Monday, September 8, 2008

Renovating Cleveland Trust Tower Complex

Can you imagine downtown Cleveland without the theater district, the warehouse district, or other cultural arts and historic entertainment venues? Neither can I. I also cannot imagine why any rational well thought opinion would advocate the demolition of renowned architect Marcel Breuer’s 1971 downtown structure most commonly known as the Trust Tower---just because of a common opinion that the building is “ugly“.

Hmmm…glad we don’t do away with every person we had that opinion about! Appreciating architecture is not only about whether we think a particular work is acceptable to the eye. More intrinsically, it is about appreciating styles that were reflective of the moods and cultural or social times of any given area in a certain place of time in history. Since it seems so conveniently forgotten that at one time, many fine historic buildings, “ugly” or not, in both the Warehouse and Theater District, were at one time threatened by the wrecking ball--should I offer a reminder of what would downtown be without those great assets?

The same “out with the old and in with the new” mentality had recently threatened the Trust Tower when the county purchased the property for their new headquarters and then later concluded the building complex was unsuitable---and was exploring the option of demolition. This is one of those structures that like perhaps the Warehouse District or Theater District, may to many seem not worth saving right now---but in the long run if it was demolished, would be a regret to the City of Cleveland. Not knowing what you had until you lost it cannot be changed in the case of the Trust Tower because it just so happens that it is an example of a type of architecture known as “Brutalism” that is becoming a rare and endangered species these days.

The Trust Tower is a structure that represents a modernist style yet offers a natural look with its earth toned honey combed facades around the windows. It is perfectly juxtaposed with the classic historic rotunda building in the front, which offers two examples of two time periods on one corner! Preserving this rare example will be reason enough that in the future, will draw it much positive focus. In addition, Cleveland will be opting to do the more environmentally conscious alternative by keeping 400 plus feet high demolition out of landfills--and also allow for the implementation of progressive adaptive reuse plans for the complex.

No need to talk about demolition anymore because since the county lacked the financial resources to see through their much maligned and wasteful plan for such, a local development company bought the complex and is going to do just what should be done, and that is--to renovate the complex and make it a mixed use facility of office, retail, housing, and arts. I am impressed with the plans and hope the management of the complex thereafter meets the needs for it’s upkeep. I am glad to know that this story won’t turn out to be one of regretting what we’ve lost.. I hope that it turns out to e a story of having us not being able to imagine this downtown corner without it---much like we cannot imagine it without Playhouse Square or the Warehouse District. I hope the new interpretation of this complex renovated will have more people discovering a new appreciation for it.


On a side note and very personal opinion….

No, The Trust Tower Complex is not the classic works of art in Rome or Paris, but maybe even some of their greats weren’t considered to be at one time---but it is good those countries had the foresight to preserve their architecture to discover that one day they would be classics! I am not saying every building built is destined to be a classic at one time or another, but The Trust Tower, in our infancy of a country, does in fact represent an important moment in a truly definitive and world changing time---a mood, a style, a political scene…and perhaps can symbolize important events of the past at that particular time which we can learn something valuable from.

It seems we tear down too much of our best architectural history in this country today , forgetting our past, and helping to foster a mentality that carries an attitude that suggests “history starts here..now..and with us” ….leaving mostly big box stores as our most plentiful architecturally bland claim to fame! I am sure we’ll get tourists flocking here by the thousands some day to see places like that! (only if you need to save 5 cents on underwear!) Indeed, architecture reminds us of history--something we need to learn more of these days so we won’t repeat mistakes of the past--and tearing down the Trust Tower would have eventually become one of those mistakes of the past.

Click on the link below to read more about the renovation of this complex and to see a visual tour of what it will look like.



http://www.cleveland.com/arts/index.ssf/2008/07/_a_cleveland_architecture_firm.html

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