Talk to most architects in Ohio and they’ll tell you it’s a pretty conservative place. But while design innovation may be a hard sell for local architects, the state has had an astonishing track record in the last decade for giving cutting-edge foreign architects their first shot at building on American soil, arguably more so than more “forward-thinking” locales on either coast.
When the Toledo Museum of Art picked this year’s Pritzker Prize winner, SANAA, to design an ethereal Glass Pavilion in 2000, it gambled on a young firm known by very few people outside of Japan. Cincinnati’s Contemporary Arts Center was the first built project in the United States by London-based Zaha Hadid, who won the Pritzker shortly after completing that building in 2003.
The Akron Art Museum gave Austrian firm Coop Himmelb(l)au its first chance to erect its clashing, gravity- defying forms in the U.S. in 2001. The Wolfe Center for the Arts at Bowling Green State University will be Oslo- and (now) New York—based Snøhetta’s first built project here when it is completed at the end of this year. Finally, plans for an expansion of the Cincinnati Art Museum, announced a couple of years ago, are moving forward. The new building would be the first in the U.S. by Rotterdam-based Neutelings Riedijk.
Now add Cleveland to the list. In July, the city’s Museum of Contemporary Art unveiled a design by the London- and Barcelona-based Foreign Office Architects. The boxy structure is the firm’s first in the U.S., and its first museum.
Here’s hoping the openness to daring design shown by these large cultural institutions will influence more clients and encourage daring design from local office architects.