Posts tagged with "Pittsburgh":

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Pittsburgh launches its own International Center of Excellence on High Performance Buildings

Last month on September 12, the United Nations Economic Council on Europe (UNECE) and the Green Building Alliance (GBA) signed an agreement launching the Greater Pittsburgh International Center of Excellence on High Performance Buildings. Pittsburgh is the second city in the world to participate in the program following New York City’s Building Energy Exchange, and will join a network of sustainability experts in an effort to reduce the effects of climate change and “distill best practices in design, construction, training, and policy into scalable solutions.”   As one out of five commissions of the United Nations, UNECE works to improve access to clean energy and help reduce greenhouse emissions in order to meet Sustainable Development Goals as outlined in the Paris Agreement. Founded in 1993, GBA works to advance innovation in the built environment by “empowering people to create environmentally, economically, and socially vibrant places.”  “Of all the approaches to addressing the world’s climate challenge, improving the energy performance of buildings stands out. Beyond reducing our carbon footprint, this action will enhance quality of life, reduce energy bills, improve health, create jobs and encourage innovation,” said Scott Foster, UNECE director of Sustainable Energy, at the launch ceremony. The Center will follow the UNECE’s Framework Guidelines for Energy Efficiency Standards in Buildings and will be a collaboration between regional partners, including the City of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County. In following the framework, the Center will conduct training programs for design professionals, host discussions, and advocate for local and state policy changes regarding building codes and energy regulations. Pittsburgh has been well on its way to meeting these goals already. In early September, Pittsburgh's Mayor Bill Peduto introduced legislation that would require all government buildings to be net-zero energy efficient, just weeks after the city released its first energy benchmarking report. Pittsburgh also has the world’s largest 2030 District, which strives toward 50 percent reductions in energy use, water consumption, and transportation emissions by 2030. "The International Centers transform how we build cities, from the materials we use to building design and construction, to the policies that set new standards for the future," said GBA executive director Jenna Cramer in a statement. Both GBA and UNECE hopes the Center will unite the area’s most influential developers, business leaders, and policymakers to “dramatically advance sustainable solutions.”
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New book grapples with ambitious, contentious moment in Pittsburgh’s urban history

