Modern Shadyside Home

I have seen this home in Shadyside but I just came across this write up in DWELL magazine. Owner Jeff Walz turned an old farmhouse into a modern home made up of recycled steel and glass. Well I should say he literally didn’t do it all himself but with the help of local architect Harry Levine. I would really love to see this space but for now here a couple photos that are courtesy of DWELL’s site:

The leafy streets of the Pittsburgh neighborhood known as Shadyside are filled with massive, robber baron–era mansions and modest workers’ cottages—brick-and-mortar relics of a once-burgeoning steel industry. There are even a few modernist gems, by the likes of Breuer, Meier, and Venturi. What’s been absent, until recently, is a domicile that most closely resembles a shipping container.

Not that its owner, Jeff Walz, was looking to be provocative when he purchased the charming, 140-year-old farmhouse—interior sight unseen—that once sat upon the lot. But there was nothing quaint, or remotely salvageable, about the dry rot and mildew that greeted him once he ventured inside.

“I was afraid I’d have to flip it,” recalls Walz, who was then director of corporate relations for Carnegie Mellon University and now heads up university relations for Google. “But then I met Harry.” He is referring to architect Harry Levine, an amiable bundle of energy endowed with several heads’ worth of salt-and-pepper hair, whose home and office are about a block away from each other. In between is a phalanx of bars, restaurants, and cafés—many of them Levine’s former projects—which double as informal clubhouses for a coterie of friends who take genuine pleasure in bumping into one another several times a day.

Walz’s immediate inspiration was a workshop and snug mezzanine apartment self-built by one of the Shadyside gang from a metal prefab kit for about $50,000. Jazzed up with automotive paint, its green, blue, and yellow exterior appears downright giddy compared to Walz’s austere gray shell. “Jeff’s a real idea guy,” says Levine, clearly delighted with both client and challenge. “He could have built something far less extreme—we could have stick-framed it—but he wanted to be on the edge of something new. And he loved the idea of celebrating steel here in Pittsburgh.”

This house looks like it would stick out in this neighborhood and it sort of does. It doesn’t make me think that it doesn’t belong but instead it’s a nice addition to the old brick homes in the area. I always like to think that mixing modern architecture in with the old is a good thing. I love at the end of the story Jeff says this about his home:

“From the outside, I know my house can be a little startling,” says Walz, who plans to spend the next few months pottering around it. “But it makes me happy. During the day, you feel like you’re outdoors. And at night, it glows like a big glass lantern. It’s quite beautiful.”

I would really be interested in seeing more of Harry Levine’s work but unfortunately he doesn’t seem to have a website. You can read the entire story and process over on DWELL’s website.

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  • Reply
    October 4, 2010 at 8:50 AM

    My boyfriend used to live right behind this house for a year, and I used to peek in this house ALL THE TIME (like a creeper). I loved it, it is one of the most interesting and beautiful houses in Shadyside – plus the guys that live there are SO nice!
    What a great post!

  • Reply
    Karen Anderson
    October 4, 2010 at 11:17 AM

    Another Harry Levine project will be featured in the upcoming Shadyside House Tour ( – a modern renovation of a traditional Victorian home.

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    October 4, 2010 at 12:06 PM

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by I heart PGH, Steeltown Anthem. Steeltown Anthem said: Shadyside modern home made of recycled steel & glass, check it out! […]

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