Arts » Visual Art

Scaling the Heights

An architectural exhibit offers insights and looks to make friends


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Convivium33 Gallery might just be the perfect venue for The American Institute of Architects Cleveland chapter's Architects Draw exhibition. Situated in the former St. Josephat's Roman Catholic Church, the space itself is a celebration of the constructed form's function as an object of beauty.

The AIA exhibition similarly strives to fuse the architectural with the high artistic. Some 25 area architects are displaying 50 works that appreciate buildings as objects of beauty, and explore the act of creating images..

AIA Chapter President Kurt C. Weaver says the show was originally planned to coincide with the statewide architecture convention in Cleveland in September, as another way to show the city and its talents to out-of-towners. While it didn't come together for the convention, Weaver believes the show can promote Cleveland architects to a constituency even more influential — the general public.

"The architectural community needs to work on its public outreach," he says. "I'm hoping this becomes a good vehicle for that."

Weaver's own submissions span both pencil and painting, but share expressiveness. A work in color, "Cleveland South Entry," sings with orange and gold. Pushing the piece into the operatic is a riverside crane whose acute angle mimics the Eiffel Tower, and from which shine rays of crepuscular glory. In "Sketch Book City Squiggle," Weaver tilts the city, and buildings bend in gravity's new direction.

AIA fellow and exhibition host Peter van Dijk thinks architects, especially younger ones, can learn from the show's artistic approach. Though younger architects depend increasingly on computer modeling, van Dijk favors the "pressure-sensitive graphic device" — the pencil.

"Drawing is a way of seeing and observing," he says. "Form, light, shadow, texture, color — when you're designing, the spirit of the building has a lot to do with these things. It's about examining possibilities when you're solving an architectural problem."

Over a career spanning six decades, van Dijk has designed landmarks like Blossom Music Center and the amphitheater at Cain Park. For this show, he is displaying sketches made on a tour of Italy while he was in Rome on a Fulbright grant almost 50 years ago. With inexhaustible attention to detail, van Dijk's pencil rendered the docks of Venice, the towers of Sicily, and walls and homes of anonymous hillside towns. By van Dijk's own description, the huddled villages seem to grow out of the landscape itself, settling into their rolling terrain by centuries of trial-and-error.

Still other artists stay in their hometown. In Theodore Kurz's "Poles, Parapets and Chimney," a storefront on East 36th St. commands its corner. The business's red-brown walls are blotched with the grays of the unwashed. The russet-gray building projects the security of stagnation; it's not going anywhere, and shoulders all the blessings and hardships of continuance.

Though the assembled works are supposedly about architecture, they span a wide range of subjects, from emotional response to environments to play with visual language. Architects Draw popularizes its field, but its works can be enjoyed in and for themselves.

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