Friday, October 19, 2012

Cleveland Museum of Natural History: Whats war got to do, got to do with it?

Architecture is reaction and prediction.

Preservation is about documenting and explaining the architecture; thus, what the designer and client was reacting to, and what the designer was predicting.

Recently in preservation, there is an increased interest in mid-20th century, whereas twenty years ago the rising interest was vernacular urban neighborhoods. Furthermore, fifty plus years ago the interest was recreating Colonial America, and one hundred plus years ago, it was about saving the original colonial history.

We could speak globally about preservation or conservation trends, but we are just going to stick with the US, and particularly, Cleveland, Ohio.

2012 Cleveland Museum of Natural History

Now, yesterday I was able to attend the Cleveland Museum of Natural History's Building with Nature Symposium. It was an eight hour lecture on sustainable, assumed to be sustainable, architecture. Why did the museum put on such a symposium you ask? Well, they are planning to build a new "statement" campus.

Great right? Construction in Cleveland means jobs and progress, right?

Well, not entirely so great for me, the preservationist.

As I sat in the audience, I looked around thinking, "Well, I guess all the literature I read about preservation being left out of the sustainability conservation is true," because there was no preservationist on the lecture panel. Not. A. One.

The audience was shocking thoughtful, many questioned the new green gizmo case studies with skepticism and hesitancy to adopt such a standard. Many questioned, why they weren't seeing indigenous materials?

My reaction to the presentations were--stop.

Stop and consider the building you have.

In sustainability, we talk about doing more with less.
Then doing more with less must include starting with what you have?

Yesterday and this morning, I took the task of researching popular opinion on the existing Cleveland Museum of Natural History, built between 1958-1961. Anyone over the age of forty-five winced their eyes and issues a death warrant for the building because of aesthetics. Anyone under forty-five had a less abrasive opinion on the building, they wanted to see it live. One of the unknowing test subjects, over the age of fifty, had no opinion, because the building didn't really every stand out in their memory.

The building, the architecture did what it meant to: react to a post-war, Cold War, nuclear period of time, where interior space was the purpose. The building, the brown brick veneer, blended into its environment so well, that many people didn't really notice it. The building, that houses a natural history collection, didn't obtrude between the interior happenings and the exterior world.

I don't know about you, but a building, built after nuclear fear for a natural history collection, probably shouldn't be the "statement".

2008 Fentress Architecture, Proposed Renovation & Expansion

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