A Concert Hall Restored
Severance Hall, although a beautiful 1930s-vintage neo-classical building, was less well known than its primary occupant: the Cleveland Orchestra, conducted for many years by George Szell. Over time, the world-class symphony grew in fame, while the building suffered from a series of misguided "renovations."
Now the building has been restored to its original design intent by the Washington D.C. firm, David M. Schwarz/Architectural Services. The award-winning restoration has achieved a difficult balance between acoustic excellence and visual fidelity to the original.
The project includes 39,000 square feet (3600 square meters) of new construction, which has been carefully designed to match the original building, both inside and out. The architects did not want to "introduce any elements that would compete with the original design."
Although historical purists may take issue with this approach, preferring instead to make any new construction clearly discernible from the original, the new work is undeniably well matched to the existing. Only in the color difference between new and weathered limestone are there obvious hints at the distinction. And the Washington Chapter of the American Institute of Architects has recently honored the project with its 2000 Award of Merit in Historical Resources.
A Checkered History
Severance Hall, originally designed by architects Walker & Weeks, was a neoclassical building of Ohio sandstone and Indiana limestone, completed in 1931. The building interior was an eclectic combination of many materials and styles—Art Deco, Classicism, and Egyptian Revival—as was common in the early 20th century.
Eventually, the architectural significance of the building was recognized by local and national preservation societies, including the Cleveland Landmarks Commission and the National Register of Historic Places.
The newly-restored Severance Concert Hall is home to the highly esteemed Cleveland Orchestra.
Photo: Steve Hall/ Hedrich Blessing
New construction was designed to match the existing in style and materials.
Photo: Justin Maconochie/ Hedrich Blessing
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