Tagged: Jay Pritzker Pavilion

A bit of a longer post this week. Took a trek to Cleveland to deliver illustrations for a gig I just completed. Rode Amtrak there, and hopped a bus for the return trip.

Ahhhh, public transit. I’m a fan. I’m onboard. I won’t live in a city that doesn’t have a decent functioning mass transit system. I like and applaud municipal, regional and national systems. Buuuut, they are not without some challenges. But then so is sitting a car for hours every week with your hands glued to a steering wheel. Back to some of the challenges about public transit.
Just had a 7 hour overnight ride During which I got 20 minutes of sleep and a very mild case of stiff neck today.
On a packed train I was the lone passenger with an open seat next to me. Shucks! So I turned side-saddle and drew the passenger across the aisle. But when we pulled into South Bend I gained the company of a fellow traveler about 11pm. She came prepared to endure a trek to Buffalo. Told it would be hot on a packed train, she brought a lot of gear, including… a fan she had just bought for $8. That’s her under a blanket with her new fan. Almost felt as if Cousin It from the Adams family was riding shotgun with me.


The above 3 drawings were from the return trip.

Across from the Glidden House where I stayed in Cleveland is Frank Gehry’s exciting 1996 Peter B Lewis building of the Weatherhead School of Management of Case and Western University. Jezusss! Includeding all the vanity naming on buildings is a time suck. A building I’ve draw before a few years back. I’m not a fan of everything Gerry does but he has been bold and this one collided his ideas with such rewarding results. For me the contrasting materials and forms are super playful and unlike the giant and ostentatious Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Chicago’s Millenium Park, the Lewis building has far more successful and surprising dovetailing of the complex forms and materials. The Pritzker bandshell has an idyllic setting and can be viewed from so many angles including hundreds of elevated vantage points from the surrounding high rise buildings. And though it had the challenge to be bold and a centerpiece in a large park setting in the midst of the city which features great developments in architecture, American architecture in particular, I find it to be monstrous.

Fun to draw, but an ungainly, megalomaniacal Leviathan with some seriously clunky and uninspired transitions between the stage and surrounding metal structures. Part billowing clouds, part robotic pirate ship, the bulbous metal forms above the stage transition down around the stage as if they were inspired by a PG13 sci-fi movie about an anthrophillic alien sent here to save and protect humans from rogue robots from a warlord world somewhere in a faraway galaxy.
OK, so my imagination has much to do with my distaste for the Millennium Park monster by Gerry. But I find none of those visual and structural incitements in the Lewis building.


I do find a wealth of architectonic language and interplay and immensely more satisfying resolutions in his mashup of structure and form.
I’ve included a grisaille study of the Pritzker Pavilion from several years ago. Now the Lewis building was designed at least 3-4 years prior to the Pritzker Pavilion and 4-5 years following the design of Gehry’s stunning Bilbao Guggenheim Museum which rocked the world when came to be. So perhaps Gehry felt a need to make another big statement and there’s no reason a building, or art for that mater, cannot be both beauty and beast. The signature metal shingling often employed in Gehry’s oeuvre was inspired by among other things fish scales, and is visually dazzling. Perhaps, at times even blinding as can be seen by some of the photos I took of the Lewis building just this week. Gehry uses handsome materials and loves surface and contrast. Witness the choice of brick on the Lewis building. Relatively simple if not plain at first glance, the modest brick is well suited to the austere surface he creates on the masonry walls with unadorned windows meant to enhance the smooth flow of the walls as they arc, curve and bend to dance if not mimic the metal forms. Nice. Metal, born of heat, is known for retaining a sense of its liquid state. Brick, also a material that evolves from dry to wet to dry metamorphosis, often conveys a rigidness but in Gehry’s design is supple and smoothly muscular. Up close, the brick surface displays subtle indentations as if erosion and spalling have begun the demise of the buildings skin. Not so. Those features do however give further surface interest when viewed during the moments the passing sun cast a raking light on the building. That combined with the reflective metal skin mean the skin of the building is constantly changing as light conditions and weather alter the surface of Gehry’s work. It breathes. On one side he utilizes the razzle dazzle of the orchestration of swirling metal, brick and glass features, however, on the opposite side, with close proximity to the dark and heavily shadowed Ben C Green Law Library, a thick Brutalist building, Gehry provides counterpoint with a light brick building that has both delicacy, calm yet flair with equal assurance as it flirts with its knotted brow neighbor.
One review I read about the Lewis building talks of how it’s radical presence has segued to an everyday familiarity with passers by now used to it in a University Circle neighborhood that features a wonderful collection of distinct architecture from many styles. In part, the reviewer argues because it is embedded within Case Western’s urban campus and surrounded in close proximity by many buildings and well developed trees. But if you walk around the building you notice that you can experience this still dramatic structure from close, where it’s interplay and details thoroughly delight in its sculptural wit and sensuality. You can also appreciate it from afar as the landscaping on the Case and Western campus and the nearby museum campus afford great views from more than a couple hundred yards.
I’m a fan.

Fountain pens and Pitt Artist Pens on Clairefontaine Rhodia unlined notebook.

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