Rock & Roll Hall of Fame / Photo: @kittysingsuwan
The first thing I noticed when I finally settled into my hotel room wasn’t the building, but the music.
I wasn’t sure what to make of it. Then I realized, “oh yeah, I’m near it. Of course they have an outdoor speaker system. Why wouldn’t they play music from inductees past and present for everyone to hear?”
(Don’t worry, it wasn’t that loud.)
Next came the easy, 10-minute walk, followed by the sight of selfie takers posing alongside the red, six-foot high letters of the LONG LIVE ROCK sign on the plaza.
No lines*. No discomfort. No security guard giving me the stink-eye. Only the music, the modern-ness, and the visitors interacting with it all.
For a building with so much clout and presence, The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame was surprisingly approachable.
Why the shapes and cantilevered space? Why this?
I didn’t go in the first day. As someone who’s more interested in buildings than what’s in them, I grabbed my camera and got to work. I wanted to check the light, the vantage points, my timing, and why.
Why the shapes and cantilevered space? Why the triangular walls flowing from a central tower?
@rockhall was dedicated in 1995, but its story began in 1983, when music executive & philanthropist Ahmet Ertegun founded The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Foundation. Back then they were all mission, and no home. Three years later, they chose Cleveland.
Some time after that, they commissioned I.M. Pei and settled on Lake Erie.
Echoing the energy of rock
It wasn’t until the next day, when I finally went inside, that I got it.
I can’t explain how. I just knew once I looked around.
It was rebellious, spacious, creative, and inclusive. I could grab a drink near the entrance, but had to visit the basement for my ticket. There wasn’t a recommended route, only escalators to guide me along. I could immerse myself in the exhibits or stare out at the lake. I was in a dark, cylindrical room on one floor, then a bright, triangular one on the next.
It was so rock ’n roll.
My post-trip sleuthing confirmed it. As with every project, Pei went all in. He researched the history of the genre and came up with an array of contrasting shapes. He wanted to “echo the energy of rock and roll” with an “architectural vocabulary that [was] bold and new.”
There was something about the lines and proportions, too. The way sunlight streamed through the glass. Everything was in balance. It was functional and poetic. Bold and dreamy.
They say Pei wasn’t happy with the end result, but I think he hit the mark.
Did I mention the staff’s really nice, too? And the exhibitions, of course, were great.
If you want to go
*I went in January/February. I don’t know what it’s like during warmer months, but they say you can easily pay for your ticket in person, year round.
If you decide to fly in and out of Cleveland Hopkins Airport… the counters and security checkpoints were understaffed on my return. Give yourself plenty of time, and be flexible.
My travel logistics:
air – American Airlines
food – Heinen’s of Downtown Cleveland
hotel – Hampton Inn Cleveland Downtown
rides – Lyft & RTA (Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority)
architect – I.M. Pei
style – Postmodern
materials – Glass and steel alloy
components – 143,000 square feet (13,000 square meters) gross area: exhibition space, DJ booth, offices, museum shop, indoor + outdoor cafe, public plaza
lot size – 4 acres
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