1994 -- and thought, when are they going to raze that monstrosity? And 17 years later, it is now the subject of debate by architectual enthusiasts and preservationists. (Guess they shouldn't have waited so long!)

    I had no idea, until I read the NYT article, that it was Breuer himself who, back in the day, had designed a skyscraper that was to have been built on Grand Central Station in New York City. That skyscraper was never built, because preservationists stepped up and saved Grand Central Station. So the question is, does this tower deserve preservation.

    It is dog ugly. No doubt about it. Brutal and dirty looking, it always has been. And yet it a marvelous example of brutalist architecture. (Which is a little like saying, that is a marvelous bottle of White Zin.) Indeed, the Breuer Tower (as it is coming to be called, to put the emphasis on the renowned architect and not the bank long ago absorbed by Society n/k/a KeyBank), was but one of a pair of twin towers that were envisioned, the twin never having been built. Funny how the lone twin has a lot of the same featureless hideousness that New Yorkers used to use to describe the World Trade Center.

    But compared to say, Manhattan, Cleveland has plenty of space upon which to build. My goodness, we have surface parking lots at Public Square. The reason why is a whole 'nother story -- 1 and 33 Public Square were torn down in anticipation of a new Ameritrust Building (Ameritrust being the old Cleveland Trust), but Ameritrust merged into Society Bank before construction actually started. The land, now cleared, became surface parking -- a big gaping hole in the middle of downtown Cleveland.

    Maybe such prime real estate should not be used for a government building -- never mind it has been used for parking for going on twenty years -- and a new consolidated county government building is what the commissioners want to build where the Breuer Tower presently stands. And while the East Ninth-Euclid corner could use the increased activity that moving the county offices there would bring (and notably at the expense of the several buildings where the offices presently are), that part of downtown would get the benefit of that move whether they renovated or replaced the Breuer Tower. Presently, the estimates I've read about, both in the NYT is that it would be slightly less expensive to renovate versus raze and rebuild.

    So, for the time being, I vote to save the Breuer Tower. Yeah, its ugly. Like a brutalist building should be. And it is the work of a significant architect. The county should either renovate the tower or build elsewhere. Renovating would be ideal -- I tend to think the thing only looks so bad because its been empty for so long. Just turning on the lights might make the thing come to life.

    Besides -- the Breuer Tower is NOT the ugliest building in town. The day they implode The Justice Center, I want a hardhat and a front row seat. I hope I live to see that.

    (Thanks to Really Bad Cleveland Accent for the link to the NYT story.)

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    Comments on "Hideous Tower to Meet Hideous Fate?"

     

    Blogger Kathleen said ... (4:17 PM, June 19, 2007) : 

    Marcel Breuer also designed one of the wings for the art museum, which I believe will also be torn down and renovated.

     

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