Richard Fleischman Interview, September 29 2006

After growing up in Cleveland's east side Hungarian neighborhood, Richard Fleischman went off to college and returned to the city in 1955 to begin his architecture career, eventually starting the firm of Conrad and Fleischman. In this 2006 interview, Fleischman shares his thoughts on Cleveland's post-war development, commenting on what he sees as the city's successes and failures. He praises the Gateway area redevelopment, singling out for praise the mayoral leadership that helped accomplish that project. Fleischman also talks about some of the buildings on Euclid Avenue, particularly its churches, as well as the Euclid Corridor Transportation project. More generally, the architecture of Cleveland is discussed in the context of the changes taking place in post-war America, which Fleischman sees as having decidedly mixed results on the city.

Participants: Fleischman, Richard (interviewee) / Gibans, Nina (interviewer) / Yanoshik-Wing, Emma (participant)
Collection: American Institute of Architects
Institutional Repository: Cleveland Regional Oral History Collection

Interview Transcript

Nina Gibans [00:00:00] Exactly that.

Richard Fleischman [00:00:01] Why?

Emma Yanoshik-Wing [00:00:02] Okay.

Nina Gibans [00:00:02] No. We've had a lot of discussion about it, but the architects love it.

Richard Fleischman [00:00:09] He's one of the few architects in this town that I admire. And he is a... I'm sorry. Ready? Are you going?

Emma Yanoshik-Wing [00:00:15] Yes.

Richard Fleischman [00:00:16] Good. And I think that's a great building. I know there was a lot of controversy. He had a partner with Ray Febo. And I know there was a lot, a lot of friction, a lot of problems. But out of it came, I thought, a great building. And Michael Schwartz and I fight about this. He thinks it's very ugly and he doesn't, he doesn't understand it. He likes Shaker Heights. I said your problem... You can make all kinds of definitions and discoveries in education, but you should spend some time and understand art. You know, if you could take the same amount of time and understand what that building is all about. He says it's a waste of space. I said, No, it isn't. It's a statement. It's a statement that we should never give up. It represents the '80s or '70s, whenever that was. Was it the'70s? I forget that. I said, it's was one of Don Hisaka's better buildings.

Nina Gibans [00:01:09] Okay, go into an articulation even more about why.

Richard Fleischman [00:01:16] Because he took the idea of what is this? What, I don't know. It may be a bad word. What is this? This ciborium or whatever you want to call this chalice of emptiness that the students feel that the collection and the meaningful person of of what does it mean to be educated as a community? I thought this big glass box was what a great way to take and magnify what is going on with the intellectual growth. I find that that emptiness did nothing more than say, like the Crusades or like any, any moment in time. And we had thousands of people working together. There were thousands of young students learning. What a better way to tell the world. It's like the Ford Foundation building in Manhattan; this big glass box that says there's a richness here. It is not in money, it's in ideas. You can't put everything in terms of money. Why do you do that? That's scary that, you know, that's called the decline and fall of the Roman Empire. You know, we have to live. You know, Caesar had a great idea. It was a great vision. He created great, great society. And all of this sounded... It would destroy itself. We have to be very careful, we could destroy ourselves. Not understanding all the great things were built. Now Breuer's building was not in that same era. He didn't like it.

Nina Gibans [00:02:42] Okay. Three things. Energy. The resonance of this space so that you can't really have speakers there, that kind of thing. And what was it? Oh, that it does not open up to the avenue, which at that time...

Richard Fleischman [00:02:56] Why does it have to? Why, I don't understand it. You know, why do we have to be here by the lake, you know? I mean, the lake is there. It's wonderful. The river's there. Do we live by the river? The river's there. Cuyahoga is a very unique river. It's a baroque kind of thing, you know, just rolls around, you know? And the lake is all there. And I said, You know what you should know, you probably won't do this, my [inaudible]. The best time I loved the lake was in December when you had five, ten days when the lake froze and then it at 2 o'clock in the morning, you'd hear the lake like you're on the moon. It would just grumble. Mmmm. Mmmm. And it kind of growled. But, yes, there was that big, shallow Lake Erie freezing and groaning. You know? What?

Nina Gibans [00:03:44] Okay. Back to the building, though. The Hisaka building.

Richard Fleischman [00:03:48] Yes.

Nina Gibans [00:03:48] I mean, we need as much articulation, I think, as you can give it.

Richard Fleischman [00:03:51] But I think, you could deal with that sound, there was not a problem. We can come back and we can create banners. We can create furniture, we create people. Sound is energy. All you have to do is break up the energy. So right now it's reflective. Don't, don't let it be reflective. It is a... Solve the problem, you know, it's the problem to be solved, not to be, you know, criticized. It's easy to criticize. No, don't don't tell me what's wrong, okay? Tell me how you solve... We're bright people, you know, we go to the moon. Come on. You know? We created the station. People live on the moon. You can't solve the problems of a big, beautiful glass box? [laughs]

Emma Yanoshik-Wing [00:04:35] Some people call it "The Cage."

Richard Fleischman [00:04:37] So what? Is that a bad word?

Emma Yanoshik-Wing [00:04:39] Well, I mean. It's just...

Richard Fleischman [00:04:40] The students?

Emma Yanoshik-Wing [00:04:41] Yeah. In terms of the students. In terms of, like, the box. I was just giving you that other...

Richard Fleischman [00:04:47] If I have a population of 15,000, what do you have at CSU now?

Emma Yanoshik-Wing [00:04:52] I have no idea.

Richard Fleischman [00:04:53] 15,000? 16,000? I think you probably have... What? 10,000 different personalities. I keep telling people in education, you know, you can't make every, every classroom in the fifth grade, every student the same. Every... If I'm in the fifth grade and I have 25 people, they're all different. They have different needs. I found when I was at Columbia and I was a teaching assistant, I saw kids had latent talent and I was so surprised. When I began the fourth year at Columbia going to graduate school, I said, well, this kid needs the scholarship. Look how he's developed in the fourth, the third and fourth year, and became a star. But his grades for four years are not that good. And I said, I don't care about the student that goes first year, second year, third year, fourth year, the same. I care about this, this student who's going. I said...

Nina Gibans [00:05:49] So you think they will grow into...

Richard Fleischman [00:05:50] Yes. I said, how do you catapult? How do you provide... There's a phrase. There was a pianist in New York City. He was a Hungarian. And because I come from that background, I got to know a Zsa Zsa Gabor came in this one, he was a pianist. And he would always ask Zsa Zsa, because he had been wanting... Zsa Zsa, what do you give a man who has everything? And Zsa Zsa, without hesitating said, Steve, of course, you got [a Hungarian saying], you know. Steve, he is Hungarian. Encouragement. If you don't have encouragement, what do you have?

Nina Gibans [00:06:31] I remember when Noguchi sculptures were put on the Justice Center building and the city was in an uproar.

Richard Fleischman [00:06:39] I know.

Nina Gibans [00:06:40] Do you remember the articles that you know the museum had wrote? And we did surveys because people were in an uproar and we found that the more they passed by, the more they liked it.

Richard Fleischman [00:07:00] I know.

Nina Gibans [00:07:00] Because we did them six months apart and so forth and so on. So what you're saying is that if you really take time to think about what the space means.

Richard Fleischman [00:07:10] I tell people—Nina, you would enjoy this—I say, you're so critical of it and you think it's too simple, it's a piece of pipe. Draw it for me. If it's so simple and has no art form, just... Do you know how, do you know how it goes together? If it's so nothing, you should be able to draw the right. Just make a diagram. I don't know how. I said you don't understand the real beauty of that piece. No, I was not. I was very supportive. I was on the review committee that... Think about how I was disappointed you know we did the red one. You know, there are two pieces. It was a black one. It was a maxi and a mini. You saw that? There's a little red one. I, that was disappointing. That would have even been more dynamite. But then, what I... I don't get as excited about it is, I don't, I have a hard time with Tony Smith's sculpture in front of the Federal Building. But that's me. The Richard Hunt that's behind on the other side of the Justice Center is kind of, but there was the limitations because they had to be in the, in that, in that area. But that was... That.... Those are three pieces of my time. Richard Hunt, the Noguchi, and then the Tony Smith.

Nina Gibans [00:08:23] The Segal.

Richard Fleischman [00:08:23] Segal?

Nina Gibans [00:08:24] Segal.

Richard Fleischman [00:08:24] What Segal? What Segal?

Nina Gibans [00:08:24] George Segal.

Richard Fleischman [00:08:24] Well, it was out of the people. Yeah that. That was very nice.

Nina Gibans [00:08:28] I sit on the bench when I am in jury duty.

Richard Fleischman [00:08:30] Right. Oh, that's great.

Nina Gibans [00:08:32] I always end up on that bench.

Richard Fleischman [00:08:32] That's very nice. Okay. I'm sorry.

Emma Yanoshik-Wing [00:08:38] Great.

Richard Fleischman [00:08:38] The Cage. The Cage. Emma!

Emma Yanoshik-Wing [00:08:44] Well, as I was saying earlier, I have definitely kind of acquired a new appreciation for the building. Then, since we started talking to all these architects, but it is very much understanding and having, you know. Sometimes people have to explain how they see it too so that you can learn to see it differently.

Richard Fleischman [00:09:08] Do you know how the steel frame, the only you could save on the... We did an analysis. The only thing you can save on the Breuer building is the steel frame. I know I find that I cannot handle, nor do I accept Steve Litt. I tell him, I said, I would like you to be a critic, but don't be an antagonist. There is a difference, Steve.

Nina Gibans [00:09:31] Oh, listen. Don't... I'll tell you a little story. You know, Mike Boar?

Emma Yanoshik-Wing [00:09:36] Should... Do you want me to stop this?

Nina Gibans [00:09:37] Yeah, yeah you can. [recording paused and resumes] Okay. This is Richard Fleischman and Nina Gibans. So you are a Clevelander way, way back? Yes?

Richard Fleischman [00:09:53] Yes. Born and raised in the city.

Nina Gibans [00:09:56] Where and how? What neighborhood?

Richard Fleischman [00:09:59] Well, we... I've come from a strong Hungarian background. My grandparents were from Budapest in Hungary. They obviously moved into the inner city along Buckeye Road and which was the heart of the, at least on the East Side, the Hungarian community. My parents lived at that time on Continental Avenue off East 116th Street. And, and we grew up there. And later on, my parents moved into another neighborhood along Woodhill Road by which is now called the Luke Easter Park. And went to Audubon Junior High School. We grew up there. And so I'm really part of the inner city.

Nina Gibans [00:10:47] Did you go to Rice Elementary?

Richard Fleischman [00:10:48] Yes, went to Rice Elementary School and I found out that to my pleasant surprise, Jenny, the famous lady in Cleveland. Brown? Jenny Brown? She, she and I were in class, in kindergarten together, at Harvey Rice.

Nina Gibans [00:11:04] That's always fun.

Richard Fleischman [00:11:06] [laughs] It's amazing. It's totally amazing.

Nina Gibans [00:11:08] Harvey Rice has a, has a, you know, real niche. It had the Victory Gardens during the...

Richard Fleischman [00:11:14] Oh, yes.

Nina Gibans [00:11:15] Yes?

Richard Fleischman [00:11:16] How wonderful.

Nina Gibans [00:11:16] And it was special.

Richard Fleischman [00:11:19] It had a... Down at the street, closer to Shaker Boulevard, it has the most marvelous ice cream parlor there. I forget because at that time it was a chain, but they made the best ice cream cones anywhere in the world, at least in my world. [laughs]

Nina Gibans [00:11:34] What about the donuts?

Richard Fleischman [00:11:35] I don't remember the donuts. I just remember the ice cream.

Nina Gibans [00:11:40] [crosstalk] Ice cream is more about your childhood anyway, right? So what kinds of things happened there that would have influenced you to become an architect and so forth?

Richard Fleischman [00:11:52] Well, I had a... Like many of us who have, even though our parents are born here and our grandparents were from Europe, there was a great sense of pride in accomplishing. And I can't, I can remember from the very beginning, both my father and my uncle, as I was in Audubon Junior High School taking drawing classes, they said, well, drawing isn't limited to drawing gears. You could draw a variety of things. You could draw buildings, you could draw streets, you could draw cities. Although my parents were of a background that they owned a little tool shop, both my uncle and my father, they, and had very humble beginnings. They had great visions. And they tried to intoxicate me with these ideas of what could be.

Nina Gibans [00:12:43] Did you have sisters and brothers?

Richard Fleischman [00:12:45] I had a brother, a younger brother.

Nina Gibans [00:12:47] So there were the two of you?

Richard Fleischman [00:12:48] Two of us.

Nina Gibans [00:12:49] And what does he do?

Richard Fleischman [00:12:50] He's passed away. He's no longer.

Nina Gibans [00:12:53] What did he do?

Richard Fleischman [00:12:53] He was a bookkeeper. He didn't quite have the same engine that I had. The muscle didn't move as fast with him, and therefore he was content to be a bookkeeper.

Nina Gibans [00:13:08] Right.

Richard Fleischman [00:13:08] And in fact for a while was a bookkeeper in my office.

Nina Gibans [00:13:14] Mm hmm. So after Audubon, what happened with your architecture?

Richard Fleischman [00:13:18] Well, I went to East Tech High School. Spent the 10th grade taking general courses at that time. This was in 1942, 40, yes, '43? And then went into architecture in the 10th, and 11th grade, and 12th grade. Audubon was the ninth grade. East Tech was 10, 11, and 12. I started drawing in the 10th grade, became excited, enthusiastic about what I could do. It was a sense of accomplishment, a sense of discovery, you know, and a sense of pride. Wow, I could do this apartment house. I could do this. I started and went on the street and found places to work in architects' offices. There was a very fine architect named Moses Halperin, who did a lot of houses in the University Heights area back in the '40s and '50s and worked on a couple of temples. And I had the luxury of working in his office, which gave me a sense of direction in terms of the quality to take a pencil and make a special line. As a result of that, I was asked to do a portfolio when I was in the 12th grade and in the scholastic design, which is very popular at that time, I was able to not least make the cut and in terms of local jury and was allowed to go national. Even though I didn't win in the local jury, I won the big prize nationally. I won a scholarship to Carnegie... Carnegie Institute of Technology, the only one in the country. It was amazing. I guess my work appealed to a jury but may have been more sophisticated. I'm not sure. [laughs] But that happens many times where you don't, don't appeal to one group, and have a great appeal to another. So I was able to go away. And here is a young man at 17 years old, never out of Cleveland, you know, very simple. My dad took me to the Penn Station at 55th and Euclid Avenue and said, Good luck, son. [laughs] With a big box I had over my shoulder, I took the train into Pittsburgh, came in downtown. I didn't know how to get to campus, found a way to get to the campus, found my dormitory room wasn't prepared, had a... I met these guys from the service that came back. I said, well, we'll find a place for you to shack up for the night, you know? [laughs] So I was able to find a place to live for a week till my dorm was ready. But it was a nice orientation. But being an architect and learning to, you know that the blank piece of paper is an exciting thing, you always discover and you never connect the dots. You always look for the opportunity to find something new and different. Helped me discover Pittsburgh. Helped me discover a whole new world. Helped me discover that, you know, that there is a world out there that's magnificent, is full of jewels, not so much riches in money, but richness in ideas.