Imagining the Modern: Architecture and Urbanism of the Pittsburgh Renaissance Rami el Samahy, Chris Grimley, and Michael Kubo The Monacelli Press List Price: $50.00 In times of cynicism, revisiting more optimistic moments in architecture can conjure mixed emotions. Mid-century architects, designers, and planners exuded the optimistic belief that architecture and design could solve social ills worldwide—a spirit celebrated in recent exhibitions of Latin America and Yugoslavia at MoMA, and new books on Miami’s modernism. In a new book, Imagining the Modern: Architecture and Urbanism of the Pittsburgh Renaissance (Monacelli Press), Rami el Samahy, Chis Grimley, and Michael Kubo paint a vivid picture of the mixed emotions evoked by the changing urban landscape in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, a city heralded as a role model of rustbelt reinvention. The book functions as an introduction to a complex moment in the city’s history, looking at Pittsburgh as a case study in a broader moment of urban renewal in many U.S. cities. Pittsburgh was deemed “the Mecca of urban renewal” in Architectural Forum in 1957, and yet Imagining the Modern is the first book to chronicle the city’s modernist history in a comprehensive way. The book emerged from a 2015–2016 curatorial experiment at the Carnegie Museum of Art’s Heinz Architectural Center, overseen by curator Raymund Ryan. Ryan invited the book’s authors, principles of the Boston-based studio OverUnder, to be architects-in-residence in the museum and explore Pittsburgh’s contentious relationship to urban renewal in an exhibition. The trio went to great lengths to dig up photography, publications, ephemera, and other documents around five Pittsburgh neighborhoods and projects: Gateway Center, the Lower Hill, Allegheny Center, East Liberty, and Oakland. The exhibition’s walls were plastered with unsung gems from local archives, and a series of panel discussions affiliated with the exhibition added to the cacophony of voices measuring the legacy of urban renewal and how architects ought to respond. Imagining the Modern distills this rich material in a manageable way, in the spirit of the authors’ reappraisal of Boston’s mid-century concrete, Heroic: Concrete Architecture and the New Boston (Monacelli Press). Their new book specifically deals with the built and imagined architectural transformations of Pittsburgh in the 1950s and ‘60s, and with even a quick flip through the book one can see the changing urban fabric of the city. Imagining the Modern includes a wonderful array of high-quality images and well-designed diagrams—from archival documents to photographs to city maps, the stunning visual display is captivating and invites the reader to explore “the manifold ways in which the modern was imagined in Pittsburgh.” Imagining the Modern offers several modes of engagement rather than taking a strong position on Pittsburgh’s modern legacy. Scholars Kelly Hutzell, Caroline Constant, and Martin Aurand provide historical context and analysis for the development of Pittsburgh’s urban form and infrastructure. The book includes a series of diagrams entitled “Modern Networks” by Aurand that map the extensive networks of public and private entities that commissioned local modern architecture. The diagrams reflect the complexity of the patronage that funded this “Pittsburgh Renaissance;” one could spend hours trying to decipher the often confusing lines between architects, buildings (both built and unbuilt), commissions, and patrons. At the heart of the book are archival documents, which the authors present as evidence for readers to arrive at their own conclusions. A section of the book is devoted to reproductions of excerpts from two “Visionary Documents” that outlined the challenges for modernist designers to solve—pollution, traffic congestion, housing, parking, urban blight—while also suggesting ways to remedy such issues through architecture and design. Imagining the Modern goes on to show readers how plans for Pittsburgh neighborhoods and infrastructure were marketed, sometimes successfully, to respond to these issues through superlatives and dazzling renderings. Pittsburgh positioned itself as a “Cinderella City,” as a headline put it in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on June 30, 1953: “Ridiculed, scorned and snubbed for over a century and a half, Pittsburgh throws off her pall to become the ‘City of Tomorrow.’” As steel production left the region and factories closed in the 1950s and ‘60s, dazzling buildings of mid-century modern buildings by leading architects rose with a zeal unfathomable today. Harrison & Abramovitz, Mitchell & Ritchey, Simonds & Simonds, and Gordon Bunshaft of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM), to name a few, all built memorable works in Pittsburgh around this time. Imagining the Modern shows the development of the city’s most iconic buildings alongside ambitious plans that remain unbuilt, including one scheme that proposed filling the Oakland neighborhood’s Panther Hollow ravine with a mile-long research facility to bridge the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University. Rather than allowing the beautiful architectural renderings and photography to simply seduce the reader—which, occasionally, they do—Imagining the Modern also shows a collection of excerpts from the architectural and popular press responding to these proposals. The book juxtaposes the cheerleading coverage of The Pittsburgh Press alongside the coordinated, albeit unsuccessful, campaign by The Pittsburgh Courier to thwart plans for the displacement of thousands of mostly Black residents of the Lower Hill. The book’s photography also humanizes the actors on both sides of the city’s transformation, with moving images of people designing, building, debating, celebrating, protesting, photographing, and using the new works. Refreshingly, the book complexifies the role of architects in this transformative moment as well. Interviews and works by Troy West, for example, show that architects weren’t only the handmaidens of the powerful—his teaching and collaborative practices, which he operated as Architecture 2001 and Community Design Associates, offered an alternative model to the top-down design and planning approaches that often mar the legacy of postwar design. Instead of staking claims about the history of Pittsburgh’s modernism, Imagining the Modern showcases the debate that optimistic work by designers and planners continue to provoke. At a time when cities across the U.S. are working tirelessly to reverse the effects of urban renewal—understood as a pseudonym for “Negro removal,” as Dr. Mindy Fullilove suggests in her book Root Shock: How Tearing Up City Neighborhoods Hurts America, And What We Can Do About It—this book asks readers to take a closer look at a few urban visions through a mix of historical essays, sexy images, riotous press clippings, enlightening diagrams, insightful interviews, and informative project descriptions that offer everyone an entry into a fraught urban and architectural moment.
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Pittsburgh's City Council votes against saving historic Venturi Scott Brown–designed home

