Thursday, May 13, 2010

Frank Lloyd Wright's Point Park Civic Center

I will be publishing a few old posts once in a while.

"One wild design of Frank Lloyd Wright, I think points out the limitations of even a creative genius . One of his most fantastic plans was for downtown Pittsburgh--It was called Point Park Center and here is a drawing.

"Development in Automobile-Scale of Point Park, Pittsburgh," called for a circular concrete and steel building of mammoth dimensions: one-fifth of a mile (300 m) in diameter and 175 feet (50 m) tall, the building would be capable of holding one-third of the city's population. The entire structure was wrapped by a spiraling roadway that Wright called the "Grand Auto Ramp," which accommodated traffic in both directions and would have been four and a half miles (7 km) long.[8] Even Wright's drawings for the project were enormous: Neil Levine describes them as "over eight feet [2.5 m] long by almost five feet [1.5 m] high."[9]

The decks of the Grand Auto Ramp were to be cantilevered from piers of reinforced concrete. The ramp enclosed the interior space, forming what Cleary describes as a vast atrium. Inside are individual structures supported by pylons, containing the main facilities of the building: the theaters, opera house, arena, and planetarium. Bridges and platforms connected the interior structures. The roof of the building was to offer a winter garden and gardens. The main structure was flanked by "Fast Ramps": ramps with a much narrower radius than the main ramp that allowed rapid movement from the higher levels of the Grand Auto Ramp to the bottom of the building.[10] The incorporation of the automobile into the building was a manifestation of Wright's expressed philosophy for the scheme: to provide "newly spacious means of entertainment for the citizen seated in his motor car Winter or Summer. A pleasurable use of that modern instrument is here designed instead of allowing it to remain the troublesome burden it has now become to the City."[11]

A projection from the central building toward the Point terminated in a 500 foot (150 m) tower, equipped for light shows. Multi-decked bridges over the Allegheny and Monongahela were attached to the central building. Pedestrians, cars, and trucks would cross on separate decks. Both bridges passed underneath the central structure, where traffic interchanges allowed travelers to head into the city, across either of the bridges, or up into the Civic Center itself. Open spaces on the site were occupied by parks, an outdoor concert area built to accommodate 15,000 people, and a zoo. "

The original concept ran against a lot of practical issues which Wright didn't feel a genius should have to address.

"Wright's presentation of this plan to the Allegheny Conference in the spring of 1947 was unsuccessful, primarily because of concerns about the plan's economic viability and architectural feasibility. In a meeting with conference officials at
Taliesin West, Wright seemed uninterested in how to handle traffic access to the bridges, and when asked how much the project would cost, answered that he did not care. When the officials returned to Pittsburgh to meet with Kaufmann they recommended against Wright's scheme; Kaufmann decided not to show the plans even to the rest of the committee.[14]"

The scheme was later adapted and there is drawing of this on the Wikipedia. it's great as a fantastical artwork, and also because some of the ideas in it appear in his later works like the Guggenheim in NY.

Wright proved to be, in spite of his genius, very much a product of his age in terms of his negative view of urban areas. Needless, to say he saw Pittsburgh as it was in 1947 as being a place with little worth saving. Thankfully for the city, It seems that nobody had the kind of cash on hand to attempt this lab experiment."

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