Lessons from Peter B. Lewis and Frank Gehry

Submitted by Evelyn Kiefer on Fri, 04/27/2007 - 15:10.

Wednesday night's lecture at the Cleveland Clinic with Peter B. Lewis and Frank Gehry was everything I had expected and more. I doubt an audience member left without a new appreciation for the  positive,  transformative power of architecture, friendship and collaboration. It was inspiring just to be in the same room with two people who had made such great contributions to architecture. It was also inspiring to see two people, two friends, who worked so well together as client and architect. A testament to Gehry's fame, the lecture had very few visuals – only a few slides of his most famous buildings such as the Disney Concert Hall in LA, The Experience Museum Project in Seattle, the Guggenheim Bilboa and the unbuilt Peter B. Lewis residence were shown.  Peter Lewis and Frank Gehry each spent 15 minutes discussing some of the highlights of their lives and careers and then they took questions from the audience.

Questions were asked about the role of architecture and health and wellness, educating the next generation of architects, Lewis and Gehry's thoughts on future projects and the legacy of Frank Lloyd Wright. Most people who asked questions prefaced their questions with exuberant expressions of praise and appreciation. Gehry's answer to the question of about the relationship between architecture and health and wellness hinted that  he might be persuaded to design something for a hospital someday. The question about education, which I believe was asked by the principal of John Haye High School, raised an important issue about teaching young people architecture. Gehry advised young architects that they must choose good clients – clients that questions things and develop the building in collaboration with you. (something to note for those developing the CMSD curriculum) Gehry and Lewis's reverence for Frank Lloyd Wright, which came up more than once during the 1 hour lecture, was also interesting and impressive.

One question that I found particularly relevant to Cleveland at this particular moment was “how do you raise awareness of a city's architectural potential?” Frank Gehry took this question, and recounted his experience in building the Guggenheim Bilbao. He said when he first began work in Bilbao he was met with death threats and a candlelight vigil against the project. But, despite the extreme early opposition, the Spanish people now love the building and treat Gehry like a beloved celebrity. What if he had listened to the opposition and the building had never been built? Learning of Gehry's experience, perhaps it is worth fighting to preserve buildings that initially lack local support (i.e. the Breuer building on West 9th) and perhaps it is worth fighting to build the best design possible rather than a mediocre solution (i.e. the Innerbelt bridge project).

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It is worth fighting

"perhaps it is worth fighting to preserve buildings that initially lack local support (i.e. the Breuer building on West 9th) and perhaps it is worth fighting to build the best design possible rather than a mediocre solution (i.e. the Innerbelt bridge project)."  Dear Evelyn, thank you for attending this event.

Dynamic Duo


I've been a bit hobbled by stigmatizing foot problems of late, and sorry to all for such a hiatus from the seriously socially conscious site we collectively share and own.  I am truly sorry I missed this one, I can vividly remember joining fellow Weatherhead MBA initiates on stage between these two visionaries , Peter and Frank and shaking hands with them amidst much pomp and grandeur.  This was, of course back in 2002, the virginal year the Gehry building was first Christened.. and our MBA class was the first full time class to grace the hallowed halls of a sculpture-building that created quite a love-hate stir once it emerged.  For all the controversy and conflict that evolved as this piece did we could conjecture one particular ponderance - shock and awe were in full effect.   Cost overruns and functional follies may have had their effects but I believe that what we have today is a visionary sculpture for a visionary culture here in Cleveland.  Let's build upon its innovation and pioneering vision to create a garden of sculptures here in town, housing sculptures within and without.   We will create a Global Bohemian New Urbanist vision, hopefully both in East Cleveland and  the Oxbow Flats area with the help of the Great Gilotta family!


 Great work, Evelyn!   I hope to connect to Peter B and Frank G soon...


Imshane are you reffering to

Imshane are you reffering to the old Ameritrust tower on E9th?  It was designed by Marcel Breuer?  I would not fight for that building...it is ugly, but the Rotunda with its Tiffany stained glass dome can not be demolished.


The tower will be comming down, even through the french atchitect is well know that structure is not,  KPF http://www.kpf.com/main.asp will be designing the new county offices on the site. 


I would be objective about the new structure until I see some designs....I am more concered that an office tower is being replaced with government offices.  Maybe if we cleaned up the city then we may someday see a bussiness build downtown.  It amazes me that building was vacant for so long.   I guess dark dismal 70's era brutilist architecture that looks like a prison is not in demand?  


I would suggest KPF sand blast the Rontunda, build the new buiding with lime stone and use some stainglass, maybe some rounded corners?  Maybe this time they can look like they belong next to each other.  I would like something bright colorfull and cheerfull.