In a preliminary vote held on March 12, Pittsburgh’s City Council voted against designating the Venturi Scott Brown–designed Abrams House as a historic landmark according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. While the official vote on the house’s fate will be held this coming Tuesday, the six-to-one mock vote (two members abstained) doesn’t bode well for the house’s future. As AN first reported in August of last year, the home, commissioned by Irving and Betty Abrams and finished in 1979, had been purchased by neighbors William and Patricia Snyder. It was at first thought that the Snyders, owners of the adjacent Giovannitti House designed by Richard Meier, might act to preserve the Venturi Scott Brown-designed home, but instead began preparing the building for demolition in secret. The demolition of the Abrams house was part and parcel with the exterior renovation of the Giovannitti House, as the owners want to turn the lot into a landscape complementing Meier’s building. The two-bed, two-and-a-half bath had already been partially gutted before the nonprofit Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation mounted a campaign to recognize the building as a protected landmark. As the Post-Gazette notes, the City Council’s vote is in contrast to the recommendations of both the Pittsburgh Historic Review Commission and the city’s Planning Commission. The council cited the house’s state of disrepair, the hurdles in accessing the building, and the wishes of the owners as reasons they voted against the request. “There is black mold in the walls,” said Erika Strassburger, the councilwoman who represents the district where the Abrams House is located. “There is a risk for persistent water damage. No one has actually come forward to put up the money to restore the house. It is a house that needs an infusion of significant financial resources to restore it to a livable condition.” Other than the deteriorating physical conditions, the house is located on Woodland Road, a private street, and visitors would need to cross the Snyders’ driveway, meaning the Abrams House is only (legally) visible from the street. Without the possibility of another buyer stepping in—the Snyders picked up the house for $1.1 million when it went to market last year—it seems likely that the City Council will vote against landmark designation next week. If no action is taken, it looks like this rare example of Postmodernism in Pittsburgh could soon be razed.
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Luis Vidal and Gensler design new terminal for Pittsburgh International Airport

Spanish firm luis vidal + architects (LVA) has partnered with Gensler and OJB Landscape Architecture to design an addition to the Pittsburgh International Airport in western Pennsylvania. Initial renderings released Wednesday of the $1.1 billion project showcase the new terminal set to open in 2023. According to the architects, the design combines nature, technology, and community (a philosophy branded by the airport as NaTeCo) as a nod to Pittsburgh’s location, its local residents, and their commitment to innovation. The design team studied the city’s landscape to come up with a vision that evokes its iconic rolling hills and the rivers that run through it. The new terminal, built between Concourses C and D, will feature an undulating roof, designed to bring pockets of light into the public spaces below. Warm timber and ample plantings will be used throughout the interior as a nod to the region’s natural surroundings. “The combination of nature, technology, and community form the DNA of the region,” said Luis Vidal, “and that should be reflected in the structure of the building to enhance the experience for all users and leave a memorable impression.” In an interview with the airport’s news service, Blue Sky PIT, Vidal noted his initial trips to the city helped him understand how these physical elements could be integrated to create an adaptable design for the 21st-century that was truly Pittsburgh-centric. “When you look at Pittsburgh, you can see it has a very strong heritage and that it has undergone a huge transformation to embrace a diversification of industries, including medicine, education, technology, and robotics,” he said. “Those elements of nature, technology, and community grabbed me during a number of visits and very quickly, I understood that it was the DNA of the region.” Vidal and Gensler’s concept centers around a new, 51-gate terminal that will include a modern check-in concourse, an expanded TSA checkpoint, as well as indoor and outdoor green plazas and gathering spaces. The design will help improve wayfinding and circulation from the departing and arrival zones, while also decreasing walking distances between those areas. HDR, an engineering consultancy based out of Omaha, Nebraska, will help plan for future technological advancements within the airport and seek room for new automated systems. Gensler’s Principal and Aviation Leader Ty Osbaugh said the first set of renderings are the result of a huge community engagement process, which will continue through the schematic design phase. “We have worked very hard, and will continue working to further refine this concept that draws on the best features of the region,” Osbaugh said. “This concept allows for a more modern, adaptable facility that will truly reflect and belong to Pittsburgh.” This isn’t the first major upgrade the Pittsburgh International Aiport has received. In 1992, a billion-dollar expansion by architect Tasso Katselas Associates received widespread praise, particularly for the addition of the airport’s then-new Airside Terminal. The large space featured an arched ceiling and ample room dedicated to a shopping district known as the Airmall. That design helped simplify aircraft movement and eased pedestrian traffic, later becoming a global model for efficient aviation architecture. The architects hope to build on the Airside Terminal’s legacy by building a modern structure that consolidates the airport’s landside and airside operations into one place. The project, with its sweeping design and light-filled interior, evokes Vidal’s award-winning 2014 design of Terminal 2 at London’s Heathrow Airport.
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Innovation Campus promises to attract global manufacturing to Pittsburgh

