« A neighborhood grows in Brooklyn | Main

October 24, 2005

Cleveland Snow Tests Architectural Marvel: Look Out Below!

( AP ) Published: March 9, 2003

The shiny, swirling $62 million building that houses the business school at Case Western Reserve University here is a marvel to behold. But it is sometimes best admired from afar.

In its first winter, snow and ice have been sliding off the long, sloping stainless-steel roof, bombarding the sidewalk below. And in bright sun, the glint off the steel tiles is so powerful that standing next to the building is like lying on a beach with a tanning mirror.

The building was designed by Frank Gehry, the architect who created the titanium-covered Guggenheim museum in Bilbao, Spain.

''You might have to walk on the road to make sure you don't get hit by ice,'' said Adam Searl, a junior at Case Western's Weatherhead School of Management.

''Maybe they should have thought about it before they had built the building. It's Cleveland. We get ice. We get snow. We get rain.''

The building is about five stories high. Instead of walls on the south side, it has a curving roof, made of 20,000 stainless-steel shingles, that seem to tumble to the ground.

On a sunny day, the building produces a shimmering glare, with patches of concentrated heat. In Cleveland's winter, though, sun glare is not the problem.

The city has had more than 86 inches of snow this season, and is on a pace to break the 1995-96 record of 101 inches. The university ordered barricades erected on the sidewalk to keep pedestrians away after the first big snow of the season produced something like an avalanche off the roof, said J. B. Silvers, the associate dean for resource management and planning.

No one has been hurt, Mr. Silvers said, but ''I asked for the sidewalk barricades so we wouldn't have people getting snow inadvertently dumped on their heads.''

Some students brave the sidewalk, stepping around the barricades. But most stay clear. The sidewalk will soon be replaced by landscaping, and another walkway will be created.

Gene Matthews, director for plant services for the campus, said the university was working with Gehry's firm to fix the problem without detracting from the building's character.

Jim Glymph, a senior partner with Gehry Partners in Santa Monica, Calif., who worked on the project, said winter weather was considered in the design. But he added, ''You've had a really, really unusual winter.''

Mr. Silvers said the harsh winter had given the university an excellent opportunity to see how the building stands up to the elements.

''If I had to pick a set of conditions, I would pick exactly the conditions from this winter, so we could find out any issues with the building, and then we can deal with it,'' he said.

Photo: A new building at Case Western has a slanted roof that can dump snow on passers-by. (Associated Press)

Posted by lumi at October 24, 2005 08:34 AM