Peter van Dijk Interview, 31 August 2006

Peter Van Dijk has worked as an architect in Cleveland since arriving in the city in 1961. In this 2006 interview, he talks about some of the architectural renovation projects on which he has worked, including the Huntington Bank restoration and his work in preserving the theaters at Playhouse Square. Van Dijk shares his general thoughts on Cleveland's architecture and development, lamenting the city's development mistakes and stressing that Cleveland's many assets have been misused. Missed opportunities in the Erieview urban renewal project and University Circle - among others - draw criticism from Van Dijk, who offers alternative plans and options for future development.

Participants: Van Dijk, Peter (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] August 31, 2006, and we're at Peter van Dijk's home, and he is the subject for today's interview. And do I have to say I'm me? I'm Nina Gibans. There are about 250 of these that have been done so far, so keeping track is really important.

Peter van Dijk [00:00:19] Oh, yeah.

Nina Gibans [00:00:20] You wouldn't want to be known as somebody else, would you?

Peter van Dijk [00:00:23] Number 251.

Nina Gibans [00:00:25] So I'm delighted that you're excited by doing this and I think you'll be terrific. So why don't we start? We have a piece of paper in front of us about your four paragraphs, but you're much bigger than that. You know.

Peter van Dijk [00:00:42] Well.

Nina Gibans [00:00:43] In a lifetime.

Peter van Dijk [00:00:43] Yeah.

Nina Gibans [00:00:43] And so I want to start, though, because you obviously have never talked about where you came from and how, where you grew up. How you got into architecture. So let's talk about that first.

Peter van Dijk [00:00:59] Okay. Well, I'm a Dutch kid and actually, I'm a Shell Oil Company brat. My parents were from Holland and I was born in the Dutch East Indies, which is now Indonesia. When my dad was there on assignment for Shell as a young engineer and lived there only for a couple of years to the point where I don't even remember it. This was in 1929 and '30 and so on. So I'm 77 years old now. And then we moved from there briefly to Holland for another assignment, which turned out to be Maracaibo, Venezuela, which is in western Venezuela. And that's where all the oil is in Venezuela. Around Lake Maracaibo. And that's really where I grew up in a Shell Oil Company colony of about 50 families outside of Maracaibo compound. Much as you would find in Saudi Arabia, where an American oil company, Aramco, would have their American people. These are mostly Dutch people. We had our own school. We had a wonderful sort of tropical-style clubhouse. A beautiful swimming pool. That's why I am a lifelong swimmer. It was summer all year long. I had two subsequent younger brothers, each two years apart. And we lived there for about twelve years with every three years a trip to Holland as a foreign leave sort of a refresher and get out of the tropics kind of thing, et cetera. The last time we were in Holland was in 1939, the summer of 1939, with the intention that I and my next younger brother would stay in boarding school to get a proper education back in the home country, so to speak. And that summer, while vacationing on the German Luxembourg border, it got pretty nervous and, and the war was about to start. At which point, we raced back to Holland. All our relatives said, don't worry about it. Holland is a neutral country because they had survived the first World War without getting involved. And they said, don't worry about it. Just go to boarding school. Your folks can go back to South America. They were scheduled to go back in late November anyway at the last minute, my folks decided to take us with them because the war had started on September 1st. In fact, tomorrow is the anniversary, and so German and English planes flying over Holland, you never knew what was going to happen. So we moved back to South America with my parents, you know, of course, and then they decided to send us to Curacao, my brother and I. Which is just over the horizon from Venezuela, Dutch territory where I started high school for the eighth, ninth grades, and stuff. And then during World War II, when I was 14, we were transferred to New York with the idea that my dad would move to Holland as soon as the war was over. And this was about 1944 or so. So we lived supposedly temporarily in New York and moved out to Westchester County to Larchmont, went to Mamaroneck High School, which, by the way, is where Steven Litt went Mamaroneck High School I found out later. And after a couple of years there, Shell said, okay, Van Dijk family, you're going to Holland now. The war had terminated and whereupon my mom said, you know, these three boys are becoming Americans now. They're in an American school. They're adapting to that. It's going to be a real hardship to send them to school in Holland because they're pretty rigorous schools over there. Whereupon, Shell said, we're a big company. We'll keep you here. So we decided to stay at least for a while, not necessarily to become citizens, but we did take out immigration papers. But the idea that if and when we decide to become Americans, we did. So that's how we stayed in America. Just pure chance.

Nina Gibans [00:05:51] Now in Mamaroneck, so Mamaroneck is the neighborhood that you're now talking about?

Peter van Dijk [00:05:56] Yeah. Mamaroneck High School. But I was only there two years at the most, you see.

Nina Gibans [00:06:01] Right.

Peter van Dijk [00:06:03] And then, I went to Cornell briefly for two years not knowing what I wanted to really study. Because, because of my Dutch schooling, unfortunately, they had moved me two grades ahead because I'd had all these subjects. Yet I really was missing a lot of things from an American education, especially English literature and things like that. And was probably some kind of geek, you know, that wasn't wearing the same kind of clothes as American kids. And, so luckily, I was a very good swimmer, so I immediately had camaraderie on a swim team and that kind of thing. And so anyway, I went to Cornell during the wartime expedited program, which was still going on where you do a year and a half's work in a year. And I chose electrical engineering because I was fascinated with the jet planes that were just coming online. You know, the idea of a jet plane? I would just I, I read everything about them. My dad, who a couple of times traveled to England on business even during the war, brought me all this stuff from there. It was really developed in England. Major Frank Whittle invented the turbine engine, but General Electric and, and Westinghouse built those kinds of things, so you've got to be an electrical engineer. So, however, after my second, after my sophomore year, I had just turned 18. I said, you know, I don't think I want to be an engineer. And I had met a fellow student that was in architecture, and I was fascinated by that. And then said, I'm going to take a year off just to catch up because I'm so darn young anyway. You know, here I'd finish two years of college at the, by the time I was 18, so I went to work for an architect in New Rochelle, New York. A one-man office who was a wonderful man. I mean, he took a great interest in me. And then another whole long story where my folks ended up. There they are. Moving to California for a while. Whereupon I, I went to the University of Oregon. Very excellent architecture school. I had a full scholarship.

Nina Gibans [00:08:31] Should we stop because of the airplane?

Peter van Dijk [00:08:35] It's a...

Emma Yanoshik-Wing [00:08:37] I mean, it's going to be and it's going to be background noise [crosstalk] anyway, and the mic is close enough where it's not interfering,

Peter van Dijk [00:08:42] Okay, good.

Emma Yanoshik-Wing [00:08:43] It's definitely audible.

Peter van Dijk [00:08:44] Yeah.

Nina Gibans [00:08:44] Oh, okay.

Peter van Dijk [00:08:47] I hope so. So anyway, then I end up going to the University of Oregon to study architecture. And as I say, they'd given me a full scholarship mainly for swimming, and I had a job working in the infirmary. So it was all a pretty nice deal. The minute I got out of school, though, the draft board was waiting for me. It was the Korean War and the draft board didn't understand that architecture is a five-year course. And you've already been in school four years and it's time to come. But I, I and other architects convinced the draft board no architecture is a five-year curriculum. But nevertheless, within a week of graduating, I was in the army at the end of the Korean War, actually. And ended up in the south at Fort Bragg, first with the 82nd airborne North Carolina, and met a fellow architect. We were not officers. We were not in the officer's core. We're just draftees. You know, I had no rank at all. Private clean sleeve that was called, you know, with nothing. And but I, I met another architect and we became good friends. You know, misery loves company when you're in the army, so to speak. And anyway, we were together on most of our assignments. And by the time after two years, it was time to come out of the army. My friend Ted Kurtz, who is now a Cleveland architect, you probably know him.

Nina Gibans [00:10:23] Lives in South Carolina?

Peter van Dijk [00:10:23] Yeah, yeah, he I said, Ted, what are you going to do? And I said, I'm going back to Portland or Seattle and get a job. You know, we've wasted two years in the army. We had five years of architecture and all this. And he said, No, I'm going back to grad school. I thought grad school what the heck's that, you know? I mean grad? Come on. You know, architects weren't thinking of grad school in those days. He says, no, it's a good idea, especially because we've been kind of out of it for a while. So I just applied to a bunch of grad schools. And ended up taking my GI bill and went to M.I.T., which was a fabulous stroke of luck because here I was some hick from Oregon so to speaking Fort Bragg, South Carolina [Note: North Carolina], and you come to Boston and with Harvard and M.I.T. there together with their incredible resources and faculty and students from all over the world in your class. You know, it was an incredible year. In fact, our assigned professor was Louis Kahn, the great Louis Khan. You know, I didn't even know who he was. That walked in there, but a tremendous influence, so to speak. And then that led to being recommended by the Dean Fred Trubeluski who is another famous architect who was a dean at M.I.T. He recommended me to Eero Saarinen to where Eero, Eero had come to Cambridge, and he says, I want to pick about four people, so I'll take two from M.I.T. and two from Harvard. And he chose me as one of them. And meanwhile, I knew Norm Perttula was in Harvard and he was the well a Harvard guy. It's it's so, so we went to work in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, for Eero Saarinen, which was like, like a super super graduate school again. His office was relatively small, 40 people, 20 that were sort of in design and 20 that were doing production work. And they were also a wonderful collection of talented young people from everywhere, from all over America and from Europe and Japan.

Nina Gibans [00:12:38] Can you name some of them?

Peter van Dijk [00:12:39] Well, Cesar Pelli, Robert Venturi, Warren Platner, who designed a lot of the furniture I have here, many of them who became sort of chief architect of all the big offices, Paul Kennon became head of Caudill Rowlett Scott. Dave Hoedemaker head of NBBJ. Those are huge firms now. And so and in all various parts of the country, you'll find sort of the premier architect in Minneapolis, Lenny Parker, who was one of our guys. You know, the main guy in Seattle. Dave Hoedemaker and so. Those alumni from the Saarinen office have gone on to with the legacy of Eero. Then again, how life is a bunch of forks in the road and little accidents that happen. You know how you meet your wife, how you ended up going to grad school and things like that. By pure chance, somebody found me from Cleveland to come here to design the federal building. What had happened was back in 1960, the government GSA decided to build a major federal building that was a huge project in those days. It was $32 million, which in those days was a lot of money. And instead of giving it to one firm, they gave it to three firms, three firms that were all competitors of each other. One of them was Shafer Flynn, which is what the predecessors of my present firm. The other was Dalton and Dalton. Cal Dalton. And the other was Outcalt Guenther. Dick Outcalt. And those three firms formed Cleveland Federal Building Architects and had a wonderful office in the Arcade. And they were going to staff it with people from their offices. Each was going to contribute, you know, ten or twelve people. And then it came to who's going to design it? And the Outcalt called said, well, we'll design it. And Shaeffer, you'll do the drawings. And Cal, obviously, you'll do the engineering. And Cal says, no way. We'll design it and you do this and that. And then Shaeffer said, wait a minute, you know, I'm not going to be left out. And so they said it came to an impasse and decided, well, maybe we should associate with a big name. In those days, it wasn't common to have these architects brought in, you know. Nowadays, you have to have somebody from wherever Japan or London or what all. But they did talk about Edward Durell Stone or Yamasaki, who were names. I don't think Sarrinen's name came up. At least not from what I've heard and evidently that died out. But the next thing was, why don't we hire somebody that's worked for one of these people that has good experience and set them up here and let him or her run the thing? And it was in that way that somebody found me and Cal Dalton asked me to come down and I interviewed with the partners and so and decided to come to Cleveland. And actually, Cal said, Cal Dalton said there are two jobs available. One would be to be the chief designer of my firm, Dalton and Dalton, because Don Hisaka is going to leave us and start his own. He was their chief designer, excellent architect, you know, and or he said you could do the federal building thing and see how you like Cleveland for two or three years and then we'll see what happens after that. And I decided I'd do the latter just to see if I liked Cleveland, which, by the way, I did. I immediately saw the opportunity here in Cleveland. First, it was a wonderful city.

Nina Gibans [00:16:46] So we're in 1960?

Peter van Dijk [00:16:49] '61. Yeah, and right about the same time, Eero Saarinen died also. So actually, Cal said to me, since you're taking the federal building job, do you have anybody you could recommend? So I recommended Norm Perttula to take that job, and he's been here ever since. And then I said, may I bring in two of my own people because I didn't know what I was getting. Frankly, I was getting pretty much the dregs of the offices, you know, they were just going to make some money off of this job, see. So I brought Ted Kurtz and a colleague of mine at Oregon, an outstanding architect. Doug Anawalt and three of us spent two and a half years doing the federal building job, which turned out very successfully, at least for the, for the three firms, you know, which was a good experience. And then each of them asked me to join them, each of the three firms. And I chose Gil Shafer's firm, mostly because it was a fine old firm, but it was sort of dying. It had been founded in 1905, had wonderful connections. In those days, that was mostly social connections of Cleveland. No Union Club and that kind of thing. Cal Dalton's firm, much as I loved Cal Dalton. He had two brothers that were sort of no good nothing, you know, they were just a drag on the office and the rest was mostly engineers. And Outcalt's firm, even though I respected the Outcalt. It was a big blowhard kind of businessman and all that kind of big Dick Outcalt, you see. And I thought, hey, Gil really wants me. In fact, Gil said to me, Pete, I really don't see who's going to inherit this firm now, but I'd like to have you have a chance and he said I'm going to be retiring in a few years and this could be your firm. So I took that and it turned out to be wonderful. I mean, it was really good because they still had good connection. Alex Robinson, you know, was a former partner, board member of the symphony and things like that. And this led to some wonderful commissions very early in my career, like Ursuline College University School, Blossom Music Center on and on. You know, Cleveland, a lot of Cleveland Clinic kind of work and so. And so again, as I say, my life has been a series of fortuitous intersections I call them. You know, the sort of lucky breaks so to speak and so. Which, I suppose you have to be ready for those things when they come along.

Nina Gibans [00:19:43] Right. Some people don't grab the opportunities when they are sitting right out in front of them.

Peter van Dijk [00:19:45] Yes. One thing I forgot to mention. I did take a year off during my Saarinen time and had a Fulbright to Italy, which was again a terrific break to sort of have an early sabbatical.

Nina Gibans [00:19:58] Right.

Peter van Dijk [00:19:59] And that was great. Great.

Nina Gibans [00:20:02] Fulbright and where in Italy?

Peter van Dijk [00:20:02] At the University of Rome, but it's mainly a traveling grant, you know.

Nina Gibans [00:20:07] Was Chuck Brickbauer there at that time?

Peter van Dijk [00:20:11] No, no.

Nina Gibans [00:20:13] That's Jim's friend? Yeah.

Peter van Dijk [00:20:13] No, this was '59 and '60.

Nina Gibans [00:20:18] So a little early. Yeah. Okay.

Peter van Dijk [00:20:19] There were a couple of Yales or so there was a Bob Clements. Bob Clements was from the Yale, Yale class, about that, they might have been there about the time Jim was maybe a little bit ahead of him. But, it was an incredible experience because there were four of us: three architects and an engineer. And then the, the American Academy had an architect there for the Rome prize, and we were a little group together and our, and our advisor was Bruno Zevi, a very important Italian art and architecture critic who was our mentor. Fixed us up with introductions to everything and. And I got to know important architects and in Italy and my.

Nina Gibans [00:21:07] Alright. So the many influences are many. Really.

Peter van Dijk [00:21:09] Some good ones. Yeah.

Nina Gibans [00:21:11] There's a litany of important people.

Peter van Dijk [00:21:14] Yeah.

Nina Gibans [00:21:14] In your life.

Peter van Dijk [00:21:16] Actually one I should mention, while at University of Oregon, I had a major experience with Buckminster Fuller. He was in residence for a semester and I was the head of a team of 15 guys working with Bucky. We built a giant dome.

Nina Gibans [00:21:35] Classic dome.

Peter van Dijk [00:21:35] And while in Fort Bragg on my weekends, I would go up to North Carolina State, where he was his main home and help out with his students. And so he is a terrific guy. Yeah.

Nina Gibans [00:21:49] Well, you need to check some of that out with Jim, who had Louis Kahn.

Peter van Dijk [00:21:55] Yeah.

Nina Gibans [00:21:56] At Yale.

Peter van Dijk [00:21:56] Oh good. Yeah.

Nina Gibans [00:21:57] And a Fulbright in England. And things like that. So, I think there are connectors that nobody's ever really talked about among the architecture people.

Peter van Dijk [00:22:11] Here in town. Yeah, I think so.

Nina Gibans [00:22:14] We have an array of people who were in the major institutions that studied with the major [inaudible] who influenced them.

Peter van Dijk [00:22:25] Actually, no, Norm and I, when we were both at Harvard and M.I.T., in the mornings we worked for Walter Gropius at TAC [The Architects Collaborative]. In those days, you could still have a morning job and then go to school afternoon and half the night.

Nina Gibans [00:22:39] Oh my, oh my.

Peter van Dijk [00:22:41] You know, so I thought I was another.

Nina Gibans [00:22:44] So now you're in Cleveland.

Peter van Dijk [00:22:46] Yeah.

Nina Gibans [00:22:46] And you're ensconced and you're finished with your first projects. And so. Let's move to some of your perspective on the major special things about Cleveland.

Peter van Dijk [00:23:09] Good. Yeah, because I think Cleveland is very special. Let me say first, what's good about Cleveland. What they've done right. Wait a minute, we're getting another flyby here. Sounds like Beirut. Doesn't it?

Nina Gibans [00:23:32] It's the air show.

Peter van Dijk [00:23:39] Oh, yeah. Cleveland has been, as we all know, one of the really great cities in America, you know, in its day. And I'm not saying that that that's over, but we did so many things well that were pioneering where we were the envy of many other cities in America that looked to Cleveland as to, wow, look what they, they did, you see. Just to describe it physically, of course, we have a beautiful lake and we have a river and which cuts right through the middle of our city. Both potential tremendous assets. Up to now, they haven't been realized as the way they should. But anyway, they're there physically, they're there. I found that the climate is reasonable. You know, if you can get out of here for a couple of weeks in the winter, maybe two one-week vacation spread out during the winter, it's fine. Other than that, I think the weather's wonderful and people say it always rains here. I really haven't noticed. Maybe it's because I spent all those years in Oregon or something. But, and the and the, the quality of life, the cost of living here is, is such a bargain compared to other major locations where you might want to be especially other [big metropolitan] big metropolitan areas and the access to cultural events, sports events, the access to work without too much hassle in terms of hours in the car, et cetera. As I say, there's so much of interest to do here. I mean, it's a big-time town, and yet it's small enough that you can have an influence. Individuals can have an influence and do something here now. Awfully conservative city, unfortunately. And you see that even though the architecture we've inherited is magnificent, it's all eclectic architecture. And none of it is pioneering in the way of a Frank Lloyd Wright building or anything like that that you might find in Detroit or even Buffalo, or certainly in other parts of the world. But, but nevertheless, oh, and the other thing I loved about it is the, the clearly identifiable ethnic neighborhoods. The diversity that we have here. It's certainly reflected in the church spires, and domes, and silhouettes of the buildings of different neighborhoods in town. Me, it makes it very interesting, of course, the bridges and the river and the lake and the gutsiness. It's not a fancy festival mall or anything, you know, sort of real. I thought it had terrific potential. My favorite buildings, especially, I think I see that's on one of your questions is probably the Arcade as a fantastic building. It's such a wonderful surprise, and it's such an urban amenity. It's it and the other arcades and other buildings that have public passageways through them, such as the Terminal Tower complex, and the Union Commerce Bank building, the Loew's building, the Hanna building. Some of them short. Some of them longer. Passageways through buildings, which I found was such an appropriate building form for a city that sometimes has a hostile climate that allows citizens to move through town, and encounter each other, and do their business or their shopping, et cetera. Oh, I, I seriously blame I. M. Pei. That he didn't pick up on that when he had the opportunity to do the largest urban renewal project in America. And with all due respect I have for, I. M. Pei. He was in the, in the early '60s and late '50s, the darling of urban renewal, and I say that because of his experience with Zeckendorf. And so, he was being chosen to design major urban renewal projects all over America, you know, Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, St. Louis, and you know, wherever. The last one, certainly one of the very last ones was Cleveland to do 31 acres, I think it was of downtown land which had been just leveled to create a whole new urban renewal. I think by that time he was just pulling stuff off the shelf. You know that he had done elsewhere. Same kind of ideas, et cetera.

Nina Gibans [00:29:04] For everyone's benefit, let's describe the parameters of the acreage you just mentioned.

Peter van Dijk [00:29:11] Yeah, well. In review, it was mostly east of Ninth Street, south of Superior, actually more like Saint Clair and to the lakefront and all the way to about 18th or 19th Street. But coming also up into Chester Commons, you know, up 12th Street. And so it was all part of an Erieview of urban renewal area, most of which had been leveled and, and stayed that way for a long time, for many years. We used to call it Hiroshima Flats because I ended up designing one of the first completed buildings there, which was the Cuyahoga Savings Building. Now the IMG Center and our office was in there and we'd look out at nothing, just parking, you know, for, for years et cetera. But had I. M. Pei taken a real look at Cleveland as to what's unique about Cleveland and seen that we already have a network of these passages, these arcades, you see. Why not build on that idea in a new urban renewal way and provide even stronger axes? And so, for instance, the whole of 9th Street, except for the Huntington Building, was all-new available land you know, [from] Euclid Avenue on south, actually from Chester north there's really nothing that could have been one big, pedestrian-enclosed space. There's an example of that done by Cesar Pelli at about the same time, a competition that was not executed. It was called UN City in Vienna for the United Nations, which was a linear scheme [of] the main pedestrian spine on many levels out of which grew office towers. All attached to that and the things that didn't fit in the towers, such as big ballrooms or conference spaces or parking structures, all stuffed like suckling piglets onto it. And then it's the beautifully clear diagram. I could imagine that 9th Street could have been that with, with branches off of it, et cetera. Just fine. It was an unimaginative plan that Pei came up with. In fact, it was very much inspired by the Piazza San Marco in Venice, a big open piazza with the tower building and some flanking low buildings. Now, I'm, I have to admit. I. M. Pei didn't execute any of the buildings there. All of which were very mediocre. You know, the Green Giant and all of that, and they built a reflecting pool, which was more like a swimming pool. It was painted light blue. So you didn't see the water at all. You saw the bottom. If you do a reflecting pool as everybody knows, you paint it black, just like the bottom of a lake is dark so that you see the light shining on the thing. And the thing was for nothing. I mean, we don't sit around feeding the pigeons, you know, like Piazza San Marco or anything. And actually, what ended up with, of course, is a Galleria, a big, enclosed arcades. So but anyway, I think the Arcade is a terrific building.

Nina Gibans [00:32:54] I've forgotten. Did you have anything to do with the restoration of the Arcade?

Peter van Dijk [00:32:58] No, I didn't. No, I didn't.

