Gartner Auditorium

Cleveland, Ohio | C.1971

Photo Credit: Accidentally Wes Anderson


With the thrust of a knob and a push of a pedal, a storm of sound erupts from the waves of pipes. Though this scene may bring to mind a villain’s dark lair or the hull of a Viking ship–we’re in a museum. In Cleveland.

An organ inside the depths of a world class art museum is not your typical 2-piece combo, but as many museums in the early 20th century collected paintings, the curators of the Cleveland Museum of Art desired a palace of all art forms—becoming one of the first to have a Department of Musical Arts. It is through this methodology that the grand McMyler organ was gifted to the museum, as part of the institution’s efforts to promote art not conceived from the stroke of a brush.

First housed in an inner courtyard, the 4,000 piped-machine finally found a permanent home in the Gartner Auditorium. The only concert hall ever designed by famed architect Marcel Breuer, the space is filled with wood paneling and geometric edges, reminiscent of his many Modernist and Brutalist projects. Though a visual masterpiece, the space was designed to house films, forums, and presentations along with concerts, hindering the acoustical performance of the mighty wind maker. Thereby creating, as organist and long tenured museum curator Karel Paukert quipped, “an atmosphere of distilled comfort.”

In 2010, the architectural firm Westlake Reed Leskosky—under DLR Group umbrella—worked with acoustic technicians to bring the space to its full potential, from altering the ceiling to even redesigning the HVAC system to improve sound quality. The result is a concert hall rivaling the many paintings of the Old Masters of art within the museum–just don’t tell Caravaggio.

Written By: Seamus McMahon

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