Although Pittsburgh unsuccessfully bid for Amazon HQ2 (perhaps more of a blessing than a curse), the city recently broke ground on an ambitious 195-acre development adjacent to the Pittsburgh International Airport dubbed the "Innovation Campus." While the proximity of the Innovation Campus to the airport and a spaghetti junction of interstate highways provides a wealth of logistical benefits, it is the site’s legal status that will likely draw tenants. Licensed by the World Trade Centers Association, facilities within the development will be able to import, manufacture, and export products with exemptions from international duties. This initial phase of the project, led by construction firm Cast and Baker, is largely preparation work to ready 16 sites for development by 2023. While the first of the campus’s buildings should be complete within the next few years, the total build-out will progress over the course of a decade. Relying on ground-leasing subject to FAA regulations, the Allegheny County Airport Authority intends to blend office space, research laboratories, manufacturing facilities, and warehouses across the site. According to the Allegheny County Airport Authority, the model for the Innovation Campus’s strategy and design is the Schiphol-Rijk, an industrial district located adjacent to Amsterdam’s principal international airport that houses operations for leading manufacturing and technology firms, including Intel, Yamaha, GE Wind Energy, to name but a few. Although Schipol-Rijk and its manufacturing bent serves as the overall model for the Innovation Campus, the proposal also seeks to harness the region’s great density of universities, including Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh, to attract high-tech manufacturing. “This is a visionary plan for the continued growth of our airport and region that will create hundreds of jobs,” said Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald at the groundbreaking ceremony. “The airport will collaborate and partner with local and state officials and universities to leverage research and the region’s highly-skilled workforce to identify anchor tenants." The construction of the Innovation Campus will follow the ongoing billion-dollar renovation of the Pittsburgh International Airport expected to be completed in 2023.
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Colored concrete and perforated fins keep this downtown school cool

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Completed in November 2017, the Perkins Eastman–designed School of Nursing and Science Building occupies a former parking lot in downtown Camden, establishing a new institutional heart for Rutgers University in the slowly reviving city. The design inhabits a formidable full-block mass, reaching a height of four stories with a multidimensional facade of high-performance concrete and glass curtainwall shaded by perforated panels.
  • Facade Manufacturer Kawneer, Taktl, Glazing Concepts
  • Architects Perkins Eastman, NELSON Architects (architect of record)
  • Facade Installer Glazing Concepts, Robert Ganter Contractors
  • Facade Consultants Atelier Ten
  • Location Camden, New Jersey
  • Date of Completion November 2017
  • System Kawneer 1600 with concrete panels and curtain wall window modules
  • Products Kawneer 1600 Wall System, TAKTL Architectural Ultra High Performance Concrete, Glazing Concepts window modules
Similar to other urban centers across the Rust Belt, Camden has undergone a significant period of economic stagnation and demographic decline since the mid-20th century. However, the continued expansion of healthcare institutions, such as the Nursing and Science Building, is fundamentally reshaping the city’s character. The project is located on a triangular site adjacent to Camden City Hall, and the residential neighborhood of Lanning Square. Owing to the irregularity of the site, each elevation of the 101,000-square-foot project is a different length. Rather than attempting to establish conformity across the Nursing and Science Building, Perkins Eastman’s design plays with each facade's unique dimensions. The southwest elevation features a hollowed-out frame filled by a three-story glass facade, while the northeast elevation recalls the more traditional masonry punched window style found around the area. For the rainscreen, Perkins Eastman turned to TAKTL, a design and manufacturing operation located in the Greater Pittsburgh Region, to produce rectangular high-performance concrete panels. To blend in with the prevailing use of stone ashlar and brick for historic buildings in downtown Camden, the concrete panels are colored reddish-brown and finished to resemble non-glazed terra-cotta. The panels, measuring one-by-three feet, are face-fastened with color-matched screws to the light-gauge structural steel stud framing. While the rainscreen serves as an oversized framing device, the bulk of the 110,000-square-foot project resides behind glass curtain wall. Sections of the curtain wall bulge from the assembly, providing room for a variety of functions within. “The facade is composed of two distinctive wall types,” said James Butterfield, RA, design Principal at Perkins Eastman. “One which employs a full-height, vertical perforated metal shading system, and a second which introduces opacified shadowbox panels to minimize the quantity of unshaded vision glass.” Each curtainwall module reaches a height of 30 feet and is anchored at the end of each concrete slab. Aluminum brackets project from the Kawneer-produced wall system and are fastened to the 1/4-inch-thick vertical perforated panels at four points. The overall goal of these devices is the mitigation of solar incidence and internal glare associated with typical large-scale curtain wall design.
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The 57th Carnegie International digs where it stands

Within the last three months, two rustbelt cities have opened international art exhibitions. Cleveland, Ohio, debuted FRONT International in July, and this weekend Pittsburgh opened its 57th Carnegie International. While FRONT sends artists and art-tourists into sites throughout the city, this year’s Carnegie International keeps its art in and around its own house. The exhibition draws visitors to Andrew Carnegie’s immense, turn-of-the-century building—a complex with two museums, a concert hall, and library all under one roof—and proves that its long institutional history is a fertile ground for provocative new work. The notion of an “international” exhibition perhaps still conjures the hubris of the industrialist who founded the show in 1896 to identify the “old masters of tomorrow.” But this year’s curators, Ingrid Schaffner along with Liz Park and Ashley McNelis, aimed to use the exhibition to spark “museum joy.” The curatorial joy is certainly contagious, evident even in the team’s abolition of wall texts, which Schaffner denounces in favor of a bound book developed with Dancing Fox Press that hearkens back to a 19th-century travel guide. By saturating the building with new artwork, the 57th Carnegie International strives to construct new narratives and celebrate the art as a lived experience with architectural and artistic juxtapositions. The exhibition may be bounded by the museum walls, but the 32 artists and collectives, as well as one independent exhibition maker have taken it upon themselves to respond to Pittsburgh’s local histories and regional conditions that still have international resonance. The 57th Carnegie International is open now through March 25, 2019. Admission is free with tickets to the Carnegie Museums of Art and Natural History.
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Exclusive: Venturi Scott Brown-designed house suffers secret demolition

Only a month-and-a-half after a colorful Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown-designed house in Shadyside, Pittsburgh was put up for sale, AN has learned that the new owner plans on tearing it down. The Abrams House, commissioned by Irving and Betty Abrams and completed in 1979, is a striking example of Venturi’s playful postmodernist style. One-half of the roof curves and swoops like a cresting wave over the more traditionally-shaped rectangular portion, with a 20-foot-high vaulted ceiling below. The house’s front facade is capped with a window arrangement that resembles both a ship’s wheel as well as the rising sun and is accentuated with green-and-white “rays” emanating from the window assembly. A ribbon window wraps around the house and illuminates the interior, allowing the primary colors used everywhere from the soffits to the furniture to stand out. A mural by Roy Lichtenstein in the living room accentuates the house’s pop art aesthetic. Other than the colorful flourishes, the Abrams House is particularly notable for its location; the house is surrounded by midcentury work from well-known architects, including the Frank House by Walter Gropius and Marcel Breuer and the Giovannitti House by Richard Meier. The two-bed, two-and-a-half bath was put up for sale in mid-June of this year for $1.1 million, and the new buyer, Bill Snyder, closed on the building on July 20. Preservationists had briefly hoped that Snyder, who also owns the Giovannitti House, would restore the building, but a demolition permit was filed on July 23. Pittsburgh requires a 15-day wait period between the filing of a demolition permit and the start of work, but an anonymous source has informed AN that the interior of the house has already been gutted. The large Lichtenstein piece has been covered and removed, either causing or revealing significant degradation in the wall behind, and fixtures throughout the house have been cleared out. Snyder had purchased the Giovannitti House from its original owners, Frank and Colleen Giovannitti, in 2017 and is currently restoring the exterior of the home to its original condition. With the demolition of the Abrams House, the entire lot may become a landscaped addition to complement Meier’s building. Brittany Reilly, a board member at the nonprofit Preservation Pittsburgh, has been trying to raise awareness of the house. According to Reilly, the home is a unique piece of architecture for Pittsburgh in a neighborhood full of architecturally-significant houses. The problem? The Abrams House isn’t visible from the street, and Reilly believes that seclusion has led the public to overlook it. The next step for preservationists is to “respectfully” drum up community attention to the demolition. Preservation Pittsburgh has reached out to VSBA Architects & Planners, who were unaware of the demolition, as well as other Pittsburgh-based preservation groups, and is currently trying to establish a dialogue with Snyder. Update: After this story was originally published, the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation (PHLF) has been working to mount an individual landmark nomination with the Historic Review Commission, planning commission and Pittsburgh City Council before the 15 day period elapses. Denise Scott Brown expressed her displeasure with the demolition reached for comment by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "Why does he need to do that? Why doesn’t he save it,” said Brown. “This is not very honorable.” AN will follow this story up as more details become available.
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A High Line in Pittsburgh? Officials bet big on elevated park in Steel City

Move over, New York. Earlier this month, developers McKnight Realty Partners held a ceremonial groundbreaking for the Highline, Pittsburgh’s newest mega-conversion. Developer McKnight Realty teamed up with local firm Indovina Associates Architects to redevelop the Pittsburgh Terminal Warehouse and Transfer Company (map) on the city’s deindustrialized South Shore. The $110 million complex will bring 600,000 square feet of office and retail to the area. The building—they are one, but appear to be two—is connected by a five-hundred-foot-long elevated roadway that will be converted into a park-like space with lighting and seating. The walkway will be extended to the abutting Monongahela River and face north towards the city’s Downtown. Similar in name and form to Manhattan’s High Line, which brought a disused freight railway line back to life as a public park and spurred a development boom on Manhattan’s Far West Side, Pittsburgh's Highline project seeks to revitalize a significant site within the city's post-industrial landscape. Indovina’s design incorporates vegetative and hardscaping features, such as raised planters and textured concrete pavers. Below the Highline, and along the facility’s loading docks, there will be a lower park dubbed the Yards which will serve as an extension to Pittsburgh’s preexisting river trail system. Restoration is key to the project. Notably, all of the complex’s damaged windows will be replaced with historically accurate units and both the cast-iron detailing and brick curtain walls will be entirely restored. Completed in 1906, The Terminal Building was designed by prominent Pittsburgh architect Charles Bickel. Like the former warehouses adjacent to Manhattan’s High Line, the facility was designed to integrate freight and warehousing logistics in an urban setting. The conversion of The Terminal Building joins Pittsburgh’s ongoing restoration and construction trend that has brought similar warehouses back to life, such as the city’s Produce Terminal and the Allegheny Riverfront Green Boulevard. The Pittsburgh Tribune reported the project will receive approximately $17.5 million in federal and state financial incentives, and construction should be complete by 2019.
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57th Carnegie International will bring artists who engage spatial politics around the world

The Carnegie International is the oldest exhibition of contemporary art in North America, founded by industrialist Andrew Carnegie in 1896 just one year after the first Venice Biennale. The exhibition was designed to help identify the “Old Masters of tomorrow.” The recent announcement of participating artists in the 57th iteration of the International, which opens on October 13, 2018 at the Carnegie Museum of Art (CMoA) in Pittsburgh, is a look at who these new "old masters" might be. Curated by Ingrid Schaffner, who was chief curator at the Institute for Contemporary Art in Philadelphia before taking the helm of the International in 2015, the list lives up to her reputation for taking an expansive approach to contemporary art. While only one artist has an architectural background—Saba Innab, an architect and urban researcher practicing between Amman and Beirut—several of the exhibition’s artists explore questions of territory, body, commodity, craft, agency, and spatial practice. The participants are all working on site-specific works for the CMoA, so this International will certainly be an immersive and provocative museum experience. Here’s a look at what’s to come. Innab’s work, pictured above, explores the relationship between architecture and territory, exemplified by her cast depicting the rock of Gibraltar in the 2016 Marrakech Biennale. It is fitting, then, that she will install work in dialogue with the Carnegie Museum of Art’s Hall of Architecture, a historic collection of plaster casts of building fragments from around the world. Postcommodity, an interdisciplinary arts collective that explores “Indigenous narratives of cultural self-determination,” will also address spatial and cultural politics head-on. Their recent work, Repellent Fence (2015), for example, was a 2-mile work that consisted of 26 balloons stretching across the U.S.-Mexico border. The design of the balloons references both indigenous iconography and “an ineffective bird repellent product,” and signal unity between indigenous peoples, the land, and history. Park McArthur is a New York-based artist whose work examines notions of accessibility, agency, and the city. Her 2014 exhibition at ESSEX GALLERY, for example, gathered the improvised ramps used by twenty galleries in Lower Manhattan in a minimalist arrangement on the gallery floor. Similarly, at SFMOMA in 2017, where she displayed design drawings and improvised ramps made by family and friends to accommodate her wheelchair in everyday spaces. The Carnegie Museum of Art’s Heinz Architectural Center will host works by Jessi Reaves, known for her sculptural furniture that looks both familiar and somewhat grotesque, with common materials assembled in unsettling combinations that plays with ideas of incompletion in art and design. Reaves’ voluptuous recliners will neighbor work by Beverly Semmes and her Feminist Responsibility Project (FRP), which explore issues of censorship and the female body overlaying paint onto pages of “gentlemen’s magazines.” The FRP is one project in Semme’s practice, which otherwise operates at an architectural scale. Schaffner describes Beverly Semmes' art as flowing “from the female body and out into the landscape,” with flowing dresses the scale of a room. New Dehli-based photographer Dayanita Singh’s concern for the physical relationship between the viewer and the photograph has led her into an exploration of architectural and spatial arrangements for her work. Singh designs standalone “museums” for her photographs that, as she described in a recent talk at the Silver Eye Center for Photography in Pittsburgh, “liberate the photograph from the wall.” Koyo Kouoh, a Dakar-based “exhibition-maker,” will similarly take the visitor’s relationship to artwork into her own hands. Kouoh is founding artistic director of RAW Material Company in Dakar, Senegal, and for the International she will organize “Dig Where You Stand.” This exhibition within an exhibition will mine the Carnegie Museums’ collections to reconfigure the galleries devoted to “Pre-1300, African, and Asian Art.” “Koyo’s piece would be a lever for clearing this out, something the museum has wanted to do for a long time, a rupture so that we can begin again,” Schaffner said. Though probing the term “international,” the exhibition meaningfully ties into Pittsburgh’s artists and histories. Conceptual artist Mel Bochner will make a homecoming, and Pittsburgh-based artists Lenka Clayton & Jon Rubin will develop a new work based on the International’s archives. This International will feature sculptor Thaddeus Mosley, whose wooden carvings were inspired by the Internationals of the early 1950s. Photograph from the archives of Teenie Harris, a prolific photojournalist for the Pittsburgh Courier, will offer a new look at the post-industrial city’s past. Though the International opens in October, the fun is already underway. One of Schaffner’s aims is to spark “museum joy” in visitors. In fact, the curatorial team is sharing the delight of all aspects of the exhibition, from the design process to the curatorial research, through the International’s website. Wkshps founder Prem Krishnamurthy’s article chronicles the charrettes that brought the editorial, curatorial, and design teams together early in the process to, in Schaffner’s words, “design for the unknown.” Travelogue essays written by writers who weren’t with Schaffner on her extensive travel research take the reader into new territories nonetheless. Illustrator Maira Kalman’s fanciful interpretation of Schaffner’s pilgrimage to Zaha Hadid’s Heydar Aliyev Center in Baku, Azerbaijan and historian Markus Rediker’s analysis of Vodou Surrealism in response to a curatorial trip to the Caribbean are particularly worth a read. Following Andrew Carnegie’s ambitions for the museum, Schaffner has tasked each artist to lead a public workshop, or “Tam O’Shanter drawing session.” Thaddeus Mosley has already done a workshop on jazz playlists, and a class used coffee to paint with Ho Chi Minh City-based collective Art Labor. In April, visitors can make zines with Mimi Cherono Ng’ok and artifact critters with Lucy Skaer. With many more events to be announced in coming months, this is already a very playful and political exhibition not to be missed.
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A new book delves into Mellon Square, the modernist landscape masterpiece at the heart of Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh is slowly, and fitfully, reappraising its modernist legacy of corporate towers, postwar infrastructure, and neighborhood-obliterating “urban renewal.” In this complex and frequently polarizing narrative, the role of landscape is perhaps only now being properly addressed in academic and political discourse regarding the past, present, and future potential of communal civic space.

Mellon Square is the second volume in “Modern Landscapes: Transition and Transformation,” a timely series from Princeton Architectural Press. As series editor Charles Birnbaum notes in his foreword, if Lawrence Halprin’s Denver Skyline Park (the first site in the series) has suffered “disastrous alteration,” this 1950s landscape at the heart of Pittsburgh has “in contrast (…) been very well chronicled, documented, and analyzed” resulting in “a renewed, enhanced, and revitalized Mellon Square.”

Principal author Susan Rademacher concurs. She has written a compact volume, presenting with modest clarity, a rich spectrum of knowledge from local history and detailed plant selection to technical refinements particular to the project. Emphasizing Mellon Square’s centrality in the self-image of Pittsburgh, Rademacher calls it “a symbol of Pittsburgh’s astounding capacity for reinvention and self-improvement” and potentially “a model for the national movement to preserve modern landscape.”

Mellon Square was the first modernist urban park situated above a subterranean parking structure by Mitchell & Ritchey. Fifteen years earlier, Dahlen Ritchey, a Carnegie Tech and Harvard alum, had assisted Walter Gropius and Marcel Breuer on their luxurious Frank House in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill. The main design heroes of Rademacher’s book are John O. and Philip D. Simonds, Pittsburgh landscape architects and environmental planners. John, also a GSD man, published his seminal Landscape Architecture shortly after Mellon Square’s completion in 1955.

Other key figures in Pittsburgh’s “renaissance” include then-Mayor David L. Lawrence (a Democrat), Richard King Mellon (a Republican), and Edgar Kaufmann. Kaufmann not only engaged Frank Lloyd Wright to imagine fantastical infrastructures at the juncture of the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers, he also commissioned a master plan titled Pittsburgh in Progress from Mitchell & Ritchey. Displayed at Kaufmann’s Department Store, a mere block from the future Mellon Square, this Corbusian-inflected plan heralded an urban agenda for the 1950s, radiating back from that historic origin of the city.

