In 1999, famed deconstructive architect Frank Gehry broke ground on the newest addition to the Case Western Reserve University campus in Cleveland, Ohio. The Peter B. Lewis Building for the Weatherhead School of Management opened in 2002. Located at the corner of Bellflower Road and Ford Drive in University Circle, the building stands out among the neo-classical structures that form the bulk of the university’s campus.
On the exterior, Gehry has mixed red brick with his characteristic undulating organic curves. The façade is composed of stainless steel plates that create a sculptural form beginning at the roof and wrapping the sides of the building. Unlike some of Gehry’s other works, like the Guggenheim Bilbao or Disney Concert Hall, a large portion of the exterior, clad in red brick, approaches what one might consider “conventional” architecture. However, this convention quickly dissolves as the brick twists and crashes into the steel plate façade. Considering that the building houses the Weatherhead School of Management, The red brick symbolizes traditional established methods for doing business while the metal plate represents the dynamic changes in global economy and a rapidly changing business environment. The two seemingly contradictory styles work together to synthesize a complete whole.
The interior houses a central atrium covered in over 50,000 sq feet of curving drywall. This atrium is flanked by steel towers housing offices and classrooms. Gehry’s expertise with lighting is displayed by the natural light that penetrates the interior and changes hues as the day progresses. The light varies and gives unique character to the interior spaces. The classrooms, each custom designed, fill specific niches, and are warmed up with excellent use of natural materials.
The Peter B. Lewis building is unlike any other building on the Case Western Reserve University Campus. It is part of the ongoing renewal in urban planning at University Circle; including the future university center designed by firm Perkins+Will and the relocation of the MOCA Cleveland to the neighborhood.
This addition, by noted architect Frank Gehry, adds to Cleveland’s architectural legacy and raises an interesting question. What is architecture’s role in revitalizing an urban area?
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