A Very Bad Investment for Ohio

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Building really impressive structures on campus is one way for colleges to increase their influence and name-recognition. The University of Cincinnati built its prestige, in part, on a 1996 building by a famous architect. Nice idea. Poor execution.

According to an article by Lawrence Biemiller in the Chronicle of Higher Education:

The problem here is that the building, an icon of architecture’s “deconstructionist” movement, is deconstructing itself—literally coming apart at the seams because moisture has penetrated the “exterior insulating finishing system,” as it’s called, that makes up much of the angled facade. Now its dull, weather-stained wall panels are peeling away from windows and rooflines, and boils and rot mar the edges of some walls in busy locations. Attempts to correct the moisture problem by adding weep holes to drain away water didn’t help. Nor did students, some of whom took to tossing rocks at the walls to see if the rocks would stick.

The university spent more than $82 million to build the Aronoff Center for Design and Art (above) in 1996. The building, designed by renowned architect Peter Eisenman, features exterior walls made of foam insulation and fiberglass mesh. Eisenmen apparently wanted ceramic tiles but the insulation/mesh was $2 million cheaper. It was also new and “experimental” technology. The technology turned out to be crap.

So now the building, only 14 years old, needs a renovation. Eisenman’s Wexner Center at Ohio State University also needed a major overhaul just 13 years after original construction stopped.

Peter Eisenman is a now a professor at Yale. His office there is located in a Brutalist building completed in 1963. The Yale building has not significantly deteriorated, though the school made extensive changes after a 1969 fire. [Image via]

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer