All Posts By

Mundania Horvath

Architecture Neighborhoods

New plans for Pittsburgh’s Lower Hill District – how will this unfold

Courtesy of BIG

News broke that Danish architecture firm BIG unveiled its masterplan for the Lower Hill District, the site of the former Civic Arena. The new plan covers 28 acres of area and will feature sloped-roof buildings, housing units, and an extensive network of pathways that will connect the Hill District to downtown.

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BIG is working with landscape architecture firm West 8, sustainability experts Atelier Ten, and local firm La Quatra Bonci Associates.

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“The masterplan for the Lower Hill District is created by supplementing the existing street grid with a new network of parks and paths shaped to optimize the sloping hill side for human accessibility for all generations. The paths are turned and twisted to always find a gentle sloping path leading pedestrians and bicyclists comfortably up and down the hillside. The resulting urban fabric combines a green network of effortless circulation with a quirky character reminiscent of a historical downtown. Topography and accessibility merging to create a unique new part of Pittsburgh.” —Bjarke Ingels, Founding Partner, BIG.

Wylie Avenue and Townsend Street

Wylie Avenue and Townsend Street

The Hill, or “Little Harlem” as it was referred to from the ’30s thru the ’50s, was one of the elite African-American neighborhoods in America. The Hill District was once home to playwright August Wilson, the Granada Theatre, The Crawford Grill, a vibrant jazz scene and the only Black-owned baseball stadium.

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Crawford Grill, photo by Charles “Teenie” Harris

In 1956, demolitions began to clear land for the Civic Arena and dozens of streets were leveled. Some 8,000 residents lost their homes, and the arena broke the connection between the lower Hill District and downtown. The neighborhood and people became an afterthought.

Charles “Teenie” Harris with protesters holding signs outside Civic Arena, Lower Hill District, October 1961. Carnegie Museum of Art, Heinz Family Fund.

Charles “Teenie” Harris with protesters holding signs outside Civic Arena, Lower Hill District, October 1961. Carnegie Museum of Art, Heinz Family Fund.

Charles “Teenie” Harris, Crystal Barber Shop and Crystal Billiard Parlor, with clock reading 2:25, Wylie Avenue, Hill District, c. 1941–1946, black and white: Agfa Safety Film, Carnegie Museum of Art, Heinz Family Fund, © 2006 Teenie Harris Archive

Charles “Teenie” Harris, Crystal Barber Shop and Crystal Billiard Parlor. Wylie Avenue, Hill District, 1941–1946. Agfa Safety Film, Carnegie Museum of Art, Heinz Family Fund, © 2006 Teenie Harris Archive

Charles “Teenie” Harris, Exterior of the Loendi Club, 83 Fullerton Avenue, Hill District, July 1946, black and white: Agfa Safety Film, Carnegie Museum of Art, Heinz Family Fund, © 2006 Teenie Harris Archive

Charles “Teenie” Harris, Exterior of the Loendi Club, 83 Fullerton Avenue, Hill District, July 1946, black and white: Agfa Safety Film, Carnegie Museum of Art, Heinz Family Fund, © 2006 Teenie Harris

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Mayor Bill Peduto said: “This announcement is not just about developing. It’s about how adding on to what we have, which is already incredibly special, and building something for the next 50 years. By bringing BIG in, we’re taking that next big step on these 28 acres, and we’re looking at a way of not just building buildings there.”

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“BIG’s masterplan seeks to become a catalyst for future investment into the Hill District, moving beyond the standard sustainability solutions and reversing a tendency to vacate, and instead to refocus and reinvest into building a strong community,” said Kai-Uwe Bergmann, a partner at BIG.

For years there have been talks to revitalize this neighborhood. It’s slowly been happening but my hopes are they keep the community in mind as they move forward with this much development. One of my favorite architectural writers Charles Rosenblum wrote an interesting piece in the City Paper asking the question “Are new plans for the Lower Hill for building, or for show?” This is a great question. Will it be another East Liberty where we evict people that can’t afford a $2,000 a month condo? Or have we learned anything from this? I’m interested to see how things will actually unfold for this community.

