Fred S. Toguchi, FAIA, Architect, 1922–1982


In February 1978—wasnt that the winter of that dreadful blizzard that deposited several feet of snow on Cleveland in a single night?—concerns about the cost of energy were, for most of us, still several decades in the future. But here was Fred Toguchi proposing to the Cuyahoga County Board of Commissioners a building whose plans deliberately eliminated air conditioning. He explained to the skeptical politicians that the new Parma Adult Training Center (a sheltered workshop for the retarded) had been “designed to take advantage of cross ventilation. He showed them how the big doors, “with screens behind them, will swing up in the summer.” Natural light wells over work areas would also hold down the electric bill, while providing pleasant working conditions.

This kind of thinking was typical of Toguchi, a modernist who favored simplicity and following Nature’s quiet wisdom. His Japanese heritage may have had something to do with it. Even as a student at the University of California and later Washington University (following his service in the U.S. Armed Forces), Fred Toguchi had enthusiastically embraced the fresh approach to building design that would transform the urban landscape of America in the post-war period. From 1947 to 1954, when he opened an office in the Cleveland Arcade, the young architect designed and coordinated numerous school building projects around Ohio as well as the plan to develop the Mississippi riverfront in St. Louis. Over the next three decades he would play a prominent role in shaping the look of modern-day Cleveland and its environs.

Among the signature projects undertaken by Fred Toguchi Associates (est. 1962) would be the Burke Lakefront Airport Terminal and Tower (1963–70); the Clarke Tower dorm at Case Western Reserve University (1968); Lakewood’s Beck Center for the Performing Arts (1978); the Frank J. Lausche State Office Building (1979); and St. Philip Christian Church (1968), a small inner-city church at 2303 East 30th Street whose spare, focused and determined presence won it official designation as a Cleveland landmark.

Architectural historian Mary-Peale Schofield has praised Toguchi’s Clarke Tower, which won an award from the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development, for its “classic,” formal organization of “cleanly articulated volumes and fine details” and its “fine sense of proportion and scale.” The Burke terminal, with its functionalist glass-and-steel base and the undulating roof over its two-story waiting area, is “clearly suggestive of flight”; while the Lausche Building, an “elegant, black glass [structure] occupying an odd, triangular site” at the foot of Detroit-Superior Bridge, appears “to float upon a sturdy pre-cast concrete base.”

In keeping with the “functionalist” aesthetic, Toguchi often uses mechanical or purely utilitarian elements such as heat ducts and large conduit pipes to add interest to interior spaces by leaving them deliberately exposed and painted. With the help of skylights and lots of glass—the South Brooklyn Branch of the Cleveland Public Library (1979) is a good example—the outdoors are frequently brought indoors while, in this case, the ascending floor levels echo the site’s natural contours.

Other award-winning buildings designed by Toguchi Associates include Lakeland Community College, the new Commons at Gilmour Academy, Ashtabula Arts Center and Laurel School’s Middle School and gym in Shaker Heights (both completed in 1981, the same year as his exquisite design for the Mayfield Regional Library). In its 2007 exhibition at Beck Center, Cleveland Goes Modern: Design for the Home, 1930-1970, the Cleveland Artists Foundation featured a number of Toguchi’s residential commissions, such as the Rosenfeld Home in Shaker Heights, that won plaudits from Progressive Architecture and the American Institute of Architects.

In 1984, two years after Fred Toguchi’s untimely death at age 60 in an automobile accident in Tokyo, the Toguchi Memorial Lecture Series was established at Kent State University to promote the study and art of architecture.

—Dennis Dooley


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