Thoughts on MOCA Cleveland

Today my Beloved and I weathered the formidable Cleveland elements and took a trip (finally!) to the now not-so-new MOCA Cleveland. This temple to modern art is based in a monolithic building that showcases rotating exhibits by contemporary artists and has generally been well-received and much-praised by my fair city. It is a little embarrassing to admit that it has taken me this long to get down there and check it out. As a big CLE and arts supporter, I should have been there sooner…

My thoughts ABOUT the museum are probably not going to win me a lot of fans, though.

MOCA Clevelandphoto above courtesy craveablecleveland.com

MOCA Cleveland is a dynamic venue whose sole purpose is to highlight contemporary art. The staff was AMAZING today, and everyone was really, really welcoming, well-spoken, passionate and super nice. The two exhibits currently on display were engaging and thought-provoking. I mean, that is what art is supposed to do, correct – provoke thought?

My issue is with the building. With all due respect to architects everywhere, I wish you would all get out of your heads a little. MOCA is a perfect example of this – to me, the building is essentially one HUGE staircase inside a warehouse. Sorry. The building looks AMAZING from the outside so, understandably, I was expecting the same WOW! on the INSIDE. Not the case, in my humble opinion. And listen, I get it – the space must be flexible so it can house rotating exhibits in different mediums and scales. The facility is also available for special event rentals, so it has to be accommodating and appealing/appropriate for that market. Please, don’t get me wrong – the museum is impressive enough but – honestly? Inside is one staircase – a GIANT staircase – but one staircase, and a few diagonally-slanted windows that provide some architectural interest. Otherwise it is paint and steel and concrete. It seems to me there were missed opportunities, missed moments.

It is the trend, especially recently, for museums and other public buildings to hold design competitions for new facilities – I imagine, in part, to push architects and designers to think outside the norm and push design boundaries to create significant architectural statements for these organizations. I think most people know about Frank Gehry’s “wedding cake” buildings and similar, identity-driven architecture. “Statement” architecture like that is awesome. But maybe I am just an old curmudgeon – I want buildings to look cool AND make sense, too.

Sorry, MOCA Cleveland, your building was a disappointment to me. It was like being handed the most beautifully-wrapped gift, only to open it and find three pairs of socks inside. Architects, please – while I cannot even fathom the engineering and construction skills needed to create a staircase, just know that – at least for this guy – there is nothing exciting about 700 risers and treads. Please try harder, OK? Thanks…

5 responses to “Thoughts on MOCA Cleveland

  1. Thanks for the post. I am looking forward to seeing this building someday. It took 56 years but I finally saw the Guggenheim last week. I really enjoyed watching people move through the spirals. Two things about architects – what is it with them and stairs? Secondly, I don’t think design competitions produce better work. I wish they were discouraged.

    • Jeanette – I agree (on both points!) As far as design competitions go, I think they are primarily PR vehicles to generate interest in a building before it even opens. Sadly, most “entries” are externally focused – the building has to look amazing, and regrettably, as a result the interiors often suffer. As a pro interior designer, I can tell you I have seen a LOT of homes that look beautiful, ordered and symmetrical from the exterior, only to discover rooms with wonky window placement and goofy door alignments inside.

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