Nina Gibans [00:33:00] Well, let's talk about some of the Euclid Avenue buildings that you did.

Peter van Dijk [00:33:04] Yeah.

Nina Gibans [00:33:04] Yeah.

Peter van Dijk [00:33:06] I did.

Nina Gibans [00:33:06] A restoration.

Peter van Dijk [00:33:07] Yeah.

Nina Gibans [00:33:07] Role.

Peter van Dijk [00:33:07] Actually. What I'm probably the most proud of was the Huntington Bank. I think it's the first major restoration project in Cleveland in terms of a big building. And, and the way that came about was I'd gotten a call from the building manager, Bill Diedrich. I remember his name. He said, Mr. Van Dijk, we've got this bank here. It's a mess. The skylight leaks. It's already half tarred over and everything. It's all a waste of space. And our board has decided we want to get rid of it and build in three floors, just a steel frame, and drywall, and acoustic tile, and build a lot of space in there. And I thought, gosh. Really? Why would you want to do that? It's, it's all a waste of space. It's not air-conditioned, you know. It's terrible it leaks and everything. Anyway, make a long story short, I just couldn't accept that. And rather than just turn the job down, I went to Joe Coakley, who was the president of the bank at the time. And suggested that we restore the building that we could easily air-condition this in with panache and or not heavy-handedly and provide a wonderful work environment. Because I said, Joe, this is one of the grandest banks in the world. There's no bank I know that has this kind of colossal grandeur: these huge Corinthian columns, these fabulous vaults by a marvelous architect, you know, Graham Anderson Probst and White, a big Chicago firm. They also did the Terminal Tower complex. Anyway, so people forget it. Our board is folded. And actually, Jim Carney was a big guy on that board. You know, does everything on the cheap. I don't care if it comes on the thing or not, but, but he said, no, no forget it. Anyway, Joe stuck to his. I convinced him and we restored it, and I still think it's the most fabulous thing. In fact, my biggest thrill was one of the features of this bank up in the top ends of the vaults are these lunettes. You know, these semi-circular paintings done by Jules Guerin, who was the greatest muralist in America of the 1920s and the Beaux-Arts School. You know, these beautiful murals all on a Greek theme. Well, in one of them at the end, they're these Greek figures. And one of them stands there in a blue robe with a papyrus scroll and that's the architect, you know? You know, Anderson. And so when it was all scaffolded, I went up there and just put my hand on his shoulder. Great job there, Pierce. You know, I just wanted to congratulate him, you see. Hoping someday somebody treats me that way.

Nina Gibans [00:36:18] Yeah, right?

Peter van Dijk [00:36:18] So but then, but I think that if that building had gone down the tubes, it would have been a tremendous shame, you see because eventually, that led to doing the Society Bank, and the Federal Reserve Bank, and the MK Ferguson Plaza and that almost went away also, you see. And it was again, just sort of just not accepting some dumb commission for let's say, hey, don't do that, you know, kind of thing. Then the other success in terms of Euclid Avenue and, and this whole idea of preservation, I think preservation is such an important thing in that it's it saves what's familiar, which is so good for the stability of a community, especially on a college campus where alumni come back all the time. They have an affinity, a love for a great old building, and all of a sudden they see it's gone. Some nondescript new building is there, and not every building can be saved. Buildings do have to be economic vessels. You know, they have to justify their existence. Once in a while, you can save a president's home for historical reasons. It's something even if it should be torn down or something. But, but and it's also what is unique about cities. Today, all our cities look the same; the same architecture. If somebody comes up with a new form, a new cliche, it's immediately published and everybody else is copying something like that or so. And then there are all these corporate logos that you see everywhere. So how do you distinguish? Where are you? You know, maybe you'll see a palm tree here and a pine tree there, and you know, this must be in the north or that's got to be in the south or so. It's the buildings of the past century, you know, that are so unique and idiosyncratic and more influenced by regional architecture. By that, I mean whether and roof shape or materials, you see. Today, technically you can do anything. You can build a glasshouse in Alaska or the same glasshouse in Saudi Arabia, and you can heat one and cool the other as much as you want. You can do it. But in those days, they weren't being, they weren't fighting nature. They were building in a way that was a reflection of the climate, the available materials, the lifestyle, whether it's in the south with their great verandas or this or that you see. So Cleveland, there again has these magnificent buildings that we've inherited, whether they're churches or banks or post offices or theaters, et cetera, and including the Playhouse Square Group. That was about to be torn down. We had at the time a wonderful fine arts advisory committee at the City Planning Commission and I say wonderful in that it was a serious group of trained people. I mean people like Sherman Lee, Joe McCullough, Viktor Schreckengost, Richard Fleischman, Paul, I mean, Norm Perttula, Bill Behnke, [Bill] Ward of the museum. You know, people like that that were serious people that understood quality and good. And our role was to encourage the stuff that came in front of us by developers and individuals. Not to design it for them, but now and then just to sort of say this is going to be good if you just maybe think about this or that, but also to reject stuff that was terrible, you see. And it was, it was serious. There was, there was no ego involved. And where was I going with that? Because. I'm sorry. But. Here we go. One day what came before us was a plan for Euclid Avenue at 14th Street to build a parking lot. And they showed this drawing of a parking lot with a couple of wood chips and some one-inch trees in wooden boxes along Euclid Avenue as a screen. And, and I happened to say, wait a minute. Where is this on Euclid Avenue? Well, it's at 14th and Euclid. It's at 14th and Euclid? What the hell's there? That's the theater, the Playhouse Square theaters. Isn't that the Loew's Theater? And little by little. Yes. Yes, it is, but we're going to tear that down. I said, no. You can't do that. Well, they're dark. They've been sitting here dark for 15, 20 years or so. I said, no. You can't do that. And so. Why, why not? We own the building. And so then, and so we were able to turn it down for two weeks while they came back with a better parking lot design. We can reject it on the basis of this is no good. So. And, you know, the other members of the committee, you know, joined in and says, no, no, no. You can't. This is, this is a shame. I even said to Ray Feeble who was the architect from at Hoag-Wismar's office. They were the architects doing this parking lot, mainly an engineering firm. I said, you should be ashamed of yourself. You should, you should turn down a commission like this. You can't just be a whore, you know, and... Well, it's a job... [inaudible] So in the meantime, though, luckily Ray Shepardson had also identified those buildings and wanted to have a theater there, which was good. And he had started to strike up a friendship with the junior league girls to Lainie Hadden, et cetera. And Gwill York, you know, and Jane Kirkham, you know, those people. And so I went to them also and said, you know, we've got to save these theaters. So they came up with an option, I think it was $35,000 or some money like that to hold off to take an option to prevent the demolition of the Loews building. And the Cleveland Foundation got also interested Homer Wadsworth and Pat Doyle and people like that. And then, oh, I did. I did a pro bono design with some students from Kent over the Christmas holidays. We built a model that's about three times the size of this table here, which is about, let's say, six by six inches in square footage. And then the model of all the buildings in Playhouse Square and, and showed how the theaters could be interconnected.

Nina Gibans [00:44:09] Oh, I remember that plan.

