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Portal to the Point Featured in Post-Gazette

Point State Park tunnel awaits artistic face-lift

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

By Marylynne Pitz, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Five design teams, one of which is local, have been chosen to figure out how to use light, sound, art or a combination of all three to animate the tunnel that runs under the Portal Bridge.

Five design firms have been chosen to generate ideas for animating a tunnel underneath the Portal Bridge that leads into Point State Park.

Thousands of people, en route to a concert, a splash in the fountain or the Great Race finish line, have walked through the archway.

“It’s a very beautiful and abstract space, but there’s no there there,” said Paul Rosenblatt, an architect with Springboard Design, a local architectural firm that will coordinate the competition.

The Portal Bridge, which bisects the recently restored 36-acre park, leads to the Fort Pitt and Fort Duquesne bridges. When the Portal Bridge was finished in 1963, the design below the highway was completed with the addition of a gently arching, 40-foot-wide, pedestrian bridge over a shallow reflecting pool. The floor of the pool is covered with rounded glacial stones that are arranged in concentric rings and form a fish scale pattern. Large concrete “buckets” hide three pairs of lights that shine upward on the ceiling vaults.

The design competition, called “Portal to The Point,” is being funded by the Colcom Foundation, which has made a grant of $375,000 to the Pennsylvania Environmental Council.

“One of the challenges that we’ve asked the participants to think about is how to create a place in that urban environment,” Mr. Rosenblatt said.

The firms are: MAYA Design of Pittsburgh; Marlon Blackwell Architect of Fayetteville, Ark.; SCAPE/LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE and Weiss/Manfredi, both of New York City; and wHY Architecture of Culver City, Calif.

“We see Point State Park as the city’s crown jewel,” said Colcom Foundation president Tim Inglis. The proposals from the five teams may incorporate art, light, sound, history, the “wind tunnel” effect park visitors experience in that space and accessible design.

“We don’t have that much pedestrian traffic at Point State Park,” Mr. Inglis said, adding that the winning design will be “something that causes you to linger a bit longer. Each of the five firms will be equally compensated for their efforts. They hope that some project will come out of it.”

The proposals will be submitted on Oct. 10. Soon afterward, the designs will be exhibited publicly in Pittsburgh and available on the website of the Pennsylvania Environmental Council, Mr. Rosenblatt said. A public symposium to discuss the proposals will be announced at a later date.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/11228/1167553-437.stm?cmpid=newspanel0#ixzz1VCcv1dW2