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Famed architect, designer of Schuster Center, dies at 92

Published: Saturday, July 20, 2019 @ 10:51 AM

Famed architect, designer of Schuster Center, dies at 92

César Pelli, the renowned architect who designed the Schuster Performing Arts Center in Dayton and Cincinnati’s Aronoff Center for the Arts, has died. He was 92.

Born in Argentina, Pelli gained fame creating some of the most recognized buildings in the world, including the Petronas Twin Towers in Malaysia, which ranked as the tallest buildings in the world from 1998 to 2004.


Pelli said the Schuster Center’s design would be “an exclamation point for Dayton” during a 1999 interview with the Dayton Daily News before ground was broken in April 2000 on the site of the former Rike’s department store.

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The architect attended the opening celebration of the 388,000-square-foot Schuster Center on March 2, 2003. An estimated 70,000 people flowed through the corner of Main and Second streets to get a first look inside the $121 million project.

Just prior to the Schuster Center’s opening, Pelli said he aimed to warm up the audience before showtime.

“You should feel joyful from the moment you enter,” the architect said. “The joy of a performance needs to start before the curtain goes up. This should be a special place, a magic place, where you forget all your worries. You should feel this is going to be a great night out.”

The 13,000-square-foot glass Wintergarden was designed to be the “public room” of the structure, Pelli said. When it first opened, palm trees, 35 to 40 feet tall, were shipped in and planted to create a grove inside the atrium.

“You won’t feel alone” in a room containing living things, he said.

MORE: Millennial chic? Downtown Dayton’s Arts Annex wants new audiences

Pelli’s Dayton design work also includes Performance Place, the adjoining 18-story office and residential tower.

Pelli, who lived primarily in New Haven, Conn., established his firm there in 1977, and he was also Dean of the School of Architecture at Yale University. He died Friday, according to the newspaper in his hometown of San Miguel de Tucumán, Argentina.

I.M. Pei, another celebrated architect who designed the former PNC Bank building in downtown Dayton, died in May. Pei was 102.