Rademacher delves deeply into the design process, a complicated story for many an urban project, yet especially so here with a business elite keen to impact the fabric and the perception of the city. Not by chance, Mellon Square functioned something like the plaza at Rockefeller Center. (No ice-skating, although early proposals did include flamingos and penguins and a circular platform for sea lions, along with less sculptural bling.) Yet the square was clearly envisaged as the centerpiece of what Rademacher describes as “an integrated complex for the Mellon enterprises.”

Indeed, there are three Harrison & Abramovitz-designed landmarks for Mellon-related businesses in the immediate vicinity: the sober U.S. Steel/Mellon Bank Building, the innovative Alcoa Building directly overlooking the square, and later, the U.S. Steel headquarters, a towering paean to weathering steel at the intersection of Pittsburgh’s two urban grids. Disliking the orthogonal paving proposed by Simonds & Simonds, Sarah Mellon Scaife’s fondness for St. Mark’s Square led to the harlequinade pattern that brings Mellon Square its graphic elegance, especially when viewed from the surrounding towers.

In a 1973 article, John listed the project concepts as a platform (“a vast tray”), a structure (with “footings spaced out on the floor of a prehistoric stream bed some sixty feet below”), an island (“surrounded by and cut off from the rest of the city”), a space (“expanded, modulated, and articulated by all means at the architects’ command”), a focal center, a civic monument (“a source of pride and lasting inspiration”), a gathering place (“human in scale and human in its appeal”), and an oasis (“the welcome relief of foliage, shade, splashing water, flowers, and bright color.”)

Inevitably perhaps, some problems ensued—with tiles, flower beds, and wiring—eventually, “the main fountain and lighting no longer worked.” According to Rademacher, “despite efforts (…) continued maintenance did not remain a priority”. It was not until 2007 that the Parks Conservancy, then the guardian of Pittsburgh’s verdant sequence of robber baron-era parks, got involved. In 2008, the Conservancy published its Mellon Square Preservation, Interpretation and Management Plan. Soon, a planning team was in place, led by Patricia M. O’Donnell of Heritage Landscapes.

Mellon Square: Discovering a Modern Masterpiece goes into considerable detail on both the birth and now the rebirth of this important mid-century landscape set in a city that is itself experiencing economic and social renewal. The book may be slim, yet it is packed with information—a slight drawback of its dimensions is the small size of many illustrations. Rademacher has performed a service for Pittsburgh and for other U.S. cities unwilling to jettison the recent past and the timeless value of offering, “a place of pure delight—an inviting refreshing environment,” to quote Simonds.

Mellon Square: Discovering a Modern Masterpiece Susan M. Rademacher With essays by Charles A. Birnbaum, Patricia M. O’Donnell, Richard C. Bell and Barry W. Starke Published by Princeton Architectural Press, $24.95

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Bohlin Cywinski Jackson unveils Pittsburgh's Frick Environmental Center

Bohlin Cywinski Jackson’s Frick Environmental Center (FEC) in Pittsburgh will be publicly unveiled September 10th. The FEC is the first municipally owned, free and public Living Building Challenge targeted facility. The project is also built to LEED Platinum standards. The FEC will act as an environmental education center for an estimated 20,000 students from Pittsburgh public schools, along with thousands of other visitors. Located in the 644-acre Frick Park, the project will provide support spaces, fully equipped classrooms, and offices for the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy. The FEC will be free and open to the public, and available for event rental by spring 2017. A public “living room” and gallery will welcome visitors to learn about the park’s history, its extensive trails, the building itself. Bohlin Cywinski Jackson collaborated with the City of Pittsburgh and the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy on the project. The team also worked with more than 1,000 community stakeholders on the design. Along with the new building, other portions of the park will be restored, including historic gatehouses, an alleé, and fountain. To achieve the Living Building Challenge and LEED Platinum standards, the project uses 35% less energy than baseline structures. With a goal of net zero energy and water, the building will also ground-source heat pumps, radiant floors, a photovoltaic array, and a reclaimed water system. All building materials were sourced within 1,200 miles of the site and subcontractors and tradespeople were hired from the region. Bohlin Cywinski Jackson has also had a local office in Pittsburgh for the past 40-years. “The September 10 celebration will give a sampling of the beautiful building and grounds, environmental education programming, and community spirit that the Center will have to offer our city for generations to come,” explained Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy founder and CEO Meg Cheever.