Local Angles

A Bauhaus Masterpiece

Is a house private or public? Like any compelling opposites, each really only exists with measured dollops of the other. Choices of how to eat, sleep, bathe and relax are very private. Yet the artistic movements or common practices inflecting those selections are very public—from publications and exhibitions to the sprawling possibilities of the design …

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Mill 19: A Magnificent Blend of Past and Future in Hazelwood

At an early September opening for Mill 19, the new robotics research incubator and office space in Hazelwood’s former LTV Steel site, a robotic arm participated with scientists and dignitaries to help cut the ribbon in the voluminous lab space with a high-tech flourish. Tenants include Carnegie Mellon’s Manufacturing Futures Initiative and the affiliated nonprofit …

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The New MuseumLab: Past Transformed for Future

At nearly 130 years old, the building is an antique, but the Carnegie Free Library of Allegheny, known casually as the Carnegie Library of the North Side, was built to look centuries old from the start. Following the Romanesque Revival style of H.H. Richardson’s recent Allegheny County Courthouse and Jail, cut stone, rhythmic arches and …

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Bringing Back Pittsburgh’s Steps

Along Schenley Drive in Oakland, the Frick Fine Arts building looks like a Renaissance villa, well suited to the grandeur of the adjacent Carnegie Museums and Library in the cultural part of Oakland. At the parking lot in back, though, you find the public steps down to Joncaire Street, a descent of 130-some treads into …

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Frick Environmental Center Achieves Living Building Challenge Status

Great architecture should be built for the ages. Imposing piles, whether in stone or steel, are supposed to indicate heroic resistance to the ravages of the elements as both practicality and art. And yet in the era of the environmental movement, some portion of this equation has been inverted. We now ask, what is the …

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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 sophisticated and …

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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. Begun in 1879 in Woods Run along the Ohio River and partially …

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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 free-standing elevator …

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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 being agreeable …

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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 be completed …

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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 Pittsburgh more …

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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. But the truly memorable public space is actually right next door, the City-County Building, completed in 1917. The soaring three-bay …

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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 vehicular pass-through. …

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Pittsburgh’s tiny troubles

“Tiny houses” are a hot trend on the Internet and occasionally in real life. The widespread but not entirely formal movement includes residences of between 100 and 400 square feet, depending who is counting. They come from builders and owners who want to live more economical and less complicated lives by getting rid of possessions, …

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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 much larger …

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A new front door

Nestled comfortably at the intersection of Schenley Park and the Junction Hollow Railway, at the border of Oakland and Squirrel Hill, the campus of Carnegie Mellon University could appear as a serene grove of academia, where eminent professors and industrious students perambulate through green spaces from one building to the next. In fact, a remarkably …

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The Enduring Dollar

They don’t call it the lion’s share for nothing. Those sculpted felines at Dollar Bank’s Fourth Avenue building have grabbed the limelight. A crowd attended their unveiling last year, with substantial press coverage, because master carver Nicholas Fairplay had both restored the original lions, which were placed inside the Dollar Bank building, and replicated them …

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From drab to daring

You could easily miss the Sharpsburg Community Library, even at its Main Street location next to the post office. This is not a Beaux Arts gem of the Carnegie system. Rather, it is 1,300 square feet in a one-story concrete-block former Indian restaurant. The little facility is well used and beloved, but we are lucky …

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Hatfield and Home

At the corner of Hatfield and Home streets, lively currents in Lawrenceville’s past, present and future converge in vivid architecture. Historic rowhouses line the street in one direction, and in another are some of the remains of industrial infrastructure. The substantial remaining open space toward the river seems to ask almost vocally what to do …

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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 that its …

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A Sustainable Aesthetic

What is sustainable, or green architecture, anyway, and what is it supposed to look like? The fact remains that the operation of buildings uses 40 percent of the earth’s energy resources, so construction aimed at reducing that consumption is both admirable and necessary. But do you know it when you see it? A high-tech skyscraper …

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