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For the Love of Cleveland: The Power of Place - "Architecture" Balancing Form and Function

On Tuesday, June 12, our only event was a panel discussion in the For the Love of Cleveland: The Power of Place series that takes place on Public Square at noon every Tuesday in June. It's organized by the City Club of Cleveland with the sponsorship of the Cleveland Foundation, PNC and the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District.

While we waited for the program to start, we met and had a good conversation with Mr. Kenneth Perdue, Founder and Director of RollinBuckeyez Foundation, whose mission is "to creatively incorporate artistic and athletic activities into communities to actualize family health and wellness." Mr. Perdue is concurrently focused on the creation of skating rinks for people of all ages; he used to have one on the 9th Street Pier, but unfortunately, the area was redeveloped. We certainly wish him well in his efforts.

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As for the program, on June 5, the discussion topic was "Streets: Achieving Connection Not Competition," and on this day it was "Architecture" Balancing Form and Function." The moderator was Mr. Rick Jackson, Senior Host/Producer at Ideastream, and the panelists were:

  • Mr. Freddy Collier, Jr., Director of City Planning for the City of Cleveland
  • Ms. Keisha Gonzalez, Program Officer for Neighborhood Revitalization and Engagement at the Cleveland Foundation
  • Mr. Felton Thomas, Jr., Executive Director and CEO, Cleveland Public Library
  • Ms. Michele Crawford, Aspiring Architect/Community Enthusiast; Project Manager of Capital, Construction & Facilities at Cuyahoga Community College

As the program notes read, "Cleveland is in a unique situation. Migration and economic development in the urban core has led to new construction projects alongside the renovation of existing historic buildings for new purposes, creating tension among existing residents and those who seek to capitalize on economic opportunities. Can city-building be a shared experience between developers, architects, and residents? How can we balance form and function—the design of beautiful iconic structures with the creation of authentic, meaningful places that all can use and enjoy?"

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During the discussion, Mr. Jackson and the panelists explored these matters. One conclusion was that no one can have her/his way all of the time, so frustrating compromise is the only solution. One can argue for more public input, but what the public wants may not be the best architectural/planning option so transparency, education, adequate funding, and patience are required. In the instance of the transformation of Public Square, the process was said to be democratic but quite painful at times. Nevertheless, it paid off beautifully, in our opinion.

A hopeful sign is that some developers are becoming sensitive to the cultural needs of a community. An example of this was the designing of Clark-Fulton's Dollar General store to make it compatible with other structures in this considerably Hispanic community.

Another example of a conscientious and—what promises to be a—successful effort to come up with an architectural design compatible with the dynamics of a surrounding community is the case of the new MLK Branch of the Cleveland Public Library that is to be constructed in the University Circle area. We learned that international firms from such countries as Israel, Japan, and France submitted designs, and the options have now been narrowed to three. Once the choice is made, construction should be able to start in 2019.

Aimee Jannsohn