Imagining the civic self: architecture and public art in Cleveland

Mirror panels reflecting Cleveland Public Auditorium

The interplay between Cleveland’s architecture and public art serves as a striking and ever adapting chronicle of the city’s history and ambitions. Like many great American cities, Cleveland was an industrial titan, experienced White flight, and is now being “rediscovered” by the children and grandchildren of those who abandoned the city for a suburban ideal.

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

As more people are drawn back to the city center, they will finally experience its deep beauty. Downtown Cleveland’s distinctive cityscape is defined by a cornucopia of styles: Beaux Arts buildings, corporate glass palaces of late 20th century vintage, and the wacky modernist architecture of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

“Free Stamp” by Coosje van Bruggen and Claes Oldenburg

The city’s public art is an inventive and dynamic compliment to its downtown architecture. “Free Stamp” at Willard Park anchors Cleveland’s public art as both historically resonant and forward thinking. The piece references Ohio’s status as a Union state in the Civil War by way of giant pop art sculpture. Newer works like the mirror panels at the Huntington Convention Center literally reflect the Cleveland Public Auditorium, a significant city landmark.

View of downtown Cleveland

A city’s architecture and public art help shape a community’s understanding of itself and the image it seeks to portray to the world. Downtown Cleveland is rich ground for exploration and scholarship.

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