The Vontz Center for
3125 Eden Avenue
Frank O. Gehry & Associates
in association with BHDP Architecture 1997-1999
Contemporary with Gehry's
Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, The Vontz Center in Cincinnati, Ohio reveals
Gehry's affinity for swooping sculptural forms as well his ability to
create interesting shapes with traditional materials, in this case brick.
Finished in prefabricated masonry panels, the volumetric nature of the
building seems exaggerated by the clear delineation that the bricks give
the seemingly inflated volumes.
With a construction cost of $46
million, this building is among the most expensive in the University of
Cincinnati's "Signature Architect" program, which includes works
by Peter Eisenman, Michael Graves and Henry Cobb. This program helped
reshape the urban campus throughout the 90's, and helped raise design
awareness in the city (helping bring other architects such as Zaha Hadid
to Cincinnati for major projects).
The Vontz Center consists of
three occupied floors (containing offices and laboratories) and has
walkable interstitial space above each floor. Oversized multistory windows
protrude from the building's sculptural forms, giving the massive shapes a
sense of permanence and rigidity, which plays well with the more whimsical
and rotund shapes that dominate the building. It's these very windows,
however, that proved to be a bit of a challenge for those working in the
Vontz Center's office spaces. Within months of moving into the building,
office workers used large pieces of paper, cloth and in some cases tarp to
cover the sun from shining in through the large windows. Perhaps due to
the aesthetic issues presented by such attempts at comfortable working
conditions by the workers, or by their requests, the large windows are now
fitted with large adjustable screens. These screens and are reminiscent of
those that were used in Peter Eisenman's Wexner
Center, in order to keep the harmful sun out of gallery spaces.
Though much was made by
Cincinnati residents and university students of this building as well as
the others in the Signature Architect program (due to their cost and
appearance), the Vontz Center¹s seemingly bowing walls and playful shapes
seem to have struck a chord with locals. Over time, the building has come
to be appreciated by the UC staff and student body, unlike the Peter
Eisenman building just down the street. Some have thought of the building
as Gehry's homage to the city's past, having once been named Porkopolis.
It has been said that the building was originally intended to be finished
in a reflective surface, much like Gehry's Guggenheim Museum, but due to
cost brick had to be used. If this is true, it may very well have been a
happy accident, since the curvature of the walls is further accented by
the bricks, and the more familiar material with its inherent color seem to
have pleased the local population. The use of brick also ties the building
in nicely with surrounding medical buildings in this portion of the
campus, which are almost all finished in similar brick.
K. Bellon 2003
How to visit
The Vontz Center for Molecular
Studies is located in the eastern portion of the University of
Cincinnati's campus, in the northwest corner of Martin Luther King Drive
and Eden Avenue. The campus is in the Clifton/Correyville neighborhood of
Cincinnati. Street parking (metered) is available in the blocks
surrounding the building.
The Vontz Center is located only
three (long) city blocks away from Peter Eisenman's Aronoff
Center, on the opposite side of the street (MLK Drive). The building
is open Monday through Fridays 8-5, though laboratories are closed to the
public. To arrange a tour of the building including the labs, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
More information is available at
the Center's website http://vontz.uc.edu
(note no 'www'). General information can also be obtained at the
university's main number +1 513 556 6000.
Books and other web
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