Maltz Performing Arts Center’s Excellent New CWRU Expansion Creates Superb Home for Theater, Music and Dance Programs

CLEVELAND, Ohio – Case Western Reserve University is widely known for its engineering and science programs, but now it can boast of having a superb home for its music, dance and theater programs.

Last month, the university announced that it had completed the expansion of the Milton and Tamar Maltz Performing Arts Center, the first phase of which was completed in 2015.

It was at this time that the university finished renovating the historic Temple-Tifereth Israel Synagogue building at East 105th Street and Ansel Road in Cleveland’s University Circle as a space for concerts and events, potentially accommodate up to 1,000 people.

The newly completed expansion includes a 250-seat theater, named in honor of donor and arts supporter Roe Green, with tilted seats, and a 100-seat theater, named in honor of donors Walter and Jean Kalberer.

The new theaters, stages and shops are housed in slender, elegantly detailed block shapes, sheathed in panels of creamy smooth Portuguese limestone or painted metal.

The expansion relies on the original temple building while establishing its own center of gravity to create a dynamic composition balancing the old and the new. It replaces an old-fashioned education wing that once stood on the north side of the temple’s main shrine.

New role for a masterpiece

A 1924 masterpiece by Bostonian architect Charles Greco, the original building leans towards an elegant Art Deco sensibility with Byzantine and Romanesque style motifs. The building’s signature is a majestic dome in golden hues, visible on the skyline from Rockefeller Park, making it one of Cleveland’s most distinctive landmarks.

Listed in the National Register of Historic Places, the ancient temple has an unusual seven-sided shrine originally named in honor of Rabbi Abba Hillel Silver (1893-1963), the important Zionist leader who served as Rabbi of the congregation from 1917 until his death at age 70.

The Temple’s 2015 renovation, led by MGA Partners Architects of Philadelphia, included the installation of an elegant 66,000-pound acoustic glass and steel canopy, used to “tune” the interior for various types of performance.

In addition to the two new stages, the new expansion, designed by the DLR | Westlake Reed Leskosky, includes faculty offices, a dance practice room, locker rooms, set and costume stores, green rooms and other facilities, all brought together by inviting, vast halls and spaces public flooded with light.

The expansion’s smart touches include floor-to-ceiling glass on the east and west sides of its new main lobby, which visually connects the main entrance on the Ansel Road side of the building to the lush expanse of Rockefeller Park, with views on the Cleveland Museum of Art to the east.

Additionally, the Black Box Theater cantilevered from the ground floor spaces below, creating a sense of sculptural and structural drama when viewed from the outside. From the inside, the cantilever creates a right-angled interior space at the north end of the main level lobby, allowing light and southern views to enter a space that otherwise would simply have faces east.

Local design tradition

The expansion exemplifies the excellence of the Cleveland DLR office, represented in this project by architects Ron Reed and Vince Leskosky, in design for the performing arts. It’s a strong point that dates back more than 40 years, before the firm, known by various names over the years, was absorbed into the Minneapolis-based DLR.

In the 1970s and 1980s, the company gained a solid expertise in theater design under the direction of its late director, Peter van Dijk, when it helped renovate the movie palaces and vaudeville houses of Playhouse Square. .

The CWRU-Maltz project helped expand the university’s footprint by adding a new activity center west of East 105th Street, adjacent to the Hough neighborhood, and close to the joint medical campus operated by CWRU with the Cleveland Clinic next to the clinic campus at East 93rd Street.

The connection between the CWRU’s main campus and the Maltz Performing Arts Center takes advantage of the North Family Greenway, which stretches west from East Boulevard through the Fine Arts Garden of the Cleveland Museum of Art to embrace Hough.

The expansion of Maltz also adds to Cleveland’s influence as a formidable city of the arts. Much of the city’s cultural infrastructure, including the Cleveland Art Museum and Severance Hall, was established in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when Cleveland was a larger and larger city. rich.

Part of this wealth has been devoted to places of worship with remarkable architecture, which constitute one of the great legacies of the city’s architectural golden age.

Yet the future of the Temple-Tifereth Israel building was in doubt in the early 2000s when its Reformed congregation planned to focus its operations on its expanded facilities near Shaker Boulevard in Beachwood.

But under the leadership of its then chief rabbi, Richard Block, the Temple agreed in 2010 to move its building from the University Circle to the CWRU.

A model agreement

That year, the university also announced that the Milton and Tamar Maltz Family Foundation, part of the Jewish Community Federation, donated $ 12 million to allow CWRU to purchase the synagogue and start to plan renovations and expansion.

The university planned to transform the place of worship into a performing arts center, while still allowing the congregation to use the facility at least eight days a year for major holidays and other negotiated events.

The agreement enabled the temple and the university to provide appropriate, long-term use for one of Cleveland’s greatest architectural landmarks, while also allowing the congregation to migrate east, following a path towards the suburbanization borrowed by many religious institutions.

The transformation of the Temple building serves as a model for other institutions, including Park Synagogue in Cleveland Heights, which is seeking new uses for the mid-century modern building, designed by German expressionist architect Eric Mendelsohn.

At the CWRU, the completion of the expansion created a new home for the university’s theater program, formerly housed in Eldred Hall, an old-fashioned 1898 building on the former Case Institute of Technology campus built in the originated as a YMCA.

The CWRU’s music and dance programs will continue to offer classes in other buildings on campus, although the Maltz Center will be their venue. Dozens of public performances will take place each year, with details available on the Maltz Center website, case.edu/maltzcenter.

Jerrold Scott, theater program chair since 2014, and CWRU faculty member since 2000, called Maltz’s expansion “magical” and, speaking of responses from students, faculty and staff, he said: “Universally, we’re pretty ecstatic.

In 2015, the university estimated the cost of the temple renovation and the recently completed expansion at $ 75 million. It’s a beautiful legacy for former CWRU president Barbara Snyder, who retired in 2020 after leading the university for 12 years.

The project strengthened the CWRU’s performing arts programs over those at Kent State, Cleveland State and Baldwin Wallace Universities, and Oberlin College.

It could also help change perceptions of the CWRU as a place of the left brain that neglects the arts.

“It’s a physical symbol that this is a university that values ​​the arts as much as STEM,” Scott said. Plus, he said, CWRU students “want a full brain experience. We now have a facility that makes this possible. It is a game changer for us. ”


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William E. Bennett