Nina Gibans [00:16:23] Anyone at East Tech that you can name?

Richard Fleischman [00:16:27] Oh, yes. Yes. Paul Scherer. Paul Scherer. Two people. Paul Scherer took me aside and said, you can make it. I said, you sure? He says, draw. He said, go home. Draw at night. I used to draw in summers between 11th and 12th grade. I would sit on the porch and draw and draw and being from, again, I hope you don't mind, not... There's no television, no radio. I didn't have the ability to see a lot of good English diction. I didn't have enough... An opportunity to understand composition. So when I found out it was just on the weekend of Easter vacation, we got the telegram that I won the scholarship to Carnegie Mellon. So Paul Scherer brings in the English Department and said Dick is a neat guy, very talented. He doesn't know how to write. So all of a sudden, two teachers, I came two nights a week, spent an hour and a half writing compositions. They were tutoring me at no cost. They said, you are a star. Mr. Scherer thinks we got to prepare you to take the exam, otherwise you can't get into Carnegie. So I took that whole month, two nights a week, writing English composition. And I passed the exam. I became a freshman at Carnegie, Carnegie Tech.

Nina Gibans [00:17:42] That's a wonderful story.

Richard Fleischman [00:17:44] But I love people. You know, the horizontal need to complement one's concerns or one's vision. That is very... I said, where is our educational, you know, culture today? Why are people going out and, you know, saying, hey, come on, not on the football field, but in the classroom? I can see letting the guy make a touched down and pat him on the back. But what about the English composition? What about the English poetry? What about other things where we have to recognize accomplishments, you know?

Nina Gibans [00:18:14] Couldn't agree more. So. You were talking about the major influences.

Richard Fleischman [00:18:22] Yes.

Nina Gibans [00:18:22] Not just one.

Richard Fleischman [00:18:24] For my father, my father, my uncle, my uncle in particularly. He was, he was a dynamite guy. And he was always pushing me. I had a cousin who also went to Case a couple years older than myself. He said, Dick you can do it. You know, it's a matter of focus. I was taught by nuns in parochial school and German nuns, and I think I tell my daughters that the thing about learning from first grade to eighth grade is do you know what it means to focus, not be concerned with any distraction? I think in our society today, people look for distractions, not to accomplish what they hope to do. We didn't have those distractions and I learned these are the goals, these are the focus. And you don't stop until you get it accomplished. You must make it happen. I have a phrase now. You know, I must tell you, if you don't mind, you know, the innovation is applauded. Execution is worshiped. Make it happen.

Nina Gibans [00:19:31] There's one that I use, which is called an idea is only an idea until it gets done.

Richard Fleischman [00:19:37] Thank you. Thank you. Same. See. Same idea. I want to see that product. [laughs]

Nina Gibans [00:19:45] All right. Well, let's move from that point to your early career, and where you were located, and maybe your experiences with downtown or Euclid Avenue? Let's just put it that way.

Richard Fleischman [00:19:59] I, you know, when I finished at Columbia, they sent me... You should know that the biggest influence in my life was the year I spent in Europe. I finished my master's at Columbia University. They liked what I did. I was working with and teasing these ideas about space. I was... Even though I was working with the dean in the history program, I said, but these, these images and these changes in the surface are in a cycle of 500 years, but what's so special about them is the emptiness they create, whether it be a a basilica early on or a Baroque church or an opera house or Saint Peter's in Rome. The thing that's so significant in regards of who you are and how big that space is, when it has that quality of emptiness, you walk in and say, Wow. It's not the cosmetic part of it. It is the proportion and the quality of that emptiness that really excites you, makes you feel that you're... The architect, was a creator, was an artist.

Nina Gibans [00:21:05] And who first articulated that at Columbia?

Richard Fleischman [00:21:09] Talbot Hamlin. Talbot Hamlin, who won a Pulitzer Prize, was in that program of philosophy. And he taught me. I worked and I spent a lot of time with Schopenhauer, Kant and Schopenhauer, dealing with the philosophy of space, architecture, music. And I began to realize that architecture is not brick and mortar, but it's vision, concept, and image. You know, you have to understand this holistic approach. What happens, you know, what is that magnificent process that allows you to be creative?

Nina Gibans [00:21:41] Wonderful. Okay, next steps. Just follow.

Richard Fleischman [00:21:46] Just... When I came, when I came back from Europe, they wanted me to teach at Columbia, but they're living in New York City. They offered me $6,000 a year. I said, I can't live in New York City for $6,000 a year. You can't. So I came back to Cleveland and I said, maybe I should build buildings.

Nina Gibans [00:22:02] What year is this?

Richard Fleischman [00:22:02] I came back in '55. In 1955. And I worked in a firm for one year because I was supposed to go into service with Ward and Conrad. I came back and I said, here I am. You, you gave me this deference. Five years at Carnegie, two years at Columbia. I'm ready to be in the service. And just a week before Eisenhower, as president said, I am throwing the draft program out. So, Mr. Fleischman, you certainly want to enlist. I said, why would I do that? I said, well, I had my education, I want to use it. Why would I postpone what I've set out to do, build buildings? So I chose not to go in the service and then start working. And that's how I worked with Outcalt and Guenther at Shaker Square. Dick Outcalt became a good friend, became now another sponsor, even though we fought with one another all the time. You know, if you knew, you knew about Richard Outcalt, right? Did you know about Dick Outcalt? Do you know him at all? His, his character?

Nina Gibans [00:23:05] You need to go into that.

Richard Fleischman [00:23:07] Okay. Richard Outcalt was a dynamo in Cleveland. He had a great firm called Outcalt and Guenther. Did things for the Convention Center, did the airport, was very much involved in the quality of work. His partner, Guenther, was also a Paris Prize winner. He told me all kinds of things about what happens. In fact, when I was at Columbia, I worked also with Percy Goodman, who was a Paris or Rome Prize winner. And, and those are people who taught me about how you get, you know, you, you have to go up to the next level. You're never satisfied. The ladder is endless. The vision is unlimited, you know. So. So these people, we worked there for three years. Fred Toguchi was in there becoming a part and Fred and I, we worked on a lot of projects together. And Fred became a partner. And then I began to realize that they had six partners. And here I was making, becoming an associate. And I said to Dick, I said, I'm not going anywhere. So he said, well, yeah, be patient. I said, I'm not patient. You know, there's a phrase I learned in Rome, it's, you know, domani, tomorrow. [laughs] So I went back to work with Ward and Conrad. They made me associate partner, and I worked there for one year. And Bill Conrad said to me, Richard, I don't. Bill Conrad And I are not... I mean, Bill Ward and I are not getting along. I think I'm going to have to leave. Would you mind being my partner? So we created in 1961 the firm Conrad and Fleischman. So I came back in '55, worked for Ward and Conrad for a year. Worked for Conrad... Well, Outcalt Guenther for three years. Went back to Ward and Conrad for one year, then started the firm Conrad and Fleischman.

Nina Gibans [00:24:56] When did Jim and you work together?

Richard Fleischman [00:25:00] I'm not sure. I think it was Ward and Conrad. I'm not sure it was.

Nina Gibans [00:25:05] You know, I think it was. I think it's just about when you came back.

Richard Fleischman [00:25:05] Back. Right.

Nina Gibans [00:25:08] Okay. So. So back to Toguchi for a minute.

Richard Fleischman [00:25:12] Yes.

Nina Gibans [00:25:13] Did you remain friends with him?

Richard Fleischman [00:25:15] Oh, yes.

Nina Gibans [00:25:15] Throughout...

Richard Fleischman [00:25:16] Always. We were very... We could, we could fight. We see, people at that time understood conflict was a, was a quality that it was necessary to bond. Today, people are worried about conflict because they think conflict is undermining. I said you, there's two kinds of conflict. You get conflict and bond to have a better marriage. You get conflict, bond, and have a better partnership. How do you create respect if you don't understand what the other person's talking about? There's nothing wrong with good conflict.

Nina Gibans [00:25:45] What is the special thing that Toguchi had to contribute to this?

Richard Fleischman [00:25:51] He was a very talented man, very talented. He had a great sense of the future. He was ahead of, he was a visionary. He knew how to see talent. He could pick out architects. He could bring individuals in and make them realize they're part of the process. He was just a great human being.

Nina Gibans [00:26:10] What about his design work?

Richard Fleischman [00:26:13] His design work was a part of a collaborative. He had his patience would allow him to pursue that. You know, I think he, he, the best example of Corbusier's comment design is a patient process. Fred [Toguchi] was that way. He would keep working, and working, and working. It was never good enough. He was always searching for something better and he had that knowledge to know that it wasn't good enough. A lot of us don't understand that. You know, a lot of us have. Well, it's a task. It's done. So let's get on with the next one. But it's not it's not the goal. You've got to make a difference, make a distinction between what is a task and what is a goal.

Nina Gibans [00:26:51] Very good.

Richard Fleischman [00:26:53] And Fred knew that. I think in Cleveland at that time, he was one of the few people to stand there, and I think it was also one of our contemporaries. John Terence Kelly had that capability also and still does. Jack is a tremendous human being.

Nina Gibans [00:27:08] Right.

Richard Fleischman [00:27:09] And Fred was that way too.

Nina Gibans [00:27:12] Fred's statements about his homes that I'm dealing with in Cleveland Goes Modern exhibit are extraordinary.

Richard Fleischman [00:27:22] Good.

Nina Gibans [00:27:22] And the remembrances of the people he worked with.

Richard Fleischman [00:27:26] Oh, yes.

Nina Gibans [00:27:26] The whole families that he took journals from.

Richard Fleischman [00:27:29] You're right.

Nina Gibans [00:27:30] Are, is extraordinary. Such rich material.

Richard Fleischman [00:27:31] That's brilliant, brialliant. Right.

Nina Gibans [00:27:33] But it's also unique. There aren't too many people that did that, that did the exploring.

Richard Fleischman [00:27:39] You know that he was in internment during the war. You knew that?

Nina Gibans [00:27:41] Yes. Yes. Do you know a lot about that story?

Richard Fleischman [00:27:45] Well, I know he shares a lot of that with me. It's something that I didn't understand at the time. I couldn't believe why anyone who was American-born should be put in internment because of association, being a Japanese, you know?

Nina Gibans [00:28:01] Right. But he broke out of that by being and becoming educated.

Richard Fleischman [00:28:05] Right.

Nina Gibans [00:28:06] Yes and...

Richard Fleischman [00:28:07] Went to a great school, Washington University. He went to Washington University in Saint Louis.

Nina Gibans [00:28:12] And then came to Cleveland?

Richard Fleischman [00:28:14] Cleveland. Right.

Nina Gibans [00:28:15] Right. He had relatives here, correct?

Richard Fleischman [00:28:17] That was... I don't know that.

Nina Gibans [00:28:18] I think so.

Richard Fleischman [00:28:20] Because I know that he taught me... He showed me where I could buy these magnificent, you know, I want to have these beautiful white dishes. And I could go down to his family store and get, you know, white cups and white saucers and a very simple, very elegant, you know, nothing. You know, the world was not glitzy. The world wasn't, you know, the Cadillac fins, you know, life was very, very nice. And, you know, well, you're making me now remember those are some special days in my life.

Nina Gibans [00:28:54] Okay. Let's move you down to the office where you were located when you were in those offices that would have placed you downtown, right?

Richard Fleischman [00:29:04] No, no. I was not. We worked for Ward and Conrad, but then went to work. Outcalt Guenther was at Shaker Square.

Nina Gibans [00:29:10] At Shaker Square.

Richard Fleischman [00:29:10] And then when we opened our office, it was in Cleveland Heights on the corner of Mayfield and Lee.

Nina Gibans [00:29:14] Oh, okay.

Richard Fleischman [00:29:14] Heights over there for 18 years.

Nina Gibans [00:29:17] In the Rockefeller building?

Richard Fleischman [00:29:18] Yes. From no. More than. From 1961 to 1988.

Nina Gibans [00:29:25] Okay. Well, let's move you downtown.

Richard Fleischman [00:29:27] Good.

Nina Gibans [00:29:28] And to the participation and the vision of the city.

Richard Fleischman [00:29:33] City. I moved downtown because of Hunter Morrison, and we got to know each other fairly well. And so he and I started working on projects, actually, in the '80s. We did the first blight survey for downtown for the BP Building, and the BP Building, and the community development plan. We did the first community development plan that went from Superior through Euclid through Prospect all the way to the Gateway area and showed how that could be redeveloped, brought in people to act as consultants to talk about that plan. I knew I was in on depositions for three days and our blight survey because of people challenging our findings in the blight survey. So we were instrumental in city winning their case to tear down the Williamson Building and the Cuyahoga Building so they could build the BP Building. So we were very much intimately involved in that.

Nina Gibans [00:30:26] Right. So changing the complex of the Public Square.

Richard Fleischman [00:30:30] Right.

Nina Gibans [00:30:31] Talk about that a little bit because well, let's talk about what you like about the Square and how you changed it.

Richard Fleischman [00:30:41] Well, I didn't, we didn't design the... HOK designed the BP Building. But I've always felt regards with what Hunter says. I think the Square is unique in North America. It is a very special place. Each quadrant is one acre. I thought the BP Building on this corner and at one time, the Ameritrust Building on the other corner with Peterson, Kohn, Peterson Fox, would have made Public Square one of the most magnificent buildings in North America Squares. To have those two buildings as two bookends would have been fantastic. Well, one is there now. Hopefully that parking lot someday can be something. Right now is, I think of as being acne, you know, kind of an acne in our city. And it's amazing, the Illuminating Building is not that bad anymore. When it was built, everyone was critical of it. But, you know, it, it becomes in that this context a mosaic design, collection of the Old Stone Church and now the new KeyBank building and the Terminal Tower. We have this encyclopedia of what could be architecture, you know? And not to be critical of it, but to say these are examples of our heritage, you know? I love the Square. I think it's a great place. I love them all. I think the Mall in its character and size are fantastic.

Nina Gibans [00:32:10] In the...

Richard Fleischman [00:32:10] We. Because it is all. I love the fact, the juxtaposition of the Square and then the changing of that center line to the Mall is really dynamite and you get a glimpse of it. And, but the people keep thinking of the view. If you stand at the Federal Building, you can't see the water. And people say the view of the lake. I said, you can't see the lake. Walk out there. The distance is too great. Your eye cannot capture that vista unless you get binoculars maybe.

Nina Gibans [00:32:43] Do you know when you could? When the Williamson building was down, it was the first time from Euclid Avenue you could...

Richard Fleischman [00:32:50] You could see the Mall. But I'm talking about the water. Because even when, when... What's the name? My friend who did the plan.

Nina Gibans [00:33:00] Burnham.

Richard Fleischman [00:33:00] Burnham, he always had a building at the end anyway. He didn't want to go to the lake. You see? He wanted to... He wanted this to be this magnificent outdoor room, you know? [laughs] And people understand that. Spaces are meant to be rooms of different sizes, different proportions, different ideas. They're rooms. They're [for] you to feel that closure. That's what I did in Europe. I designed and looked and analyzed all these different spaces.

Nina Gibans [00:33:26] Talk about the rooms downtown.

Richard Fleischman [00:33:30] Okay. The rooms are great. You know, the Mall and what could happen on the Mall. We thought that the Mall ought to be the Mall and we have the Public Auditorium on one side, which really could be a great place, I thought. If they want to put a hotel, they want to put a hotel with the Board of Education, I think the hotel ought to be at the Public Auditorium I can't believe a better place that you could have a collection of restaurants, two towers that actually take rooms, two towers, and you have these very elegant rooms to have a view of the lake and the city. And, but then the back of the house, ballrooms, dances, restaurants, meeting rooms, conference rooms could be built in the Public Auditorium. And here's this is great space, wonderful area, and that it would complement these two very elegant towers. And what a, what a great way to say this represents the century. This represents 100 years of Cleveland. The glass, as built, designed as a wall, not as a window, and stone as coming from an era of the '20s. So wouldn't that be kind of neat? And then the Board of Education should be there. And why can't the Board of Education... Education in Cleveland, why shouldn't it be the finest in North America? The state of Ohio appropriated $15 billion to create a new educational complex all over the state. Cleveland got $1.5 billion to build schools. I came up with a program to present to [Mayor] Jane [Campbel]. I said, you should have the best architects if they could use [9/11] in New York and create these great, great structures, why don't we have that competition in Cleveland and have had the best schools? Do you know what happened if you bet, if you had 25 great schools? You know, all the teachers coming out of Columbia Teachers College, coming out of Penn, coming out of Stanford. Where would I want to teach? Where I would want to teach where there are the best schools in North America? If I were a young family coming out of Wharton School of Business, coming out of Yale, where would I want to bring up a family? They had the best schools, the best teachers? What is this vision to create a new exciting city? You start with education. You started with youth. You started with a plan that in 25 years you invest today like an insurance policy and the premiums get smaller and smaller and the, the value gets better and better. Where is our thinking? Where's our leadership? Where's our ideas? Sorry.

Nina Gibans [00:36:03] Where did, do these ideas resonate when you articulate them?

Richard Fleischman [00:36:07] You have to have real leadership. You have to have leadership.

Nina Gibans [00:36:10] We have to not knock the table.

Richard Fleischman [00:36:13] Sorry. You have to have to have leadership and Jane would talk to me about we are doing it. I said, Jane, you're not doing it. You're not doing it. You should pick it up. Here's the baton. You know? It's, it's... Think of it not as a quarter-mile. Think of it as a two-mile race. You got to start slow. Sinch it by the inch and harder by the yard. Get started. Think of it. Think of a plan. You know what? In Cleveland, Mike White did that. Mike White, his first four years, created a plan. He and Tom Chema that... His predecessor failed to do a new ballpark. His predecessor failed to do a new arena. But guess what? Mike White comes into town. He gets Tom Chema, and the two of them create what is called Gateway. And there was a five-year period. We had the best ball team, the best image in the country. I would travel anywhere and they would tell me Cleveland's on a roll because we defined a goal and we made it happen. You respect execution. You made it happen. Jane, you could do that. Hunter, where are you? Sorry, I'm very critical. I'm as much as, I was in the wedding party. Jane and Hunter are very good friends.

Nina Gibans [00:37:26] We were at the wedding, so.

Richard Fleischman [00:37:27] I'm in the wedding party. And I can be very candid with them. And they said, you're dreaming. I said, you know what? Definition of a goal is a dream with a deadline. Let's have some dreams. Let's have a deadline. Let's go for it. I love to win. [laughs]

Nina Gibans [00:37:47] What about the lakefront?

Richard Fleischman [00:37:50] Well, the lakefront I have never been as... She said, help me on the lake. I said, I don't want... I said when I was a kid, there was... Cleveland was the sixth-largest city in North America and the ninth-largest in the world. And, and if you wanted to go to lakefront, I never had a problem. I would go to Gordon Park. I'd go to, on West Side...

Nina Gibans [00:38:13] Edgewater?

Richard Fleischman [00:38:15] Edgewater. I said through all that, we never had a problem. What's so critical when we're only 400,000 people, what's so critical about getting to the lakefront now? I said, it's there. We drive along it. What's, what do I do? I can touch water in my sink. What am I going to go out, touch that lake? You know, I know where the water comes from. I said, wait, what? So the, you know, the Dutch architects came into town. I had the luxury, they came to my house. We had an evening. We started talking about the lakefront. They said, what a waste of money. Why are you doing that? They drove to the city and they said, look at this blighted area. He said, from Hough to Cedar, you know 55th out to the Clinic. We said you know what? Why don't we create a central park? A new central park like in New York City, and on the periphery, we create this great collection of houses around the central park of Cleveland? They, then, because of their quality, would, would then radiate out into the city. New options and ideas. It would be a contagious idea. The central park. We'd have a lagoon, a track, bicycling, all kinds of ideas. Boating on the water. Why don't we create a utopia? It takes imagination. I learned a long time ago when we did BP America, the building, the guy said to me... I said, how are we going to do this? We have no money. He said, Richard, I found by working all over the world, if I have a big idea, I mean, I'm talking about, I mean, a big, big idea, I have a place to put it, the money always follows. I've never had a problem with money if the idea is big enough, if it's overwhelming. If you can make sure they see that there is a special commitment, a special vision, and the money is there. The money is always there. Don't be deferred. Don't defer that. But I thought, wouldn't it be great to have a central park here? We have a war zone. That war zone. [laughs]

Nina Gibans [00:40:26] So, wait a minute. Lake Erie is not going to disappear?

Richard Fleischman [00:40:30] No, I love it. Lake... What's wrong with the lake? I live on the lake. You know what? I, now, the last, the last, this summer, I maybe went down to the lake three times. I live right there. I think the lake is there. I think it's not something that you do every day. I think it's, it's like going to the restaurant. If you go to the restaurant or the lake you walk in, you sit down, say, oh, what a great view. Then from that time, you look at the menu and the people you're with and you forget about the lake. You focus on the dinner, the conversation, the people you're with. The interaction you create, I think the human dimension of accompanying one's friends, by paying attention to what they say and contributing to what they give is more important. And I think, yes, it's there. It is like so many amenities. But I think the richest thing in my, in my life is knowing you. I think that, I think we don't take advantage of that.

Nina Gibans [00:41:32] Okay. I'm going to say something else and provoke some comment from you. The lake has no shape.

Richard Fleischman [00:41:41] Yes.

Nina Gibans [00:41:41] Artists have not even paid any attention to the lake.

Richard Fleischman [00:41:43] Right.

Nina Gibans [00:41:45] That's because we don't see any other shore. For you, an architect, space and shape and form are important. What about that?

