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Posted 11.2.12

2012 marks the tenth anniversary of the completion of the Peter B. Lewis Building, an iconic structure designed by “starchitect” Frank Gehry. Gehry’s style has gained its share of admirers and detractors both as he has continued to test the boundaries of what buildings can look like and how they can work. In fact, philanthropist Peter B. Lewis declared our building provocative enough to start fights in bars!

On Friday, November 16, the Peter B. Lewis Building will serve as a spectacular venue for the annual Design Awards given by the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and International Interior Design Association (IIDA) Cleveland branches.  

Peter B. Lewis, the head of Progressive Corporation, recruited his good friend Gehry to design Weatherhead’s new home on the CWRU campus. He also contributed $36 million of the $61.7 million cost. Gehry used unique design techniques honed on previous projects with Lewis, including adapting the 3-D modeling program Catia (used to design France’s Mirage jets) to plan the building’s curvaceous interior walls and sloping steel roof.

Gehry drew inspiration from sources that ranged from Picasso, Matisse, and the sculptor Klaus Sluter to the humble fish--a lifelong totem for the architect. The end result is a building that is as forward-thinking as the school occupying it. Unique features include a floor plan that encourages chance encounters between students, faculty and staff; seven skylights that introduce unexpected shafts of natural light; and a round classroom that has been likened to Paris’ Panthéon or Thomas Jefferson’s conference table at Monticello. 

Working with Gehry’s team influenced information systems faculty Richard J. Boland Jr., PhD, Elizabeth M. and William C. Treuhaft Professor of Management at Weatherhead, and Fred Collopy, PhD, Senior Associate Dean, as they conducted research on design practices in management. The result of their scholarship is Manage by Designing, now a core curricular theme in the MBA program at Weatherhead. Manage by Designing denotes the integration of design practices—like reframing questions, challenging standard protocols, and generating alternatives—with traditional management skills.

Congratulations, Peter B. Lewis Building, it’s been a great 10 years!

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