Peter van Dijk [00:44:11] And made into a Lincoln Center and a Kennedy Center we called it. You see, with the city of light. I said, You know, Cleveland is the world capital of light. It doesn't look like it was supposedly the forest city, but there's hardly a tree in downtown. But we are the world capital of lighting. And being from Holland and all my family and relatives live by Eindhoven, which is the other world capital of light, which is the Philips company, which is even bigger than General Electric. And when you're in Eindhoven, you notice this is a city where light is an item. I mean, a commodity. You know, they show it off. So. And so Pat Doyle and Homer got all excited about that. And I built this model. Actually, Homer was not yet in my camp. I mean, he was, but I didn't know it. But I had this model and "Pudge" Henkel was the head of the Playhouse Square Association, which had been hastily formed with John Lewis and a lot of other wonderful people, including the women that we've mentioned. You know, Will, and Lainie, and Janie, and those. And I had this model showing what might be done. It was like a sketch problem, but it was pretty convincing. And it included making the alleys in the back there restaurants and ethnic places. And the Hermit Club was a perfect part of it because it was right by the stage door of the state theater, et cetera. And one day, oh, and then "Pudge." every other day, "Pudge" would bring a group of people. Pete, may I show them the model? Oh, go ahead! It's sitting on there. You know, they'd walk in there now and then he'd say, do you have a minute? You want to explain this? And I'd and most of these Cleveland businessmen and so I have some architects with a bunch of crazy ideas. You know, this will never get built, that type of thing. You have very being, very polite and "Pudge" thanks. He'd come back a couple of days later. One day I got a call from Homer and he said, Peter, I was one of the people that came through your office last week. You probably didn't remember meeting me, et cetera. But I got to tell you, this is a terrific idea. This would be so important. We'd like to help this along and give you some money to develop this a little further. And so which they did. And then that grew and grew, and it became something that I'm really very proud of because it too could have just passed away.

Nina Gibans [00:46:53] Yes, right

Peter van Dijk [00:46:53] He could have passed away.

Nina Gibans [00:46:55] Easily.

Peter van Dijk [00:46:55] It would have been gone. The Huntington building would have been gone. This would have been gone. And I wasn't looking for work. I was just saying, I can't do this. I mean, these theaters are so marvelous. Each one of them all through the country, I've never seen two alike. And there were hundreds of them built over a very short period of time. Not much more than twenty years at the most, you know, everywhere. And we ended up doing a lot of that work.

Nina Gibans [00:47:21] Ray was important to that. Ray Shepardson.

Peter van Dijk [00:47:23] Ray. Ray. Ray was. And yes. [I] agree. But Ray's vision was very limited. He wanted one theater: the Palace. He was going to take the State Theatre and make it into a Spaghetti Factory. One of those chain restaurants and that and the other one was going to be a parking structure, you know. And he and I really battled over that. No, you can't do that. You can't do. This has got to be a Lincoln Center kind of thing. You know, we have these incredible theaters and it's the State Theatre that has the potential of having a major stage added on to it because the others were landlocked. It's either the Palace Theatre was landlocked by the State Theatre. It had a beautiful stage, but not adequate for major productions. Now the other big factor there was that the Metropolitan Opera in those days toured the country, and Cleveland was one of the major stops. We had real big opera supporters here. Irelands and people like that gave lots of money [crosstalk] and Lulie Humphrey and the Luigi Ireland and those, you know, Liv Ireland and that. And they'd play in that awful Public Auditorium. But nevertheless, the opera came. Well, as we were starting this, this Playhouse Square stuff, and I saw the potential of the State Theatre, the opera people got in touch with us, the local ones. And I started to meet with the New York, with the Met people. And said, let's make this so that it could be a super theater for them. If you're going to do it one or two more truck bays or one or two more, you know, lines of, of sets and, you know, room and everything. So we designed it really for them. And unfortunately, after a year or two, they stopped touring altogether. But meanwhile, we have this terrific venue that you can have the big New York shows come with not a condensed version of their show. I mean, like Phantom of the Opera or Miss Saigon. They had the helicopter and everything.

Nina Gibans [00:49:52] Then there's.

Peter van Dijk [00:49:54] Les Mis. They can do it in there, you see. Plus the dance studios up on top and, and all that. And this isn't so much architecture. It's more providing facilities that allow you to have these things that improve the quality of life here has nothing to do with any architect ego, but there's nothing there that is a Peter Van Dijk thing other than the facilities in the back and the idea of connecting them all and creating this rabbit warren of, of passages, even, even. And this is all expanded now into Ideastream and, and the parking structures, et cetera.

Nina Gibans [00:50:35] I want to add one group that helped keep those theaters going, so that is planning could take place, and that is the audiences that kept coming, and coming, and coming to Jacques Brel.

Peter van Dijk [00:50:48] Oh yeah, because...

Nina Gibans [00:50:50] It would use the theater.

Peter van Dijk [00:50:50] Absolutely. I mean, that was a transition period. That was because that raised money for this voluntary painting and all that kind of thing that was going on. To me, it was such a wonderful, rewarding experience that everybody joined in: the volunteers, the red coat people, the whole thing. I don't know how many times I saw Jacques Brel. Bobby and I had a seat in the fireplace, in the lobby of the State, and there was this, this big mantel. And so there was a table and, and it was, it was before Larry Wilker. But I forget who took. Any way. He would say, always give us that table there. And so but it was very well supported.

Nina Gibans [00:51:34] Right.

Peter van Dijk [00:51:34] And so it was good.

Nina Gibans [00:51:36] That was the Arts Council, right?

Peter van Dijk [00:51:37] Yeah. Couple of other buildings down Euclid. I had done two buildings at Cleveland State. The first one was their physical education building with its, with its major swimming pool.

Nina Gibans [00:51:51] That's so you could swim.

Peter van Dijk [00:51:52] Yeah, well, that's just, just a little diversion here as a, as a young kid in high school and as a freshman and sophomore at Cornell. I swam for the New York Athletic Club. They, they gathered swimmers and water polo players where you'd get a free membership, mostly to represent them. And now and then I'd get a telegram up in Ithica and said, meet us here, there you're in the national championships and so we'll meet you there. Well, this, this time it was at Ohio State was the National AU Championships. I met our team there and say there were eleven of us and I arrived by myself, by train from Ithaca to Columbus, Ohio. Do you know how long that took? And I'm standing there in the lobby and all my teammates had paired up. And here's this guy by himself and say, do you share a room with me? It was Bob Busby and I said, Where are you from? He said from Fenn College, and here I am this little hot dog from Cornell Ivy League. Kid says Fenn College. Where the hell is that? You know? So he fell into. Anyway, we roomed. He ends up winning the 50 and the 100, you know, from little Fenn College. You know, this terrific swimmer, you see, so so with, you're good. So then many years later, I come to Cleveland in 1961, and by, probably by 1962, I'd heard Bob Busby. Yeah, that's that guy that I roomed with. So I went to see him. And he says, Pete, you're this is timely. I want to build a swimming pool here. And since we're an urban college, we have no football team and everything. I want to convince the state and the board that we could be a swimming powerhouse. Doesn't take up much space. And let's build a really good let's build an Olympic-sized pool, which, by the way, is the most misused word in the English language. Everybody calls their pool an Olympic-sized only if it's rectangular, you know so. And I mean, there were very few indoor 50-meter pools in this country. So anyway, so we came up with this fabulous idea of much more fabulous than what it ended up in terms of two pools, separate diving. Well, the whole thing. You know, a really great facility. But he got a lot of resistance from his own phys. Ed. faculty, saying we were spending too much money on swimming. And the board and the state of Ohio were not at all used to a swimming pool of that grandeur, meaning 50-meters that's 164 feet long, separate diving, a warm-up pool for locker facilities so you could hold national championships here, et cetera. But nevertheless, it was a great new pool because I invented a new gutter way of doing. In those days, I used to notice that the gutters were about the size of your hand, you know, as a section. And I guess you could spin in them or something. But they did nothing in terms of shaving off the waves. You know, when you're in a race and the water gets rough, the waves would flood that gutter immediately and they would bounce off into the. So the pool was rough. And I, you know, the simple thing to do is make that gutter big, big trough and the waves would just slip right off and not come back and you'd have smooth as glass water. And that was the first application of that idea, which everybody does now. But as a result, we had the fastest pool in the world, you know. And we had the next six or seven years. The national NCAA championships were held here. All records were broken. Everybody loves Cleveland State and still did, you see. But then, anyway, that was. Actually, I've got to say. I hate the addition to that building. They've just built an addition.

Nina Gibans [00:56:08] Oh, the new addition?

Peter van Dijk [00:56:08] To it on the back. I'm sure all the facilities are wonderful. But as architecture, it is the most sophomoric collection of cliches you drive by there. Sometime I have to drive by there every day and I can't stand it.

Nina Gibans [00:56:25] You and I have talked of some structures in Cleveland.

Peter van Dijk [00:56:28] God.

Nina Gibans [00:56:28] And the last time we talked, we talked about the bridge over Lee Road.

Peter van Dijk [00:56:34] Oh my God.

Nina Gibans [00:56:35] It's just awful.

Peter van Dijk [00:56:36] Well, that's that category.

Nina Gibans [00:56:38] So anyway.

Peter van Dijk [00:56:39] The Cancer Survivors Bridge [crosstalk] which we could call... Now that's too bad. But, but you know, you can't, can't control everything because the other building I wanted to mention at Cleveland State was the music school building.

Nina Gibans [00:56:53] The Drinko Hall.

Peter van Dijk [00:56:54] Which and there's Waetjen Hall.

Nina Gibans [00:56:57] Waetjen.

Peter van Dijk [00:56:57] Which I love because it was a wonderful collaboration with the faculty. But more than that, the rest of Cleveland State. It's really up off the street, which is to its detriment. It doesn't make it an urban campus. You see, you're removed. You come in from the suburbs, from wherever you're going, you're up there. You have no contact with the city. This building, partly because of its use, it has a town and gown relationship. You know, you go there to concerts, whether you're in the school.

Nina Gibans [00:57:30] That's where these tapings are taking place.

Peter van Dijk [00:57:30] You know.

Nina Gibans [00:57:32] On campus.

Peter van Dijk [00:57:33] Yeah.

Nina Gibans [00:57:35] On campus.

Peter van Dijk [00:57:35] Yeah. But when they have good facilities, there in there. The communications department there. But that was some kind of a fun building, and I like it very much.

Nina Gibans [00:57:47] Didn't you have a role in redesigning the Mather Mansion interior?

Peter van Dijk [00:57:54] The Mather. That was going to be my next, next one, too. Again, that was a mess. That was the AAA headquarters when Cleveland State bought it. And then for a while, it was some kind of student center, and they, they made a mess of it even further. Have fluorescent lighting. It was sort of the well-meaning janitor kind of took over things like that and we really cleaned it out. And I think there was junior league support to that. They came up.

Nina Gibans [00:58:24] Yes, there was.

Peter van Dijk [00:58:24] With a nice big grant to allow us to buy furniture for that. Some of it, by the way, especially in the entry lobby by Joseph Hoffman of Vienna. It's 1910.

Nina Gibans [00:58:41] Really?

Peter van Dijk [00:58:41] Yeah.

Nina Gibans [00:58:42] What. What is it?

Peter van Dijk [00:58:42] Those brown cube, those brown cube leather chairs were designed in about 1908.

Nina Gibans [00:58:51] For...

Peter van Dijk [00:58:51] For, for....

Nina Gibans [00:58:52] Mather?

Peter van Dijk [00:58:54] Well, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. They were, were reproductions, but they were from the same period as the Mather House.

Nina Gibans [00:59:04] Mansion, right. Yes. Yes.

Peter van Dijk [00:59:05] Mather House. And so but that was that, was a nice as a conference center.

Nina Gibans [00:59:11] Totally. It's wonderful.

Peter van Dijk [00:59:11] It's, it's a lovely place. And so.

Nina Gibans [00:59:14] That's where I took dancing. It was the Institute of Music...

Peter van Dijk [00:59:17] Yes.

Nina Gibans [00:59:17] Before it was the AAA building.

Peter van Dijk [00:59:19] Yeah. Up in that ballroom upstairs?

Nina Gibans [00:59:21] No. But also as you come in and the living room area was used for [inaudible].

Peter van Dijk [00:59:27] Oh, yeah, yeah. Yeah, yeah. [crosstalk]

Nina Gibans [00:59:29] [inaudible] there.

Peter van Dijk [00:59:29] That was before my time.

Nina Gibans [00:59:31] Yes, it was.

Peter van Dijk [00:59:31] Yeah, yeah. So see what else on Cleveland? Now. You know, you talk about my favorite buildings. When I read this I thought. I got to mention some of these things. For instance, the best building, one of the best modern building on Euclid Avenue by far. I think it's Don Hisaka. Cleveland State Student Center, a fabulous building. And what the hell is going on there, that they're going to tear that thing down? It's magnificent, and it was won all kinds of awards and everything. And I understand that buildings have a lifetime after which they become a little bit miss functional or something. But knowing from my experience with much older buildings and adapting them to today's uses in a way where you breathe new life into them, if they need some alteration or some additions to them, that would make whatever it is.

Nina Gibans [01:00:34] What would you do with that because the big criticism is about being able to hear in that space, being able really to meet in that space. Being able to.

Peter van Dijk [01:00:48] That should be easy to solve.

Nina Gibans [01:00:49] All of those things.

Peter van Dijk [01:00:50] That should be easy to solve. Well, acoustics problems like that would be easy to solve, and I don't know what the problem is.

Nina Gibans [01:00:57] Yeah. That is.

Peter van Dijk [01:00:57] And that's why I would love to know what is the problem?

Nina Gibans [01:01:01] That's the criticism. And there's one other that in the time that was built. It was built so that it will not opened up to the Euclid Avenue.

Peter van Dijk [01:01:10] I know.

Nina Gibans [01:01:10] And I think that's, that's one of the major things that they want to include. I'm not, I'm not begging the question of whether or not I love Don's building I do.

Peter van Dijk [01:01:22] It's great.

Nina Gibans [01:01:24] But those are the reasons I think. [crosstalk]

Peter van Dijk [01:01:26] Yeah, but but that's so easy to solve, even, even if it ends up with an addition. I mean, a lot of nice old buildings have done the same myself. I had made additions to buildings in such a way where that you don't necessarily upstage the old one and you still respect the older building. But you clearly say this is an addition that came 50 years later or 40 years later or 100 years later.

Nina Gibans [01:01:53] Well, that was a surprise.

Peter van Dijk [01:01:54] Come on rather than just tearing the thing down.

Nina Gibans [01:01:56] That was surprise to me

Peter van Dijk [01:01:58] I feel the same about the Breuer building. You know, first of all, it's a totally wrong choice of site. Because of the Breuer building, you should have taken the site down the street where the City Club, you know. Next to the City Club, there's a 400 feet by the 666 building, the old department store.

Nina Gibans [01:02:22] Right. Right.

Peter van Dijk [01:02:22] And the empty lot there. There's a parking lot.

Nina Gibans [01:02:26] There's the parking surface.

Peter van Dijk [01:02:26] You'd have a 400-foot strip that faces on both on Euclid and Prospect with big floor plates, plus some major image on Euclid Avenue in terms of animating Euclid Avenue very close to 9th and Euclid. I wish we could have held on to that AmeriTrust project a little longer. It's been sitting there for twenty years, let's say. Give Cleveland a chance to come up in the world a little bit more and make that building into a fabulous hotel. It would be a magnificent hotel. The small floor plates are ideally suited for hotel rooms, with two lower ceilings for office spaces, great views of downtown, a fabulous lobby in the old bank rotunda building, incredible right on 9th and Euclid. You know?

Nina Gibans [01:03:24] It's a major corner, that's for sure.

Peter van Dijk [01:03:27] God.

Nina Gibans [01:03:27] And with National City and Huntington.

Peter van Dijk [01:03:29] Yeah. Yeah. And to have to tear down the Breuer building, No, I agree. It's not a great office building and it certainly can't be used by the county. We really can't. I mean, if you try and manipulate county offices into those low ceiling spaces. You have to. I agree. You have to tear it down, but they should not have taken that site. This damn politics in this town it's what ruins things like that, you see? Plus, there's nobody speaking strongly enough.

Nina Gibans [01:04:01] I know.

Peter van Dijk [01:04:02] You know.

Nina Gibans [01:04:03] What about the leadership? City leadership?

Peter van Dijk [01:04:07] Who? Who are the leaders in town? First of all, in the business community, I'm going to get a lot of trouble from what I'm saying here. But they always was a Mr. Cleveland, whether it was Herb Strawbridge or Dell de Windt or, you know, you name them. One after another, there were Allen Holmes, my favorite guy, you know, where people that had vision that took their turn. Not just doing their United Way, but sort of. Right now. I suppose there's Fabrico, I'm sure he's a nice guy. But first of all, do any of these people walk around in Cleveland ever? Do they drive in from out here, pull into their parking space, up into their office. Does anybody walk down to the Warehouse District or, you know, down to Otto Moser's? Or I mean, you know. So, you know we'll spend it. Do they go down to the Waterstreet Cafe and have breakfast on Sunday morning? Or, you know, wander around at all? You see, do any of the suburban women? I mean, I've heard them be proud that I never go downtown anymore, you know, that type of thing. And so and it's just too bad because it's a terrific city and I constantly hear from young people, especially new young people that have joined our office. Some of them are former Clevelanders. I went to grad school someplace and came back. Others have come here. They say this is a terrific town and they are, they're very enthusiastic about it. And then of course, there, they put their money where their mouth is, you know, they'll, they'll live in Ohio City or in Detroit Shoreway and Tremont and things like that, et cetera. But the leadership people, you know, with all respect. I mean, where's Drew Mettler and guys like that these days, you know. Plus, in our city too, I had a lot of, I don't know, the new city planning director, so I can't say anything about him. I hope he's good.

Nina Gibans [01:06:22] You mean Bob Brown?

Peter van Dijk [01:06:23] Bob Brown. I have not yet met him. But Chris Ronayne, I like very much, especially his enthusiasm, very much. Oh, I'm sorry he had such a short tenure.

Nina Gibans [01:06:34] Why is it you said the University Circle?

Peter van Dijk [01:06:36] Which, which I'm delighted with, because that's another item on my list here because that has the potential of being something great. And let me just mention you asked, did we make any mistakes? I mentioned all the good things we've done, you know, which are in, but including also are things like the Terminal Tower is that was a leading idea that one of the first megastructures. It's like a Rockefeller Center is a megastructure, a group of buildings, but even more so. This had a railroad station, an office building, a hotel, and a department store, all in one beehive. You know with public things attached to a rapid transit system that came up in Shaker Square. What an idea, you see. Then that were these octopus tentacles that formed all these wonderful boulevards that we were living in. And so public housing, we were the leaders in public housing projects that were done back in the days, and Ernie Bohn and the architects that worked in that field was terrific. Our park system, you know, very good stuff. And, and I would say University Circle also, but you could argue what if those facilities had been built downtown? I mean, take, for instance, like New York or Chicago, where the public library is here, the museum is there, science thing is here, etc. each one of them a little. Carnegie Hall has its own little node of stuff. This is a different idea here, putting them all in a park-like setting, which is beautiful. Problem with it, which people are now starting to realize. It's all goody goody. There's no sin there at all. You know it's all the best museum, the best symphony, the nicest. This institute of that, institute of that, et cetera. But there's no messy vitality of a college town. Case is not up till now been interested at all in outside their academic life. The, the most exciting areas up on Coventry in terms of street life, you know, activity. A huge mistake was giving that piece of land at Euclid and Mayfield to Milstein to build that.

Emma Yanoshik-Wing [01:09:09] To.

Peter van Dijk [01:09:09] That junk.

Emma Yanoshik-Wing [01:09:10] What was it?

Peter van Dijk [01:09:10] Associated Estates. [crosstalk] You see, that's out there now. The only good thing about it is there are some apartment towers, which means people are living there.

Nina Gibans [01:09:19] This morning's paper, there's a little article by Steven Litt.

Peter van Dijk [01:09:24] Yeah.

Nina Gibans [01:09:25] That announces that.

Peter van Dijk [01:09:26] MOCA is going there

Nina Gibans [01:09:28] The development.

Peter van Dijk [01:09:30] Yeah.

Nina Gibans [01:09:30] Part of it has fallen apart.

Peter van Dijk [01:09:33] Yeah, we knew that, that was, that came about a month ago. They hoped to repair that this month.

Nina Gibans [01:09:39] Well, I'm sure they hoped to.

Peter van Dijk [01:09:40] But the point is that, that's, that area could be something. That could be a Harvard Square could be, you know, like Berkeley, all this. I mean, counting even Ohio State High Street, you know, is at least there's a laundromat, there's a bookstore, there's a bar, there's a cyber cafe.

Nina Gibans [01:10:00] There's the life.

Peter van Dijk [01:10:01] The life. You see, and between MOCA and especially CIA. And those art students are almost 24-7. The lights are on all the time. They work just like architects in school. You know having to work all night long shredding that kind of thing. It has the potential of being something great, and they're going to tear down a lot of the low buildings in that area and do something, including the parcel across the street, which is referred to as the beach and other areas. And of course, the new dormitories to the north of there are going to force students to walk past there and through there. And so also the tie in with Little Italy can be strengthened. In fact, I had proposed years ago, and I think it's coming, is to move a rapid stop right to Mayfield and then you enter University Circle also there. I mean, this stop here is miles away from wherever you're going, you see. The other bad thing is the, the entrances to University Circle. Three of them are under depressing bridges. You come down from Cedar under this rusty old bridge and you're there. You come down Mayfield through this gloomy forest of dark things. You come from East Cleveland, same kind of thing. I've been saying to Harvey Buchanan, you know, who he and I are on the board of this Putnam Fund that spends money on sculpture for the area. Why don't we assign artists, sculptors, lighting designers and so each one take a bridge project and do something. I mean, you're not going to move the bridge, but come on your artists, designers, idea people. This could be an experience that you're coming. Whoa, whoa look what i just went through.

Nina Gibans [01:12:00] And it's almost like the piece that's on top of Case's building.

Peter van Dijk [01:12:06] Yeah.

Nina Gibans [01:12:07] That turns with the sun.

Peter van Dijk [01:12:07] Oh, I know.

Nina Gibans [01:12:08] That turns colors with the sun.

Peter van Dijk [01:12:08] Yeah, sure.

Nina Gibans [01:12:09] And there are people who, young people, who used to come say to the Children's Museum and the wall it was their symbol for.

Peter van Dijk [01:12:19] I agree.

Nina Gibans [01:12:20] The beauty of the city.

Peter van Dijk [01:12:21] The talent is here. I mean, the Institute of Art has incredible talent there, you know.

Nina Gibans [01:12:26] I think his name was Dale Eldred.

Peter van Dijk [01:12:28] Yeah, that was in Michelson-Morley. In honor of Michelson-Morley.

Nina Gibans [01:12:31] Right.