Richard Fleischman [00:41:56] Very much so. Because I'll tell you, I was single for six years from 1980 to '86. I lived in Winton Place on the northeast corner. And I began to realize that. Cleveland, I can look at Cleveland this way, not this way, but this way. And living on the West Side at 127 Lakeshore Boulevard or Lake Avenue, I began to realize that Cleveland has this very unique lake. When we're downtown, we think, north is up there. We're wrong. North is up that way. It is not parallel to Euclid Avenue. I mean it's not perpendicular to Euclid Avenue. It's at an angle like that. And why I find it so fascinating is living, I do sense in living in Bratenahl that the sunset is right over there. It's not west over there. The sunset is over there. And I, you know, I find yes. I don't know. I think the only person that I thought to try to do that was Phyllis Seltzer. Her paintings of Cleveland and the Flats were kind of fantastic. I asked her, you know, what about, you know, like she lives on the West Side. She lives on, you know, right about 117th. I said, what about, you know, what about the shape of Lake Erie? And she said, she prefers to, you know, I have a couple of her paintings of the Flats, you know, and the bridges and what happened to ore boats...

Nina Gibans [00:43:17] All the cross...

Richard Fleischman [00:43:19] Right.

Nina Gibans [00:43:20] Shapes and so forth.

Richard Fleischman [00:43:22] But. I like, you know, when I... Gordon Park is different now because we have this big collection of the big stone elements that provide now what's going to be this dormitory for brewers going back and forth from Canada so, and Shoreby Club is a nice way to see the, the lake and the [inaudible] cut there. And I think also our Inner Harbor downtown that Hunter created was also very nice to give a sense of size and not get caught up in this, this line, caught up in the shape. There is a difference to understand that, you know, the line versus the shape. Oh, I'm sorry, wait does it say I'm on?

Nina Gibans [00:44:07] And they can't see what you are doing.

Richard Fleischman [00:44:10] Oh, I'm sorry.

Nina Gibans [00:44:14] You work with your hands. I know that.

Richard Fleischman [00:44:18] I have all this body. I use all of it.

Nina Gibans [00:44:20] Euclid Avenue.

Richard Fleischman [00:44:20] Euclid Avenue.

Nina Gibans [00:44:25] Let's go back. The plan for Euclid Avenue, your favorite buildings on Euclid Avenue.

Richard Fleischman [00:44:31] Okay, let's start from the beginning. We were interviewed for the project and Kreuzberg was the architecture firm we were working... I mean, a dream for me, that won the contract. We were the design component of that at that time I presented it. Hunter was there and a whole bunch of other people I came with. The only individuals... I said Euclid Avenue is exciting because it has an ecclesiastical necklace. I don't know of any street anywhere that has as many churches. Starting at Public Square with the Old Stone Church, going out Euclid Avenue at East 30th, East 40th. Presbyterian, Episcopal, Catholic and all the way out. I said, let's, the strength of that street is this ecclesiastical necklace. And let's build on that. Let's take that richness, because those congregations, regardless of where they live, they return. It is like a beehive, you know, they come back and they're nurtured spiritually by these places. And if we're going to create pride in our family, we've got to take that spiritual nourishment and we can make, become a part of it. Now, how do we take that and create, build around it? I said in medieval times, the church was a center. The Gothic buildings were always the center of this hub, this piazza. Now, can we can we learn from that and say, if we do this, can we take these churches and create these kind of activities? The housing come in. Retail come in. All these activities. We've got a great thing with Cleveland State University. Isn't that, you know, and I didn't know at that time what might happen with Myers College. But Myers is, could become a part of that, you know. And what other schools, you know, even though community colleges off to the side could also piggyback on what could be happening on Euclid Avenue. And of course, we had the Cleveland Clinic as the climax at the end and the whole University Circle. So let's take this necklace and take the public square and take the university circle and find a way to add to the rich stones that already started [to] be part of that.

Nina Gibans [00:46:40] Okay. So what's happening now?

Richard Fleischman [00:46:44] I think I still have the same vision. I still the same commitment. I still believe what's started with Ron Tober started with Joe now Calabrese is continuing to make that happen. I think the quality of that is so superb the articulated bus that they're going to have on Euclid Avenue. You already see that we have this little green kind of chameleon bus that goes up the street. What's so sad is that one time it was fair. I used to take it all the time down Euclid Avenue and going up to Cleveland State. And now I guess the funding stopped and they got to pay for the ride. But I think that bus and its quaint appearance is a significant thing. And now can you imagine what happens with our articulated, very modernistic bus coming up, going down the center street, having this cobblestone, you know, area for the buses and these very unique kinds of bus stops. You know, it's what I talked about with Central Park. You know, these, these are people they'll say, wow. Now, we did something, we did Quincy Place on 81st and Quincy. We did it in glass and metal five years ago. Everyone said it will not last. Five years later, there's not one piece of paint on it. Not one glass has been broken. It's right there, 81st and Quincy. And it's become the pride of the community, the pride of the neighborhood. I said, let's create these segments of pride, you know? And I think it's going to succeed. I believe it's going to succeed. Well, it could the 55th and Euclid. The housing, they keep building more houses. The Playhouse, the playhouses, the productions, they're going up and the membership is increasing. We have the Cleveland Play House. We have the whole housing development there. Cleveland Clinic is investing millions of dollars, billions of dollars.

Nina Gibans [00:48:34] What about the quality of the building and the quality of what we've lost? I mean, what we've lost. Let's talk about the loss and the gains.

Richard Fleischman [00:48:43] Well, it's unfortunate. You know, I, I tell the story that Prince Charles was very critical of London, of some of the bad buildings that were built called modern. And Sir Richard or Sir Richard Rogers wrote a thesis. All due respect, Prince. Mediocre clients hire mediocre architects to do mediocre buildings. It's unfortunate that some of the people who are positioned to build did not participate in the vision, did not understand, and were more concerned about a cut-rate fee and a cut-rate building to enhance our environment rather than to build for the future. Now, I wish there was some way, like Fountainhead, we could tear some down, you know? But it's a crime. It's a crime to create, you know, to eliminate ugliness. I don't know. I guess it is.

Nina Gibans [00:49:38] Are you going to articulate which one?

Richard Fleischman [00:49:40] Huh?

Nina Gibans [00:49:41] You don't?

Richard Fleischman [00:49:41] Well, there's so many of them. [laughs]

Nina Gibans [00:49:42] Yeah.

Richard Fleischman [00:49:45] I'd rather tell you the one's I would save. [laughs] Wait, well, you know what [happened]... Look at the idea... It came out of postwar and developers who had no sense of value and only the what the bottom line. What is my profit going to be? Not the profit in terms of legacy for the future. But profit... It's like, you know, people in parking lots. All they care about is a clink clink. How much money did I collect at 7:00 o'clock at night. It's. Well, it's short-sighted, so... But I don't know how? Did the war? Did... You know, I go back to the Depression. I lived through the Depression and I lived through a period of is this all we could have or is this good enough? Like, for example, our airport. Our airport is a product of the Depression. I call that Depression architecture. How narrow could a hallway be? How small can I make this? Do I have to do that? Is this all I can afford? Rather than going back to J. Milton Dyer's idea of the Cleveland City Hall, our idea for the Justice Building right now, which is a building. Someone said to me, Richard, all that emptiness, how can we afford that? I said, Guess what? Doesn't cost anything. Emptiness is no... There's no, there's no cost on emptiness. It's, it's only for the soul, you know? [laughs] I said, I live in a world of trying to connect intellect and soul. Why don't we talk... Can we talk about that definition, you know? [laughs]

Nina Gibans [00:51:28] Well. Clients and... Okay. So you're saying we've made some mistakes which...

