Last week, all the starchitects aligned in Cincinnati, Ohio, and I was there.
Daniel Libeskind's, AIA, second American building opened across the river in Covington Ky. (more on that later), the Zaha Hadid's, Hon. FAIA, Cincinnati Contemporary Arts Center was featuring an exhibit on Libeskinds work, and I dropped by the University of Cincinnati to learn what a greatest hits list of contemporary architecture might look like on a Midwestern college campus.
The tracklist: Mayne, Gehry, Graves, Gwathmey, Eisenman, Pei Cobb Freed, Moore Ruble Yudel, Tschumi, and Leers Weinzapfel. It's a killer album. Here are the highlights.
Today's University of Cincinnati campus is the result of a master planning initiative that began in 1989 to stitch together and brand what had become a disparate and bland college campus. The place where this mission reaches its apotheosis is on its pedestrian Main Street, where Thom Mayne's, FAIA, Campus Recreation Center wraps five different programs (dormitories, classrooms, a natatorium, a recreation center, and cafeterias) into a gracefully muscular deconstructivist icon. A powerful paradox of a building, it's a huge complex with sharp cantilevers, space-age scrims, and something of a beautiful recklessness about it, yet it doesn’t boss its site (or its neighbors) around and reflects their curvilinear and industrial aesthetic.
The dormitory section of Mayne's building.
The Steger Student Life Center, by Moore Ruble Yudel. From some perspectives, it gets difficult to see where this building ends and Mayne's begins. They both share a very similar aesthetic palette of materials and movement.
Some of the offices in this building have excellent views of the football stadium.
The Linder Athletic Center (designed by Bernard Tschumi, FAIA, houses the school's athletic training facilities and offices and is expertly squeezed into a narrow site, perched on top of the University of Cincinnati's football stadium, which university planners were wise enough to integrate into the center of the campus, instead of flinging it to the periphery and surrounding it in a moat of parking lots and garages. (Most on campus parking is located underground.) Its pre-cast concrete façade reminds me a bit of Edward Durell Stone's 2 Columbus Circle in New York.
Completed in 2006, the Linder Athletics Center is the final new piece of the university's master plan.
The clock tower and cupola of Gwathmey Siegel's building is original. Tangeman University Center forms a strong community axis with McMicken Hall, which lies across a campus quad.
Classic Modernism is well represented too, with a music school building by Pei Cobb Freed.
And Postmodernism too. University of Cincinnati alum and AIA Gold Medal Winner Michael Graves came back to design the school's Engineering Research Center. It's quite playful for a heavy duty college R&D building and stands in sharp opposition to the school's other engineering facilities, an elegant yet dour classically proportioned series of buildings.