Peter van Dijk [01:12:32] You know, people. The other unfortunate entrance of course is the Cancer Memorial. Welcome to the University Circle. That horrible thing, et cetera. But the three bridges at least could be. I'll tell you one other mistake I forgot to mention. Downtown Cleveland in the urban renewal days built several at least three or four that I can think of huge parking structures right downtown. Each of them taking up almost the whole block of just stored cars. My favorite street in terms of potential is Walnut, which is one block long visually closed at the east end with what was Park Centre—it's now Reserve Square—and the other end is your view is stopped by the McDonald's building or whatever. And then it's lined with offices and parking structures if those garages have been left the ground floor for retail. You go to downtown Cincinnati, you'll see that along their main street, all shops and then the big parking structures are right on top so you can come right there down, pick up a donut or pick up a newspaper, pick up a bouquet of flowers on your way home. All that kind of stuff right there. Here is this and what's so nice a small street like 4th Street. It's the same way it's closed off at both ends. Visually, it's like a little Piazza Navona in itself, you see, could have been terrific. I mean, I, I see a lot of power in small things done well, that just, New York. One of my favorite spots is Paley Park, which is on 53rd Street, just east of Fifth Avenue, where they've taken an old dilapidated brownstone that was falling down and built a linear park just like a shoebox shape. Small at the end of the whole wall is a fountain of rippling water, and the rest of it is locust trees, under which you sit in little Bertoia chairs and have coffee for a break. And just those kind of things, you know?

Nina Gibans [01:14:46] Those ideas are wonderful. Of course, everyone's favorite downtown green space is Eastman Reading Garden.

Peter van Dijk [01:14:53] Oh, yeah.

Nina Gibans [01:14:53] It's beautiful.

Peter van Dijk [01:14:53] But we need a few more of them.

Nina Gibans [01:14:57] We need more.

Peter van Dijk [01:14:58] Chester Commons itself is a scary place. I mean, that looks like a druggie's heaven there, you know? I mean, I wouldn't want to go in there at night, but that, that could be terrific because people live all around it and people work all around it. And yet it's, it's...

Nina Gibans [01:15:13] In New York, there was a novel idea of one of those city parks, and that is that the people that looked at it were taxed to keep it up.

Peter van Dijk [01:15:25] Yeah.

Nina Gibans [01:15:26] Not a bad idea.

Peter van Dijk [01:15:28] Well, speaking of that, the other thing I think we need like you've asked some questions, what can you do? We need to find a way to provide affordable parking all over downtown. Otherwise, nobody is going to come there. I mean, most people won't come and you can't compete with the free parking of the suburbs. But like Toronto, for instance, has a parking authority. Here, parking is all privately owned, and they jack up the price as much as they can get. And so Toronto builds parking structures strategically located, you know, by they're planning people and then they assess the businesses to help subsidize that in order to lower the price of parking so that you can find these big P's everywhere and come into town. Plus, they also have a better rapid transit system. Incidentally, another mistake when I first came to Cleveland and you were already here, probably we had passed a bond issue to build a downtown subway loop.

Nina Gibans [01:16:48] Yes. I remember.

Peter van Dijk [01:16:49] What a mistake. Not to build that. And we had this. I hate to describe him as county engineer, that idiot highway building. He was going to build a highway over the Shaker Lakes, you see.

Nina Gibans [01:17:07] The planes go over when you express an idea.

Peter van Dijk [01:17:10] But what a shame we didn't build that, especially in those days, think what that would cost now to do that because we had the beginnings of a very good rapid transit system and the many, you know, went to the airport, went to Shaker Square, went out to Van Aken.

Nina Gibans [01:17:28] There were a lot of plans that didn't happen.

Peter van Dijk [01:17:31] It's a damn shame.

Nina Gibans [01:17:32] And the subway is one of them.

Peter van Dijk [01:17:32] Yeah.

Nina Gibans [01:17:33] I want to mention, though, going back to. Are you in need of getting to school?

Emma Yanoshik-Wing [01:17:39] It's 2:30, so.

Nina Gibans [01:17:44] Oh, so it's a little more time. Is the development of the Terminal Tower complex and the Van Sweringen plan and all of that really inhibited the development of the lakefront?

Peter van Dijk [01:17:58] Yeah. [Maybe] in terms of....

Nina Gibans [01:18:03] The railroads.

Peter van Dijk [01:18:04] At the time, at the time, [what] I think actually inhibited the lakefront are well-meaning engineers, you know, with no esthetic bone in their body, so to speak. Kept pushing the lake further away from us and using the lake, the lakefront as an artery just for trains and highways, and so cutting off the lake from the citizens. I mean, you would never see that in, in Lake Geneva, you know, or around a beautiful along, a beautiful river in Holland or, or Chicago, you know, that type of thing. Which and that that's a mistake. I'm fact speaking of that mistake, one that we could have prevented was the football stadium. Ridiculous mistake, even though they owned that property because it was there. But the other proposal of building the stadium just south of the inner belt, you know, attached to the rapid transit, by the way, could have had a rapid stop in the stadium. As you come into Cleveland, oh, and by the way, Cleveland has some beautiful approaches.

Nina Gibans [01:19:29] Yeah.

Peter van Dijk [01:19:29] When you come into Cleveland, from the West Side or from here or from the South. Even with the stacks of the steel mills and the towers behind it, we've got to get rid of that big cold storage building as you're just coming in from the West, which is used for CVS signs or so on it. It's in the way but that view is almost as dramatic as when you come into Pittsburgh through the tunnel and pow, there's Pittsburgh on top of it. But that.

Emma Yanoshik-Wing [01:20:02] I'm going to.

Peter van Dijk [01:20:04] You know, my receptionist just called.

Nina Gibans [01:20:10] Okay.

Peter van Dijk [01:20:10] So your stuff is ready and so.

Unknown Speaker [01:20:11] Emma, can I just have you move your car?

Peter van Dijk [01:20:12] She's going.

Unknown Speaker [01:20:14] Oh.

Emma Yanoshik-Wing [01:20:16] I have classes.

Unknown Speaker [01:20:17] Oh, okay.

Peter van Dijk [01:20:17] [We're] just wrapping up.

Unknown Speaker [01:20:18] Oh, okay. I'm sorry. Go ahead. I've got time.

Peter van Dijk [01:20:18] It's taking too long. I mean, I think this city has so much to build on. You know, that was done well and that the quality of life here is so good. I think we just need to keep doing little things well and big things, of course, also well. But we just need people with vision in there. I mean, we need evangelists for talking to people about what Cleveland could do. I think that's the role of the city planning director, especially the great ones like Ed Bacon of Philadelphia, Charlie Blessing at Detroit. And so, spend all their time just making wonderful presentations to garden clubs, alumni clubs, civic groups showing what's good about our town, what are our liabilities that we have to overcome, whether it's weather or what, whatever it is. And, and keep urging that we do things right. And incidentally, there's going to be a new plaza at the federal building that is going to be really a wonderful thing.

Nina Gibans [01:21:33] Good!

Peter van Dijk [01:21:33] It's done by Ohlin. Dick Fleischman and I are working on it because I had originally designed the building. So I'm sort of on the team, but it's mainly a landscape. It's an urban landscape thing. It's going to provide a wonderful little park. Okay. They should be out there.

Unknown Speaker [01:21:57] [Inaudible]

Peter van Dijk [01:21:57] Okay.

Nina Gibans [01:22:05] Is there anything that we haven't touched upon that you really feel passionate about?

Peter van Dijk [01:22:10] I think I've stopped too much. You've heard my passion for a lot of, I think, Public Square, Public Square would be another big subject. And the lakefront, which we didn't touch on, but I think that's for the next generation to work on the lakefront

Nina Gibans [01:22:26] There are so many plans for the lakefront, you know, that they're talking about.

Peter van Dijk [01:22:28] Yeah, and some Clevelanders do want. I mean, we have all these plans from outsiders that don't really know our town, and that's happened. In fact, I really feel that a lot of the so-called outside architects that have built here, it's not much to show for it that you would say, Well, that's great. I mean, with a few exceptions, of course, but I can name a list of buildings in town that are done by outside architects that are not their best work at all. I mean, they've just. So, while it's a building in Cleveland, they probably gave it to somebody in the backroom to do with, so. Well. Anyway.

Nina Gibans [01:23:06] Okay.

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…