Richard Fleischman [00:51:32] Blunders. Blunders.

Nina Gibans [00:51:36] Blunders.

Richard Fleischman [00:51:36] Mistakes. You know, sins. What do you, what do you want to call them? There's a whole collection of words you might apply. [laughs]

Nina Gibans [00:51:44] And we're asking about sacrifices the city made. Sacrifices.

Richard Fleischman [00:51:56] The city sacrifices before World War II. Depression. We did a lot of things. I, I think we became after World War II because everybody was working husbands, wives. We had money and money to spend. There's a difference between quality and luxury. There seemed to be a luxurious time where people could buy anything. And they bought anything. They built anything. It was a culture that they grew out of, of this ability to have money, and no one knew could understand why. We had Severance Hall. We could go and find a great symphony; have a concert for the evening. We can go to the ball club, baseball, football, Cleveland Browns. And if we could win, we'd transfer our success on our team winning. Whether we had success in that level of accomplishment was unimportant. If my team won on Monday morning, I could share with my friends. Look what the Browns did. Look at what the Cleveland Indian did liquid. Look what... We transfer our successes to an athletic team. What about our own personal success in achieving that kind of quality. Not luxury. That kind of quality.

Nina Gibans [00:53:22] In your mind, what buildings represent that kind of quality?

Richard Fleischman [00:53:33] Well. Well, I like the things that... Some of the churches along Euclid Avenue recently, you know, I think, I think BP is a good building. BP, I like that building. I think for its time, the Terminal Tower.. Now, at one time I disliked it immensely. I think under the circumstances I began to like the Terminal Tower. I like the complex. I think what they tried to achieve with the, with the transportation and all the other activities and complement Public Square, I think was a great accomplishment. I like that very much. I think the KeyBank building is really, really quite nice. It's restrained. And as I look at what's happened in New York at MoMA and the Morgan Library, two great architects. I find that we can be doing that kind of thing in Cleveland. But as I go out Euclid Avenue, National City Bank, for what it was, is a very simple background building. And the little plaza in front of it is very nice. I can't stand the building at 14th and Euclid. The... We called it? The. The. What it's name?

Nina Gibans [00:54:54] The Renaissance.

Richard Fleischman [00:54:57] Yeah. It's just, you know, it is so grotesque, so insensitive, so decorative. It's like a sheet of wallpaper you could buy at Wal-Mart. You know, it's just, it's cheapness is so obvious. And that, that's so sad. And the bad thing about it, we have to live with it, you know, for a while. And that's kind of...

Nina Gibans [00:55:19] That's the thing about architecture, you do have to live with it.

Richard Fleischman [00:55:22] It's going to impact, you know, what happens at Playhouse Square. You know. But I do like, I like the canopies over the theaters. I love the, for the moment of time that there is a enthusiasm and a sense of energy there when you're in Playhouse Square and the lights are on and people are walking around. There's nothing as exciting as people. You know, I. M. Pei said this, you know. I remember back when I. M. Pei did the Erieview master plan. I was at that meeting and Bob Little was asking the question of I. M. Pei. And said, I.M. Pei, you've done all these master plans around the country. Tell me, what is the architecture that you did that made these places successful? He said, it wasn't my architecture. What made it great were the people. The people create success. Poor Mr. Trump, he does nothing I think it's so great. But what he does, he creates places for people. Every time Trump does something, it becomes a magnet for people. I don't know why that happens. It just does. And when you go to a Trump building in New York City, all you see are all the kinds of people, and you see these beautiful faces, people walking, the promenading, the, the kind of discussion, the just talking ideas and sitting down and coffee. It's like being in the piazza in front of St. Mark's. Even though you love the architecture of St. Mark's, what you see mostly are people having a coffee, expresso, whatever it is, you know? It's a sense of excitement, a sense of energy, a synergy that says what is the definition of an urban center? It's people.

Nina Gibans [00:56:58] I was hoping you'd mention Severance Hall.

Richard Fleischman [00:57:01] [inaudible] Oh, it's a great building. You're right. I, I... Severance Hall is fantastic. But I love the museum. I'm sorry. Going out, I think they were done by a Cleveland architect. I think the museum, for example, is done by that very fine Cleveland architect. And the good example is Rafael Vinoly's respecting the building. You know, and it respects also what Marcel Breuer did with his building in front. I mean, it's just fantastic that we have those kinds of buildings where other architects of that similar kind of quality don't, would not do anything to jeopardize that image. And Severance Hall, the same idea. When Schwartz came back, and you can't tell where Severence Hall ended initially. We know in which Schwartz added on.

Nina Gibans [00:57:47] What about the complex at East 9th, the bank building and...

Richard Fleischman [00:57:56] East 9th?

Nina Gibans [00:57:57] Original bank building? The county. The bank building done by Breuer.

Richard Fleischman [00:58:01] Breuer? See, I know too much about that building. I was in New York and I know Breuer hated that building.

Nina Gibans [00:58:08] He did?

Richard Fleischman [00:58:08] Oh, yeah. He, this was a Turner project. Breuer had the building at the museum and Turner wanted him... Turner had to see him at the museum. He wanted Breuer to do the building downtown. It is not Breuer's, one of Breuer's favorite buildings. He didn't like this idea of pasting up against... How ugly it is. You've got to understand Marcel Breuer. Marcel Breuer does not like to take a building and paste it up against the bank. He, he never agreed to that. And the plan is not that great. You know, it was, it was a resolve of value engineering. It's got all these columns in it. It's very inefficient. I know, see... Well, I'm sorry. I just know too much about the history of the building. We're looking at it as a cosmetic thing. Marcel Breuer didn't. They don't understand it's not Marcel Breuer's best things. Like we always go back, and I get a little upset about restoration architecture. If it's old, it's good. I say balogna. If it's old and bad, why do you want to save it? Don't we have enough intellect, enough capacity to understand quality of a period of time?

Nina Gibans [00:59:16] Right.

Richard Fleischman [00:59:17] And pick, get, get, you know, people like Bob, Robert Gaede or someone like that to come back and tell you if it's good or bad. I don't... This is not... I don't, I don't study that. But there are people like Elizabeth Murphy in Akron, you know, that firm that does a lot of historical work. Get people who understand quality buildings and let them do an evaluation. Okay? I'm the only old thing that's good. [laughs] I'm sorry. I just...

Nina Gibans [00:59:50] I'm so glad you said that. I would have missed that in this interview. Okay. What more do you want to discuss, Richard?

Richard Fleischman [01:00:03] What?

Nina Gibans [01:00:04] This is terrific. It's fine.

Richard Fleischman [01:00:07] Am I doing... Is this what you expected?

Nina Gibans [01:00:09] Well, what I expected because I know you, yes!

Richard Fleischman [01:00:12] [laughs].

Nina Gibans [01:00:14] But is expected. There is no expectation.

Richard Fleischman [01:00:17] Expectation. Oh, I hope. I hope I met... I hope this is valuable to you. What we've talked about.

Nina Gibans [01:00:23] Yeah. And everybody has been honest to their own view. And that's absolutely what we need here because ultimately you don't know which soundbites will end up on the kiosks. But you may go down Euclid Avenue and put one in for Richard and find what you said.

Richard Fleischman [01:00:45] May I say this, then?

