The Cycles of Demolition and Construction
Story and Photos by Gary Singh
The current cycle in Cleveland.
s I prowl around Cleveland, Ohio, I find myself amid what seems like
a brand new cycle of simultaneous demolition and construction. Urban
projects appear and disappear, as if the cosmic Mahavishnu is
inhaling and exhaling across Cleveland. Everything is in constant flux.
Such are my thoughts as I experience the International
Exposition Center (I-X Center), spitting distance from Cleveland Hopkins
Airport. At two million square feet, the facility previously existed
as a manufacturer of destruction machines, that is, a place to produce
bombers and tanks. Now it functions as a trade-show facility, one of
the hugest in the whole wide world. Gargantuan shows unfold here: The
Piston Power Show. The Rubber Expo. The International Tire Exhibition
& Conference. Dog shows, boat shows, bridal shows, home & garden
shows, plus an infinite amount of configurations for just about anything
else. The address is One I-X Center Drive and there are 10,000 parking
Formerly, the I-X Center was used to manufacture
tanks (top picture), but now it's a privately owned and very successful
trade show facility (bottom picture).
But perhaps nothing more illustrates Cleveland's endless
cycles of creation and destruction than the Cleveland Convention Center.
The old facility-an underground behemoth with no wired internet access
and barely any cell phone reception-has been gutted, exposing its entrails
to the skies above.
Currently, the Cleveland Convention Center is entering
a new cycle of life.
Upon my visit, a replacement convention center is being
constructed, along with a medical mart-together targeted primarily for
trade shows related to the medical and health care industries. The new
center will even use some of the same pillars that still remain from
the former facility. Out with the old, in with the new, as the saying
goes. Exhale, inhale.
From deep within the construction/demolition zone.
And then there's the Cleveland Powerhouse, an old brick
building in the West Bank of the Flats. Pieces of the inside are being
demolished so that the Greater Cleveland Aquarium can be created. The
Powerhouse originally provided power to run the city's trolleys in the
nineteenth century, but in recent years it housed a comedy club, a bar
and a few other retail units. A registered historic landmark, most of
the outside façade of the place remains intact as crews install
cement foundations for the innards of the new aquarium.
Foundation for a future fish tank at the Greater
As I skulk through the nether regions of the Powerhouse,
scoping out the scene, I gaze at cement foundations of what will soon
be tanks and walkways surrounded by water. Everything is under reconstruction.
I am reminded of why I travel in the first place. Something about being
inside the guts of a destination intrigues me, especially a structure
that's just now being re-sculpted from the inside out. I feel an intuitive
awareness that everything is in constant flux. Nothing is permanent.
A new entity emerges where an old one still remains. Quite inspiring,
Cycles of demolition and construction inside the
Powerhouse, where the aquarium shall be born
Back on the other side of the river, in downtown Cleveland,
near the public square and the Ritz-Carlton, sits the city's cherished
Higbee Building, which will soon morph into a brand new casino-both
above ground and below ground. As a result, the Chamber of Commerce
and the Convention & Visitors Bureau had to be relocated-yet more
examples of the constantly shifting urban landscape.
The Higbee Building itself is the stuff of legend, having
been through many reincarnations over the years. It was Cleveland's
first department store beginning in 1931, but was most recently an office
complex. In fact, parts of the film, A Christmas Story, were
filmed at the Higbee's building, in particular, the Santa Claus scene.
What would Santa have thought, had he known that decades later a casino
would replace his memory?
Santa will be replaced by a casino.
The new casino will feature 2000 slot machines, 60 tables
and even a World Series of Poker room. The next phase of construction
will see the casino evolving all the way down to the river itself.
Nothing is permanent. Everything is in continuous flux,
a refreshing indication. Exhale. Inhale. Out with the old, in with the
But before I split town this time, the Cleveland Museum
of Art beckons me over for a cosmic experience, since an exhibit of
Indian Kalighat paintings concludes the very weekend I am here. Kali,
of course, is the Hindu goddess of time and change, as well as a deity
of creation and destruction, or in other words, the patron saint of
Cleveland's construction and demolition. As the cosmology says, Kali
rids us of the past and brings forth a more glorious future.
Kali, the Hindu goddess of demolition and construction,
graces the wall in the Cleveland Museum of Art.
Kali, 1800s. India, Calcutta. Black ink, color
and silver paint on paper; 49.9 x 28 cm (painting). The
Cleveland Museum of Art, Gift of William E. Ward in memory of
his wife, Evelyn Svec Ward
The Kalighat Paintings are anonymous watercolors painted
by Indian street artists during the nineteenth century. At that time,
Kali's devotees were experts at circumventing the authority imposed
on them by the British occupiers and willfully disrupting the apparatus
of colonialism. In this particular instance, these painters took paper
the British had intended for Bibles and used it to paint imagery that
promoted Hinduism and simultaneously ridiculed everything the British
stood for. One perceives this in many of the paintings, but I am merely
inspired by the sheer imagery of Kali herself-the patron saint of construction
and demolition. She is all.
It seems a touching finale that Kali's personage graces
an entire wall here in the museum, which just happens to be immersed
in its own never-ending phase of renovations and upgrades. As I depart
for the airport-also undergoing renovation-the endless cycles of creation
and destruction remain with me. Forever. There is no end and no beginning.
Cleveland, a truly rocking place.
and the Worst Baseball Player; Thailand:
From the Wreckage, a Lotus Blooms,
St. Louis & Kansas City