A celebration of the genius of Frank Gehry, the vision of Peter Lewis, and the transformative impact their work has brought to North East Ohio by building the ultimate portal for awareness of the unique value of industrial innovation.

04.12.05 Tuesday@REI NOTES: Portal to Industrial Innovation in NEO

NEO Civic leader Sarah Taylor has for many years championed appreciation for the transformational aspects of the Gehry designed Peter B. Lewis building in University Circle, and for this Tuesday@REI she assembled a remarkable panel to explore impacts in this community. It became that building the “PBL” was the ultimate professional experience of everyone personally involved with the project, that knowledge was broadly shared by all involved that transformed their abilities to excel in their professions, that they and the regional economy thus benefited directly, and that the existence of the PBL is one of the greatest assets of this region. In conclusion, everyone in the room seemed to share the believe we as a region have failed to leverage the value of this asset, and so more should be done to benefit from this industrial innovation phenomenon.

To begin the session, Sarah offered a brief introduction. She pointed out the PBL architecture is very “American” – structure is democratic – enter through a slit in the building – lack of formality – celebrates the proletarian – exposed duct work and concrete – exploration of the ordinary – message of building is inclusive … be prepared for new ideas… put aside old approaches and concepts. And construction itself was not hierarchical but collaborative – lots of “gee how did you do that” learning experiences.

Surveyor John Zaranec – President Zaranec Surveyors – 1/2 million coordinates to put up building – pushed equipment and software – today the job would be a lot easier – surveying equipment has advanced because of buildings like this – his profession has had to meet new challenges – very 3-dimensional – no column lines to measure from – every point had to be established by survey – now trades work more closely with surveying – by end of job everyone on the project had learned 3D software. He had done roller-coasters and Jacob’s field but nothing like this.

Next is the showing of a fantastic home video of mid-stage construction of the PBL building made by Wayne Miller – Iron Workers Local 17 Foreman for the project. In his recorded narration he points out nothing lines up and it is supposed to be that way – he shows his love for his work – amazing footage of the steel skeleton – mentions they have names for pieces of building like “Diving Board, Dragon’s Tail, and a heck of a lot more you don’t want to know”. Through this video we follow Wayne from outside through the building to the top, joined by his crew along the way – very exciting.

Wayne now speaks to us in person, in the finished PBL, explaining it was the job from hell. Never seen anything like it before – most beautiful and unusual building he ever worked on – now that he’s retired he’s glad it’s done. Sarah points out the normal tolerance of a building is 1/2 inch but in this building the tolerance was zero. Tim McCarthy, Chief Foreman – Iron Workers Local 17 – is also in the audience.

Pete Accorti is co-Chair of NEOCAM and VP of operations and co-owner of Talon. He was not involved with this project, but speaks as the outsider looking out about how the stories that get told about the PBL are about the design – not the story of the value of the project – the accomplishment of the building. He feels there is value to broaden the story of the uniqueness of the accomplishment.

Arthur Huckelbridge – Professor, Department of Civil Engineering. He shows a presentation that starts with a scribble and says that was the original design for the building. We then see images from the structural engineer showing the geometry and structural planning that went into the building – complex process – engineers had to think outside the box – what are the load paths – how does snow go from roof to ground – how to use strange shapes to support loads. Used 3D software from aerospace to insure everything fit together. Demanded skills to expand to handle new challenges, which improved skills of workforce and so ability of region to innovate. Showed that construction is sophisticated industry – raised interest of public – planted seeds of “could I do something like that” – breaks bounds of limitations on what we believe we can do – makes construction industry more interesting to young people.

Laura Hummer – Director of Marketing, Jump Start – Peter Lewis building represents the level of innovation capable in our region – represents an stretch idea that became a reality – makes it seem possible for other great ideas to become reality.

Daryl Kratzer – President of Roofing – Building Maintenance Division of TREMCO – he wasn’t involved in building but has a feeling he will be involved in maintaining the complex roof. He quotes Architect Richard Fleishman who expressed excitement that the architects talked with the contractors and the trades people –  sees the PBL as representative of willingness to take risk.

Anshel Gleyzer – Founder & CEO, Photopeak – speaks of crystal development in Cleveland and the role of that in physics – we were world leaders, in those glory days. More recent story was of a visit by his sister where he took her to the PBL and she was fascinated – she said this couldn’t be in Cleveland – when she got back to Solon she started calling all her friends to rave about the experience. His company grows high quality alkaline crystals – continuing the tradition from Cleveland’s past. A few months ago, a guy from Israel called saying he needs best crystals for imaging – in collaboration with Tokyo this Chagrin Falls company created a unique manufactured solution for an Israeli imaging company, which could lead to medical breakthroughs for the world. His message – world-class innovation and excellence happen here.

Joe Stanley – Founder of Neomainstreet and designer of CIA plans at http://neomainstreet.com – speaks of new urbanism and ideas for University Circle, including a Welcome Center connecting PBL and CIA in many ways, with value and connectivity sharing common ground with value greater than separate parts.

Q&A –
What happened with the financial planning?
Bad estimate – work in process from start to finish – Gehrys historically have cost 2X estimate

How does construction industry interest fit with idea of economic development?
Chief Foreman says he learned computing on this job and it led to him changing programs for apprentices to include more computing. A manufacturer on the panel said Cleveland is the preeminent place for metalworking but no vocational training available any more so need change – promoting construction and manufacturing as a desirable profession is desirable.

Case professor points out she considers the PBL an under promoted regional asset.

Wayne Miller – Foreman – says he knew the project was happening before hand and told his boss he needed to get on the project