Architecture Interior

Perfect Fall Trip to Kentuck Knob

Kentuck Knob Side View

I grew up 15 minutes away from Chalk Hill. As a kid my parents took us on short hiking trips up the mountains where the trails were endless and the scenery was beautiful. When I moved to Pittsburgh, I learned more about Frank Lloyd Wright and the beautiful structures he created. My mom swears she took us to Fallingwater, though I don’t recall ever visiting, and I feel like would not have forgotten. As a person who runs a site dedicated to design admiration, I felt I was long overdue for a visit. In an unfortunate turn of events, I went to purchase two tickets to for a tour, and they were sold out for the season. My next best choice was the lesser famous, but still stunning Kentuck Knob, another FLW gem.

View into Kitchen at Kentuck Knob
Photos by Quelcy T. Kogel

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Interior

Warhol Director, Eric Shiner’s Loft

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The center piece of the loft is this amazing painting of Jackie Kennedy by Ain Cocke

The Andy Warhol Museum has intrigued me ever since I moved to Pittsburgh in 1997. One of my first art class requirements was to visit the museum to see the temporary Salvador Dali exhibit. The Warhol has always inspired me to pursue new paths creatively and challenged me to look at art through different lenses.
 
Since I regard the museum so highly, I was extremely honored to have the opportunity to tour the home of Warhol Director, Eric Shiner, whose loft is in the Garfield neighborhood of Pittsburgh. As the director, Eric has the enviable role of picking the pieces from the extensive archives and combing the globe for different artists to showcase in temporary exhibits. WIth his name attached to such an esteemed art collection I was curious to see how his role affects his personal art choices.
 
What would Eric Shiner’s personal gallery look like?

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Studio Tour

Artist Ryder Henry

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A few months ago, Quelcy and I had the chance to visit Ryder Henry’s home courtesy of the Mattress Factory 500 tours. Ryder’s creative endeavors include paintings, murals, sculptures and spaceships. Yes, on his site, he lists spaceships!


The Victorian house is beautiful with stained glass windows, dark wood trim and pieces of furniture that make you feel as though you’re in a different era. We were able to wander through each room, look around and listen to stories about the home.

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Interior

Carnegie Coffee

PO Box Counter and Coffees


Photography by Quelcy Kogel

Carnegie is a small, quiet town. I felt a bit far from the city but that happens anytime I travel more than 15 minutes from Pittsburgh. On our way to find the coffee shop we took a wrong turn but once we arrived, I felt at ease.

Carnegie Coffee Company is located in what used to be the Carnegie Post Office. Instead of tearing everything away, I love how the owners decided to keep the post office fixtures, the old door and the mailboxes. Working within the confines of the historic space, the coffee shop has a bright, airy and modern feel.
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Furniture Interior

Day Shift Furniture

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I was first introduced to Day Shift’s work from a trunk show that was put together at Townhouse last year and the pieces blew me away! This studio is run by Justin Lacey and Miriam Devlin and is based in Pittsburgh. I could just call them a furniture manufacturer but they take it to another level by offering design and interior services. I’m seriously in love with the work they do. Their pieces are handcrafted, simple, modern, sustainable and they pay attention to detail.
 
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SONY DSC

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Art

The Land In The Fork

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You can’t tell from my screen but this booklet was printed by hand and each page was done by letterpress. Whenever you open it, you can feel the textures and how each of the letter blocks indent the page. This was published in 1959 by DUODECIMO, designed by the Advanced Typography Group at Carnegie Institute of Technology (now CMU) along with several contributors for each page. It goes through Pittsburgh’s history and gives a brief snippet of the years starting with 1754 all the way to 1959. These books were limited editions and only 250 copies existed. I managed to get my hands on this one through Kelly Carter of PghBox, her grandfather contributed to it and she was kind of enough to lend this one to me.