Springboard Design


This interactive photography exhibition was designed to offer visitors novel ways of encountering and enjoying the photography of Pittsburgh. Springboard Principal Paul Rosenblatt was responsible for the design of Pittsburgh Revealed: Photographs Since 1850 when he was on the staff of Damianos Anthony Architects. His exhibition design was composed of the real materials of historic Pittsburgh: casework was supported by steel plates and beams, left in their original, raw, mill-finish state.

The exhibition curator, Louise Lippincott, begins her introduction with a series of questions: “Of course you have seen the view of Pittsburgh from Mount Washington. But do you know what that view looked like in 1874? Or how it appears in infra-red light? The majestic panorama of 1908 presented here contains sights that disappeared before most of us were born, and familiar landmarks that still anchor our perceptions of place, if no longer of time. Photographs show us how our city has changed, and they show us what has not. The Museum of Art’s fall exhibition is entitled “Pittsburgh Revealed” because it unveils a city we have never seen and presents its most familiar sights afresh. Through photographs we can watch the mills go up, illuminate the landscape, and then collapse, just as—by turning the pages of an album—we can observe a child grow, age, and give way to succeeding generations. Today’s photographers continue this process of reinvention as they tinker with tradition and master new technologies; their stories become a metaphor for the life experiences of every citizen of Pittsburgh. Like us, they are drawing on the city’s strengths to make something new.

Pittsburgh Revealed is the first exhibition to consider photography in this city from the medium’s beginnings to the present. Hundreds of photographs in this all-encompassing survey have never been seen before, although almost half are in the collection of the Carnegie Museum of Art. Others have come from artists, attics, flea markets, private collectors, dealers, libraries and other museums. All were taken in Pittsburgh and its environs and record some aspect of its life or appearance.”

In this, Mr. Rosenblatt’s first major exhibition design, he established the themes of his approach to exhibitions: visitor interaction, unconventional materials, dramatic settings, and a focus on an individual’s art encounters.

photography courtesy of Carnegie Museum of Art

Pennsylvania Trolley Museum engaged Springboard to design and help organize the display of an extensive collection of trolley cars (over 40), artifacts and photos (a constantly growing collection, currently over 500). One of the primary challenges that the museum faced was the creation of a system that easily allowed the curatorial and exhibit staff to display a variety of internally-developed exhibitions over the life of the museum with a minimal need for additional display cases, boards, etc. The display had to work within the organization of ten primary themes, which told the basic, sequential story, but also allowed for the re-presentation of sub-stories and temporary exhibits.

Dedicated to communicating the story of Southwestern Pennsylvania’s Trolley Era, the Pennsylvania Trolley Museum is in the midst of a major effort to create a premier regional cultural attraction in Washington, PA. With the recent completion of a new, modernized trolley barn, the organization has now focused on the creation of a new, multifunctional structure that combines a large, primary exhibit space, ancillary temporary exhibit spaces, an interactive multi-media theater environment, educational center, gift shop and offices. The main shed area will interweave the display of the actual trolley cars, in various restorative conditions, with an extensive, multi-section, interactive, 2D and 3D, changeable exhibition.

Springboard designed an interchangeable display system, constructed of readily available components, that evokes the craftsmanship and materiality of the Trolley Era without slavishly recreating outdated forms. All of the exhibition sections, as well as each trolley car station, are anchored by interactive display kiosks that tailor the electronic portions of the exhibit to the individual interests of the visitor – for example, more generalized information for schoolchildren or a greater technological emphasis for “trolley buffs.” Numerous other interactive components integrate themselves throughout the exhibit, providing ways to engage visitors of all ages and experiences.

Looking Forward featured over 50 photographs of Pittsburgh children and youth, taken by Teenie Harris from the 1930s-1970s. These photographs were selected from the 6,000+ transparencies that have been identified to date by Carnegie Museum of Art. It also included several prints that had not yet been identified – although many of the thousands of visitors who viewed the exhibit were able to help identify subjects in the photos.

Springboard was asked to organize the overall layout of the exhibition, and on an extremely limited budget. Thematic groupings were defined by painted, colored rectangles on the walls, providing a visual clarity to the organization. In addition, the colors recontextualized the photographs, connecting them back to the actual, non-black-and-white world about which the photographs were taken.

