Architect travels from Pennsylvania to speak to College of Artchitecture

Jackie Mantey

Walking into a cave in New York, Peter Bohlin’s view of the world was changed. Boulders outlined the natural wonder, and the inside was hollow, filled with a pool of water, light streamed in from unexpected holes in the rocks illuminating the inside world.

“It was an amazing experience,” Bohlin said. “The natural manipulation of your view of reality made me realize we have the potential to do this in all of our work.”

Bohlin, an architect from Philadelphia with the Bohlin Cywinski Jackson architecture firm, was the guest speaker at last night’s Toguchi Memorial Lecture sponsored by the College of Architecture and Environmental Design and the Akron chapter of the American Institute of Architects.

The award-winning architect offered advice and criticism of modern architecture to students and faculty in the Auditorium.

“Architecture is about discovering something we didn’t know was there,” he said.

To emphasize his points, Bohlin showed slides of buildings and designs he had created.

One was of a house he designed for his parents while studying architecture in college. He designed it so the viewer’s eyes traveled from right to left to go against culture’s normal view of left to right.

“Putting the view of the building in reverse makes it a much more aggressive design,” he said.

Bohlin also warned the audience of referring too strictly to definitions.

“Beware of the rules,” he said. “Some people say to never put an entrance at the corner of a building, but this can offer a unique perspective.”

Challenging different ways humans view a structure is a necessary point to consider when designing, he said.

Bohlin also praised his profession and told the audience they were in a unique position with the opportunities they had to affect their communities.

“We are an intersection of people, technology and art,” he said. “We are lucky to be in this situation to have a sense of how people feel and react.”

The human perception of the world affects how architects should approach their designs. It is important to use psychological and physical influences of the human experience when designing buildings, he said.

“All things, human and natural, carry with them a spirit, for lack of a better word,” he said, “and we need to incorporate that spirit into what we create.”

“Buildings are not all about shapes,” Bohlin said. “We need to make places, not objects.”

The Toguchi Memorial Lecture Series was started in 1984 in honor of Fred Toguchi, who passed away a year earlier in a car accident in Tokyo. The architect had major influences in the landscape of downtown Cleveland after serving in World War II. He is responsible for such buildings as the Ashtabula Arts Center and Lakeland Community College.

The lecture is held annually to promote the study and art of architecture, according to Jim Dalton, dean of the College of Architecture and Environmental Design.

Contact College of Architecture and Environmental Design and School of Art reporter Jackie Mantey at [email protected].