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Cleveland's 200 Public Square

Updated on May 1, 2013
200 Public Square (former BP America Building)
200 Public Square (former BP America Building)

Cleveland's 200 Public Square was initially conceived in 1981 to house the consolidated headquarters offices of Sohio, formerly known as Standard Oil of Ohio, and descendant of John D. Rockefeller's oil dynasty. Plans for the construction of this serration-topped and faceted red high-rise proceeded as Sohio's merger with — and/or acquisition by, depending upon how one reads the financial records — BP, itself formerly known as British Petroleum, was unfolding. Four years later, the 45-story tower with an adhering 8-story stepped atrium at its base finally rose to take its place in the Cleveland skyline. The complex was designed by the famed architectural firm of Hellmuth, Obata & Kassabaum (HOK).

With over 1.2 million square feet of enclosed floor space, this massive flanged tower has equal wings aligned perpendicular to each of the two adjacent streets, Superior Avenue on the north flank, and Euclid Avenue on the south. In a politically correct gesture of obeisance to its elder and more famous sister across Public Square, the red monolith stops short of the overall height of the Van Sweringen brothers' Terminal Tower of the early 1930s. Upon the more recent addition to the downtown of Key Tower just north of Public Square, 200 assumed the rank of 3rd tallest structure in the city. The three tall structures ring the city's 'public green', and are interspersed among such landmarks as The May Company Building, Old Stone Church, The Society for Savings Building, and the Soldiers and Sailors Monument.

200 Public Square was constructed atop what were then the deepest concrete caissons in all of North America, reaching to a depth of 240 feet. (Thus, one third of the structure's overall total height is in fact submerged below grade.) Each of those caissons was to consume the output of more than 5 dozen cement mixing trucks; for a time, it seemed the conveys of mixers converging on Public Square might never end.

Though the building is a tall and broad slab, its mass is visually diminished by punctuation and decoration, by the flaring of its wings, and by the stair-stepping of its upper floors to create a unique and distinctive silhouette. All of the serrations and stair-steps also serve to significantly increase the number of desirable corner offices on the scores of stacked office floors. Against that inflected slab, a large and lushly landscaped and watered garden atrium offers tenants and visitors a spectacular 7-story volume, with views of Public Square through its almost entirely glazed west face. Cladding of 200 Public Square required over 4,000 great slabs of two different reddish granite tones.

Before 200 Public Square could be erected, two of the city's noteworthy but aging landmarks had to fall to the wrecker's ball. George B. Post & Son's Williamson Building of 1900, once the tallest building in town at only 16 stories, abutting Euclid Avenue, was sacrificed. So too was architect Daniel H. Burnham's noteworthy Cuyahoga Building of 1892, at the northern portion of the site, which had survived for over nine decades.

Along with Key Tower, the Terminal Tower, One Cleveland Center, and the Carl B. Stokes Federal Courthouse, 200 Public Square lends the downtown Cleveland core its distinctive and varied skyline silhouette.

200 Public Square Cleveland:
200 Public Square, Cleveland, OH 44114, USA

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