The exhibition was open from April 28 to July 15, 2006.

The Carnegie Museum of Art Light! exhibition presented visitors with a rich experience of light in an unprecedented collection of paintings, books, lamps, lenses, and related scientific instruments from around the world. Visitors experienced how light and life changed as society gradually acquired the ability to turn night into day during the 150-year period covered by the exhibition. Co-organized by the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, the exhibition received international praise. The London Daily Telegraph called Light! “the most important exhibition” of the year.

Springboard principal Paul Rosenblatt was involved in the design and conceptualization of the exhibition at the early stages of its planning when he was on the staff of Damianos Anthony Architects. He traveled to Amsterdam to meet with van Gogh Museum curators and developed the design based upon a deep understanding of curatorial approach and educational goals.

The exhibition design’s bold organization originated from the imagined path of a beam of light as it passed through a prism. The concept developed into a dramatic study in contrasts, using rich historical colors and prismatic forms to frame art and artifacts. Visitors proceeded through a sequence of galleries that thematically introduced the parallel developments of light, art, and science. Springboard’s exhibition design reinforced the inter-relationship between these fields, creating clear and provocative juxtapositions of art and scientific instruments.

photography by Ed Massary

Eye of the Storm: Unknown Stories of the Civil War was a temporary exhibition at the Heinz History Center that featured 96 recently discovered watercolor drawings and maps depicting Private Robert Knox Sneden’s experiences in the Union Army of the Potomac, as well as never-before-exhibited artifacts and archival materials that explore the Civil War experience in Western Pennsylvania. The exhibit was open between April 4 and September 30, 2003.

Springboard was asked to design a single, unified exhibition that simultaneously enabled visitors to tour the Sneden watercolors independent of the other artifacts if desired. To achieve this, we designed a wood stockade fence that diagonally bifurcated the galleries. The fence became the backdrop for Sneden’s watercolors, many of which depict similar fences that he painted during his confinement as a prisoner of war. The fence was also a metaphor for the country itself, whose order and unity had been fundamentally disrupted by the war.

Springboard’s design for Eye of the Storm at The Senator John Heinz Pittsburgh Regional History Center was nominated for a prestigious National Association of Museum Exhibitions Award of Excellence.

In addition to developing the concept for the exhibition design, Springboard developed casework details, colors, graphics, and worked closely with curators and educators to locate artifacts and develop interactive play environments. Exhibition signage and exhibition labeling was integral to the design and featured stockade fence fragments as backdrops to broadside style interpretative panels.

A Breath of Hope: 100 Years was a temporary exhibition at the Heinz History Center commissioned to celebrate the centenary of the American Respiratory Alliance (ARA), one of the original grassroots organizations dedicated to fighting tuberculosis and promoting improvements in air quality and lung health. The exhibit was open between April 4 and September 30, 2003.

Springboard was asked to organize the ARA’s extensive collection of photographs, documents and artifacts to create an evocative and memorable multi-media experience that engaged the visitor. The organizing concept for the exhibition focused on the invisible nature of affliction – millions of people worldwide died from TB before the nature of the illness and its transmission was understood. How people interacted with each other became a nature of great study and concern. The anchor of the exhibition, therefore, was the centralized presentation of hanging fabric panels, which contained custom-printed graphics and text. Airflow caused by visitor movements caused the panels to slightly flutter; this was the creation of a physical connection between the visitor and the story through the invisible medium of air. Other key components of the exhibition included original x-ray machines and diagnostic equipment, as well as a documentary providing first-person oral histories of how lives were affected and how a treatment was discovered. The culmination of the exhibition was a suspended wall of over 150 actual chest x-rays indicating various degrees of illness; visitors could peer past the x-rays to a recreation of the outdoor, year-round bedroom environment that provided cold, fresh air as a treatment to early TB patients.

Springboard was responsible for the overall exhibition design of Fierce Friends, which was jointly organized by the Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, and the Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam. Occupying four of the Heinz Galleries in the museum, this large, multidisciplinary show examines the relationship between man and animals with displays of over 400 objects, including paintings, drawings, skeletons, and video. Springboard assisted in selection of artifacts and objects for inclusion in the exhibition as well as their arrangement.

Critic Steven Litt, Cleveland Plain Dealer writes: “This superb exhibition explores the man-beast connection….Happily, the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh has dispensed with routine in a captivating new exhibition…If other museums had the nerve, they’d be smart to emulate the Carnegie’s excellent experiment.”

The primary component of the design is a series of constructed “windows” that display artifacts, frame views, and organize each of the galleries; these windows enhance the metaphorical analogies discussed as a means of understanding the man/animal relationships presented in the artworks. Visitors experience the windows as devices with which to connect, to separate, and ultimately reconstruct as the relationships entwine and evolve.

Fierce Friends was a part of Pittsburgh Roars! a yearlong celebration of arts, events and attractions in the Greater Pittsburgh area.

photography by Alexander Denmarsh


St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church turned to Springboard Design to master plan their goals, prioritize their needs and plan for phased implementation of work.

The Highland Park property is over 100 years old, and had faced challenges in programming, operations and maintenance. Springboard Design approached these challenges as opportunities to allow the members to improve accessibility between the church and the social hall, add a new core containing an elevator, stair and restrooms, transform a basement nursery into an additional rental hall space, and upgrade finishes such as a new tile floor throughout the main church space.

Springboard Design’s phasing plan was instrumental in allowing the church to plan out the improvements over a couple of years, fund-raise effectively, and minimize down time.


Creator Square is an urban revitalization, economic development, and job skills transfer program originated by Springboard Principal Paul Rosenblatt AIA and developed with economic consultant Donald Bonk, a Johnstown native. It is an artisan residency program based in the historic, rust belt community of Johnstown, PA, located one hour southeast of Pittsburgh. The goal of Creator Square is to bring skilled ‘makers’ to live/work studios at the city’s downtown epicenter; mix them with local makers, manufacturers and educational institutions; and connect Johnstown’s creative community, industrial infrastructure, and entrepreneurial activity.

Members of the residency will receive national recognition, affordable live/work housing, access to new economy manufacturing equipment, skill transfer via collaborative work, career development guidance, teaching opportunities, and a financial stipend. Creator Square is a means for makers to create and sell their products nationally, a place for makers to teach and learn, and an opportunity to collaborate with local manufacturers on new ideas and products.

Creator Square is at the intersection between global thought and local initiative, a local application of the emerging global trends in both the collaborative economy and the maker movement.

Like many rust belt cities, Johnstown is populated with historic buildings in various stages of vacancy. In Spring 2014, Springboard Design began work with the Community Foundation for the Alleghenies and students from Carnegie Mellon University to identify an underused building for a pilot artisan-residency program. The three-story Parkview Building was selected and purchased, and is being adapted into an artisan studio building with common spaces, a public gallery, and a shared workshop equipped with machinery for interdisciplinary craft, small batch manufacturing, and next-gen economic development.

The Parkview Building, host to Creator Square Johnstown, will operate as the center of an artisan/maker residency program where participants share amenities to design and make products for their existing businesses. In addition to cultivating this makingeconomy and invigorating downtown Johnstown with new enterprise, another key tenet of the program is the active skills transfer between resident makers and the local community. This includes current and past workers in the defense related manufacturing sector. While having the opportunity to build their businesses, the makers in-residence – dubbed ‘Creative Masters’  – will also offer classes and workshops in their specialties in concert with local area colleges and other organizations. The program is designed to partner makers with local manufacturers and businesses, creating a supply chain of salvaged, reused, or scrap materials for their work.

Creator Square Johnstown, the artisan residency founded by Springboard’s Paul Rosenblatt in 2014, recently received funding from the Pennsylvania Economic Development Administration (EDA) to proceed with the $800,000 Parkview Building renovations we planned for Creator Square, a “launchpad for business growth with makerspace and collaboration and gallery space as a part of a larger innovation ecosystem.” Together with the Southern Alleghenies Planning & Development Commission, Springboard Design helped prepare and submit the successful grant application and are gearing up to begin construction and renovations sometime this spring. We are excited about this project for many reasons. From a design perspective, it exemplifies Springboard’s commitment creative approach to adaptive reuse and public interest design. From an organizational perspective, it demonstrates how an arts led initiative can help to drive economic growth in coal country.

For more information, check out www.creatorsquarejohnstown.com.

(Photo Credit for town hall meeting: Todd Berkey – The Tribune Democrat)