Architecture & Neighborhoods

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…

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…

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…

The Little Block House That Could

The first question a visitor usually asks is: “So… what was this place?” As curator of the 250-​year-​old Fort Pitt Block House, sometimes I feel that I have the most interesting job in the world. I get to take care of the only structure left of Fort Pitt and the…

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…

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…

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…

For the children and the community

Mist emerges with an audible hiss from the vertical stainless steel poles of “Cloud Arbor,” the new artwork by Ned Kahn in the redesigned Buhl Community Park on the North Side across from the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh. A delighted toddler runs toward it, to assess the wafting, San Francisco-​like…

Downtown!

I moved to Pittsburgh with my wife, Audrey, on May 1, 1972 when I accepted a job with The Hillman Company. We moved here from sunny Denver, Colo., and in our first month, it rained 28 days. We thought it was among the dumbest decisions we had ever made, but…

Steel City Spectacle

In recent years, it has been difficult to imagine the Highland Building as a “great success as the modern office building,” as proclaimed in a 1910 newspaper ad. The property on South Highland Avenue facing East Liberty Presbyterian Church hasn’t been occupied for a generation. Twenty-​five years of neglect have…

Bridges of Allegheny County

Whether they’re crossing chasms, spanning rivers or connecting communities, bridges have always been the metaphoric heart of Pittsburgh.

The Golden Triangle Shines

Ten years ago, the death knell tolled for a much-​vaunted plan to re-​energize Downtown Pittsburgh through an explosion of eminent domain and new retail. The ambitious plan, led by Mayor Tom Murphy, succeeded in creating a gleaming new building that housed a Lazarus department store, as well as an unfortunate…

Portrait of Penn Avenue

Whether the cultural district or the Strip District, Garfield, Point Breeze or Wilkinsburg, Pittsburghers know Penn Avenue as the heart of every neighborhood that grew up along it.

Song of Shadyside

The word “trendy” has been surgically attached to the word “Shadyside” since days of yore — far more yore than you think. That most elegant and affluent neighborhood in Pittsburgh’s East End is home to what Andy Warhol dubbed the Beautiful People, and the upscale shops that cater to their needs.

Song of Mount Washington

The first Native Americans to spot the first white men approaching their halcyon Green Triangle did so from the same basic observation deck — give or take a few hundred yards — where native ’Burghers admire their Golden Triangle today. By moonlight, those Indian sentries had a perfect view of all telltale torches and…
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