2018 Winter

Pittsburgh Quarterly Archives
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Charles Rosenblum

Charles Rosenblum

Charles Rosenblum is a journalist, critic, and scholar who specializes in the built environment and visual arts. His work has appeared in Architectural Record, Preservation, Architect’s Newspaper, Public Art Review, and the Frank Lloyd Wright Quarterly. Charles has taught history and theory of art and architecture at Carnegie Mellon University since 1998.

An Artful Blend

At their best, cities cultivate relationships among buildings across time. Destroy too many historic structures, and you lose memory, craft, and persistent cultural value. Fail to build new buildings well, and you risk stasis and irrelevance. The balance of time periods should be art as well as commerce. Accordingly, a new building with…

The Fate of a Prison

For a sprawling building in an ambitious Romanesque style on a conspicuous riverfront site, Western Penitentiary has spent most of its life in architectural obscurity. After an auspicious start, it fell quickly from prominence. Now, it may soon fall to the wrecking ball.

Looking at Lubetz

Stand at the top of the angles stairs in the entry to the Squirrel Hill Library, and you are cantilevered out and over Forbes Avenue, beyond the facades of surrounding buildings. The way the building creases and folds here, you can see outside and back in at the same time. Go past the…

The Unconventional Pays Off

Sometimes a building aims to look as if it has always been there. Frequently, architects match the brick of the surrounding neighborhood and use slightly modernized versions of traditional details to make a structure appear that it’s been there longer than it has. This is not such a bad thing. Buildings end up…

A Monument Then and Now

Did the demolition of the greenfield (really the Beechwood Boulevard) Bridge feel like the passing of an era? The urbane, concrete arch span of 1923 was crumbling far too ominously above the speeding traffic of the Parkway East to be able to stay in place, so it was ceremoniously demolished. A replacement will…

The Story of an Icon

With the completion of the Tower at PNC Plaza, Pittsburgh has yet another generation of skyscraper design in its picturesque cityscape. Though our first tall steel-​frame building — Longfellow, Alden & Harlow’s Carnegie Building of 1895 — was lost in 1952 for the Kaufmann’s store annex, the Frick building of 1902 remains with several close contemporaries giving…

The City-​County Building

Ask people their favorite downtown Pittsburgh building, and many will tell you Henry Hobson Richardson’s Allegheny County Courthouse and Jail. Pittsburgh’s first really famous piece of architecture has been popular consistently since its 1888 completion.

From melons to motorists

Why exactly does motor square Garden have a dome? The Renaissance-​style cap in oxidized copper and glass sits confidently on a low-​rise multiple gable structure in buff brick that is more ancient Roman. Pittsburgh Press writer George Swetnam once called the combination “odd but charming.” The building definitely holds its own architecturally among…

New life in an old neighborhood

Polish Hill is one of Pittsburgh’s more eccentric and paradoxical neighborhoods. Its showcase church, the Immaculate Heart of Mary, is especially stately and conspicuous, while the angular streets that weave it to the hillside are suitably European. But the neighborhood suffered acutely in Pittsburgh’s post-​war population decline and persisted more as an under-​maintained…

Raising the Bar

The widely repeated story goes something like this: Gary Saulson, PNC’s senior vice president for real estate, would regularly have lunch at a certain restaurant, from which he would have a direct view toward the Liberty Travel Building, a billboard-​slathered misshapen lump, whose prominent location at the corner of Liberty and Sixth meant…
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