Reviewing the Review: SANAA Glass Pavilion

In yesterday’s New York Times, architecture critic Nicolai Ouroussoff ponders the effects of iconic architecture on the fabric of some of America’s lesser Metropolis…es. Metropoli? You know, places “where the death rattle of the middle class is still comparatively faint.”

It filled me with a strange, unfamiliar sensation – I think some people call it “pride” – to see my hometown, Toledo, Ohio, get incredibly positive national exposure for producing something other than Jamie Farr. However, I would like to clarify a few points. Exerpts from Ouroussoff’s article follows, with a few notations from myself [in bold].

If there is a project that revives one’s faith in the ability of architecture — in its purest form — to have lasting impact on how we experience our cities, it is the recently completed Glass Pavilion at the Toledo Museum of Art. [An amazing building, or so my mom tells me. I’m not sure this is clear in the article, but “Glass Pavilion” does not only describe the dominant building material of the new structure, but also what’s contained within it. The TMA has one of the nations largest (and finest) collections of glass art. ] A century ago, this was a major industrial city, mostly known for its production of high-quality glass. [true] But industry fled long ago, [true] and the city’s core is largely abandoned and derelict. [Not entirely true. In the eight years I’ve been away, A beautiful new minor league baseball stadium has sparked a revitalization of downtown. Brick buildings that once housed dive bars and strip clubs now house…um, nicer bars and restaurants. Unfortunately, it does still seem to be a problem to get people to actually live downtown.] Designed by Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa of the Japanese firm Sanaa, the pavilion is set within a small garden opposite the brooding, [ Less “brooding” than “majestic”] columned facade of the Beaux-Arts museum, a monument to the cultural aspirations of a once-thriving city. [Jesus. It’s not a damn post-industrial wasteland, Nicolai!]

The pavilion is proof that a single architectural moment, created out of the deepest sense of humility, [doubtful] can have an impact more resonant than a major planning campaign. It reminds us that there are greater urban values than an endless cycle of consumption. And it begins to create a sense of place within the larger fabric of the city, [Well, I’d say there’s actually already an established “sense of place.” The museum doesn’t sit far from “The old West End” – the largest neighborhood of late Victorian, Edwardian, and Arts & Crafts homes east of the Mississippi.] something that to an architectural tourist may be more important than where you can buy a handbag. [Wait…what? is this a New York joke or something?]

  • [The Toledo Museum of Art]
  • If You Build it, Will They Come? [NYT]
  • One Reply to “Reviewing the Review: SANAA Glass Pavilion”

    1. Hey- good post. I’m also an architect/Toledo native. (I’m in the DC area now.) I am really looking forward to visiting the Glass Pavilion in person when I’m home for the holidays.

      Toledo has a lot to be proud of, architecturally. In addition to the Old West End, there’s that really great stock of abandonded old buildings downtown. Hopefully they won’t lose that character as they revitalize (again, crossed fingers) the urban core.

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