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The University of Cincinnati: A Photographic Tour


Because the weather was sunny and warm, I grabbed the camera and went for a walk a couple days ago. Roaming around the University of Cincinnati sparked memories that included, in some cases, the actual construction of some buildings. The first structure I witnessed was the DAAP building, designed by the starchitect Peter Eisenman. Cincinnati is known worldwide for its high concentration of signature buildings, and the DAAP Building is among the most famous. In 1996 I was there the evening that the building was officially dedicated. Eisenman was there, and so was Michael Graves, whose nearby engineering building was another new signature building. Graves (whose architecture is considerably less avant-garde than Eisenman’s) ribbed his colleague a few times during their talk, as when someone apologized for being late because he couldn’t find the auditorium in the maze-like structure. “If you want to understand my architecture,” Eisenman explained to the audience, “you have to start with the fact that I’ve my last 20-? years on the couch.” A short time after the very colorful structure was finished Cincinnati author and UC creative writing professor Dallas Wiebe wrote a letter to the editor that noted the uncanny resemblance between the colorful and sprawling DAAP building and the under-appreciated El Rancho Rankin. Sadly, Cincinnati’s finest motel has since been demolished, a tragedy that puts me in mind of an old Joni Mitchell song where they paved paradise and put up a grocery store. During the talk, Eisenman lamented the fact that current architecture students are now required to delve more deeply into the mechanical side of things, which he considered beneath their profession. Since it was built in 1996, the DAAP building has had numerous mechanical problems, which may be more of a blessing than a curse: it shows DAAP students that architecture is a process as opposed to a series of structures that exist independent of time. Presently it’s undergoing its second major renovation that will address, in part, water leakage. Here are some pictures I took this week of the current construction:
































You really have to go inside the DAAP building to appreciate how unique it is. If you walk around inside it, you’ll notice how the hallways expand and contract, and there are times – as when you climb a stairway that, at the bottom, was wide enough for a truck to pass through, but at the top only one person can pass through – when you’ll catch a whiff of claustrophobia that creeps up on you slowly and messes with your subconscious. Here I recall Eisenman discussing his phobias on the couch; I think I know what one of them is.  Even from the outside  of one of the entrances you get a sense that the building is closing in on you: