Friday, September 18, 2009

Pleasures of Pittsburgh: Beautiful Buildings of Every Era

Pittsburgh has an amazing wealth and diversity of building styles. This was brought home to me recently when friends of mine, very very well traveled friends, visited John and I from D.C. They were clearly astonished by the wealth of styles, periods and the overall abundance of the architecture here.

And perhaps even more telling, John and I were fighting (politely, but still) in the car about "lets take them to see this building!" " No, lets take them to see this neighborhood"." Oh no, how will we have time to do this!!!??" "Lets go here instead...they can't miss that!! "

Then we ran into a friend...and she started to insist we go see her new favorite thing. Sigh. We have an embarrassment of riches!!

If you have lived here for a long time, it can be easy to take this for granted.

But it is an everyday joy that other cities would kill for.

Shall I give some examples?:
Downtown: Within about 10 small city blocks you can see the fabulous and famous Oz-like PPG Building (Philip Johnson); an exquisite Greek Revival Style building at 209 4th Ave. from 1836, near PPG (left over from a terrible fire in 1845 )the Burke Building;,the old County Courthouse (a famous example of the architecture of Richardson, fortresslike and medieval); the old Alcoa building (with a mid level view of the city to die for if you can ever get into the 360 degree conference room at the top); and the previous US`Steel building, now tagged UPMC, an amazing and majestic hunk of steel and bolts. And I could list many more in that same area.

Shadyside: Houses: All shapes , all sizes, all conditions, all eras. Apartment buildings (same). We are a bit weak on contemporary, perhaps. But come and just take a walk. Mansions, student housing, personally I love the variety. Standouts are the Gwinner-Harter Mansion 5105 5th Ave., The Third Presbyterian Church at the corner of Negley and 5th, The Scheibler apartment building at 342 South Highland Ave. ...........the list goes on and on. Beautiful homes everywhere, in every state of repair and disrepair (personally, I enjoy the economic diversity that one finds in many areas of Shadyside). It is great to see some interesting detail that I missed before...because there is just so much to see.

And that is just two of our many neighborhoods. Looking up, looking around, you'll see something where you are (if you are in the city limits, that is).

I'll close with a building I get a thrill out of every day as I drive off Bigelow Boulevard and go past downtown to get on 279: the Pennsylvania Station, huge and glowing, it's beautiful golden bricks picking up the surrounding light.

notes and links An updated version of the classic Pittsburgh an Urban Portrait, a great guide to our architecture by Franklin Toker was just released.

About Frederick Scheibler:,_Jr.

About the 1836 Burke Building, with a slide show:

GREAT link of Pittsburgh buildings from the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Association:

No comments: