Springboard Design


G-20 Summit: Pittsburgh’s Top Architecture

Three weeks until the G-20 Summit. With so many visitors from around the world descending upon Pittsburgh for the upcoming G-20 Summit, I began to think of where I would send visitors to see the best works of architecture in Pittsburgh. What are the top works of Pittsburgh architecture? Most interesting and relevant? Pittsburgh is blessed with beautiful topography, real vibrant and distinctive neighborhoods, and a rich stock of beautiful, interesting and significant buildings.

If a visitor to Pittsburgh only has time to see five things what would they be? With such a limited time frame – maybe a day or two, or even just a morning – and such a short, short-list, the selections are necessarily subjective – but aren’t all ‘best of’ lists? So, if you are visiting Pittsburgh for the first time and are interested in architecture, what five buildings should you see? Here are my suggestions.  I broke my own rules – four buildings and a campus (sounds like the title of a film!) – but you get the idea. If you know Pittsburgh architecture, feel free to make alternative suggestions. With such a short list, and such a lot of great buildings to see, I know I’m leaving out some good ones!

1.    Fallingwater: Seminal American Architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s best house, just a short drive from Pittsburgh is a must see. Folks make pilgrimages from around the world throughout the year to visit Fallingwater and explore Wright’s artful integration of home and site. Furnished as it was lived in, it is a wonderful, immersive experience of what it might be like to live in a great house above a waterfall! For directions and hours visit the website, www.fallingwater.org.
2.    Giovanitti House: Pritzker Prize-winning Architect Richard Meier designed this little house about thirty years ago. Boy, that makes me feel old! Despite its age, the Giovanitti House is still a great example of his architectural vocabulary of the period, sort of updated Purism, ala Le Corbusier. The Giovanitti House is situated in a lively residential neighborhood close to the universities.  People live there, but you can see a lot from the road. http://www.galinsky.com/buildings/giovannitti/index.htm.
3.    Allegheny County Courthouse and Jail: American proto-modernist Architect H.H. Richardson’s robust jail and courthouse are easy to find downtown and worth the visit. The strength and clarity of Richardson’s battered stone walls anticipates modernism’s idealized simplicity, but here using the vocabulary of Romanesque architecture. Built in 1885, at the beginning of Pittsburgh’s population and development explosion as the center of the world’s steel industry, Richardson’s Courthouse is one of the best examples of this prolific architects many great works. http://www.bc.edu/bc_org/avp/cas/fnart/fa267/hhr.html.
4.    Children’s Museum Pittsburgh:  This multi-award-winning children’s museum exemplifies intelligent, green expansion and adaptive re-use of historic structures.  Springboard designed two of this interactive museum’s major environments, Waterplay http://www.springboarddesign.net/portfolio/museum/childrens-museum-of-pittsburgh-waterplay/ and The Nursery http://www.springboarddesign.net/portfolio/museum/nursery/.
5.    Carnegie Mellon University Campus: Laid out by Architect Henry Hornbostel, who also set the tone for the campus with his distinctive industrial/classical yellow brick edifices, Carnegie Mellon’s leading green buildings have updated Pittsburgh’s academic center. The most interesting campus buildings to visit include the new Gates Center for Computer Science – www.cmu.edu/corporate/partnerships/gates_center.shtml – and Springboard’s own Tartan’s Pavilion Café – http://www.springboarddesign.net/portfolio/educational/tartans-pavilion/.

With a little extra time, and an interest in Asian art, I would also recommend the Maridon Museum, Western Pennsylvania’s only museum dedicated to Asian art. Springboard designed this award-winning museum, re-using and uniting two existing structures on adjacent sites to create museum architecture that – like the collections within – explores past, present and future. http://www.springboarddesign.net/portfolio/museum/the-maridon-museum/

Enjoy – and let me know what you think!