Nina Gibans [01:00:46] To me, which is fine. Go,

Richard Fleischman [01:00:48] Can, can I keep going? Can, I have something else to say.

Nina Gibans [01:00:50] Yeah. Please.

Richard Fleischman [01:00:50] Okay. Okay. I thought I, I said this as part of Cleveland Leadership and the bridges and all these people we are meeting. I hear the same jargon over and over again. So I put my hand up and I said, Let's go back to mid-'90s. I said, Mike White, Tom Chema. We had a go. We, we won. We built a ballpark. We built an arena. We built the stadium. We were on a roll. We had a goal with respect to the execution of that goal. Today you have jargon. Let's go back. We had one of the best health facilities in North America. The Cleveland Clinic, UH, and the Metro Hospital. Years from 19, early on, maybe '90, maybe before '80s, we talked about a medical mart. A medical mart where people from all the world would come to a center to find out about what's happening in research, what's happening with equipment, complement what's happening at Cleveland Clinic. If you had a medical mart, do you know what impact that would have on the Convention Center? Why don't we tell Cleveland people about Medical Mart, Convention Center, Airport? You fly in for the convention to go to the medical mart, Medical Mart, Convention, Airport. If you sold the idea of all three as a synergy for the development of downtown Cleveland, you would have the same thing that happened in the '90s. You'd have ballpark arena stadium. You have a goal. We go has to be physical. It cannot be a dream. You don't get paid off. You go, you go to Las Vegas. You want to get paid off when you play the right number. You've got to have a goal. And why couldn't the medical mart be the, be the beginning of this whole thing, not the Convention Center. Sell the medical mart. The medical market needs to have conventions, that's, that's a natural thing, like the, the furniture mart in Chicago. Right? Wouldn't that be kind of great as a new dimension, dimension for what's going on or could go on in Cleveland? We have to have this, this umbrella or ladder of opportunity.

Nina Gibans [01:02:56] Well put.

Richard Fleischman [01:03:00] Thank you for. Let me say that.

Nina Gibans [01:03:03] Whatever more you want to say, you're welcome to say.

Richard Fleischman [01:03:06] I love Central Park in Cleveland.

Nina Gibans [01:03:11] Okay. I'm wondering in terms of that. I keep thinking of has Rockefeller Park been built to its ultimate?

Richard Fleischman [01:03:21] With a bidding war of the parks representing the different cultures that we have. I notice there's no more being built now. I always take people through. They come to Cleveland and I take them through Rockefeller Park. Martin Luther King, I think that's a classic icon of the, what a vision for having no money, having WPA, whatever it might be that Roosevelt put into action to make jobs for people. Those bridges are magnificent, that the winding driveway is magnificent, the drives going up into the hill, looking back down into that area. What that is dynamite. That is a great idea, it's timeless. You could say that was done yesterday. It has that kind of quality to it.

Nina Gibans [01:04:12] Richard, when you go through, there are no people.

Richard Fleischman [01:04:16] People.

Nina Gibans [01:04:16] Think about it.

Richard Fleischman [01:04:16] I know.

Nina Gibans [01:04:17] There are very few people.

Richard Fleischman [01:04:18] But more and more people... I drive because I do I go up because I live there. More people are trying to run in Rockefeller Park.

Nina Gibans [01:04:25] But when my father was a child, they played tennis there.

Richard Fleischman [01:04:29] Oh, is that right?

Nina Gibans [01:04:29] When I was a child we'd, we picnicked there.

Richard Fleischman [01:04:32] We'd boat. I, I canoed it in that little lagoon there.

Nina Gibans [01:04:35] And that's right.

Richard Fleischman [01:04:36] 25 cents.

Nina Gibans [01:04:37] So.

Richard Fleischman [01:04:39] My... My uncle...

Nina Gibans [01:04:40] So your. I'm doing this in, in relationship to your Central Park.

Richard Fleischman [01:04:43] I know, but New York has a lot of parks. Look, I'm saying that as a city, as an urban center. I love the word options, you know? And now we have a, we have theater for like, for example, I'm going to a play tomorrow night someplace out by you know, we have, we have so many programs. We have theaters, you know, we have TV, movies, we have oh, it's great. You know, I.

Nina Gibans [01:05:07] What about Whiskey Island and all of this.

Richard Fleischman [01:05:14] I'm not sure what's going to happen with that.

Nina Gibans [01:05:21] Anything else?

Richard Fleischman [01:05:22] I, I don't know. I think we should. I think the lakefront and the Mather, relocating the Mather was a brilliant move. I think the lagoon is still very nice. I've had some people come into town and put them on that, that boat and went up the river and out in the lake.

Nina Gibans [01:05:42] They had a good time?

Richard Fleischman [01:05:43] They loved it. They just thought that was fantastic. I think they ought to. And next time anyone gets a driver's license, you got to make them by, take that trip on a boat. You can't get a driver's license unless you take that trip.

Nina Gibans [01:05:54] I love that idea.

Richard Fleischman [01:05:54] You, they don't realize what a great city we have. I think it's important that every human being who lives in this city accept the fact that they're an ambassador for the city. I don't ever want to hear this city's bad. I think all of us have a responsibility to tell ourselves and anyone they meet what a great city this is. I don't want that bad-mouthing what we, what we are.

Nina Gibans [01:06:23] It's interesting. I've always wanted to train the taxi drivers.

Richard Fleischman [01:06:29] Right. But it would be a great idea if you can't get your driver's license, you take a boat ride. [laughs] I liked it.

Nina Gibans [01:06:39] Well, very good. Emma, any questions?

Emma Yanoshik-Wing [01:06:47] I don't think so.

Richard Fleischman [01:06:51] Did you write too?

Emma Yanoshik-Wing [01:06:53] I did.

Nina Gibans [01:06:54] Took all those notes. She's the note taker. I'm the question asker.

Richard Fleischman [01:06:58] Oh. Well, I thought I was being taped.

Emma Yanoshik-Wing [01:07:01] I'm doing both. Multitasking.

Richard Fleischman [01:07:04] You can write that fast? As I was talking?

Emma Yanoshik-Wing [01:07:06] No. I was just, I was just writing down like key things so that, you know, at this time you said this about this subject so we can find it easier.

Nina Gibans [01:07:13] When you start editing, you're going to be editing the pieces that you want to preserve. You also edit out my material and I just do that to stimulate the conversation.

Richard Fleischman [01:07:31] Okay. Good. Well.

Nina Gibans [01:07:31] If I play my role...

Richard Fleischman [01:07:31] We've been at this about an hour. Wow.

Nina Gibans [01:07:35] It's good. Great.

Emma Yanoshik-Wing [01:07:36] Yes. It's very good. Thank you.

Richard Fleischman [01:07:37] Did we fill up an hour? Did we fill it up?

Nina Gibans [01:07:39] Great.

Emma Yanoshik-Wing [01:07:40] 58 minutes.

Richard Fleischman [01:07:42] Is that, is that compared to others? You know, am I okay? Is that a little less and more?

Nina Gibans [01:07:46] Oh, it was [wonderful].

American Institute of Architects

The American Institute of Architects (Cleveland Chapter) Oral History Project. In 2006, in collaboration with Nina Friedlander Gibans, the Center began collecting oral history interviews with some of Cleveland’s best-known architects. 26 interviews in all were captured by Gibans and a team of researchers and students from the Center. These interviews help bring the city’s great buildings to life, and shine a light on current issues in architecture and urban design, making the series a major…