- I just read a well researched and succinctly written review of the University of Pittsburgh’s new “Master Plan” for its main Oakland campus.
- It was written and posted by a Pitt alumni who goes by the screen name “Paco”.
- Paco posted the below on Rivals.com message board titled Between Fifth and Forbes.
- This is so very impressive and because I agree with everything he has not only said in this piece, but also with his ideas and opinions about Pitt as a whole, I’ll reprint it for a larger audience.
- I responded to his post on Rivals by suggesting he both submit his ideas directly to the Chancellor’s Officer but also start a petition concerning saving the historically significant buildings that should and must remain extant to continue to tell Pitt’s glorious history via the architecture built in its early days.
Thank you Paco!
So there are some MAJOR changes and I have some BIG concerns about historically significant buildings, but also some exciting things. But these plans are also very vague. Except for the “Innovation District stuff, they also detail zero additional land acquisitions (which is probably a smart thing).
Below are the major changes that I see. The first three are very troubling.
Absolutely idiotic if true:
- The 1884 Richardsonian Romanesque Music Building by Longfellow, Alden & Harlow, the oldest structure on Pitt’s campus, looks like it is to be replaced. This is the former William Jacob Holland house, a renown zoologist and former Chancellor of the university, and the original studio for WQED and Mr. Rogers’. A Schenley Farms Historic District Contributing Property, this is simply an unacceptable, contemptible loss. Hopefully they are just building around it (they have the entire parking lot there to build on). Build around it, or even get rid of the 1950s addition, fine, but hopefully this gets nominated for historic protective status or the city’s historic review commission blocks it. Just so stupid.
- The O’Hara Student Center, formerly the Concordia Club, looks like it is being torn down. This is a 1913 Romanesque Revival building by Charles Bickel and is also a Schenley Farms Historic District Contributing Property and an absolutely unacceptable loss. Just 7 years ago Pitt put a lot of money and care into the restoration and preservation of the interior of the building, which contains chandeliered ball rooms and beautiful deep oak paneling. A giant WTF to the planners on this one and hopefully the city never lets this get touched. Historic societies need to draw up the nominations for protective status.
- In the same horrendous destruction plan along O’Hara St, the Gardner Steel Conference Center also looks slated for destruction. This 1911 early modernist Kiehnel and Elliot structure features Art Deco detailing. It was originally the Central Turnverein, a German-American club, that also served as a venue for Pitt athletics and a dental school clinic during the university’s early days in Oakland. It is also Schenley Farms Historic District Contributing Property and absolutely asinine to destroy. I know for a fact that the city planning commission blocked the alteration of an entrance on this building because it detracted from its historic integrity too much, so I can’t imagine they’d let any of these three buildings come down. The interior of this one could be gutted, as could the Music Building, but the exteriors shouldn’t be touched. Whoever signed off on a plan to remove these three historic buildings is a flat out idiot.
- Concept sketches show no attempt to preserve the facade of the former Allegheny Public Health building on Forbes. The building shouldbe demolished, but the facade needs to be preserved and incorporated into the new structure. A major shortsighted architectural loss.
Not sure (will have to see final product):
- Bouquet Gardens townhouse buildings all look to demolished and replaced by dorm style buildings. The current plot also seems to be sliced through by an extension of Roberto Clemente Dr. If that is open to vehicular traffic, that is a big mistake. Pitt does not need to create more of a grid. Not sure if I like this plan. Bouquet Gardens is nicely done area of campus if you ever walk through it. I can see replacing the townhouse units, but not sure about these large dorms structures are the right way to go about it.
- For the “Innovation District”, it looks like they are targeting the entire block that McDonald’s, Dave & Andy’s, Fuel & Fuddle, and the Garage Door/former Decade sit on. Also the half block of the former IGA/Attic and Loeffler Building. If they were smart, they’d preserve some of the facades of these buildings. A lot, if not all of the character of Forbes will be lost if they don’t. Unfortunately, I don’t think they are that smart.
- New building going up between Hillman and the Barco Law Building. This has been long planned. Will be interesting to see the design here as it is going to be in the midst of a brutalist paradise. This has to be done carefully and designed to complement the existing architecture while not being beholden to it. In general, they do need to put something here, but IMO the design is going to be tricky and it is such a central part of campus, it could easily be botched.
- Expansions of Posvar (taking out the Bouquet side plaza). This, again, could destroy the exiting architecture grouping and may result in a much more grided, less campus feel because you are losing the set back there along Bouquet which helps transition into Bouquet Gardens and the residential neighborhood. This expansion, along with the new dorm complexes, I fear will in no way soften the urban grid feeling.
- The 1965 Tasso Katselas designed Information Science Building. A brutalist structure, it is also one of the more interesting modern buildings on campus. The ground floor was already significantly altered. I think they’ll eventually regret getting rid of this one. I’m not sure if you truly need to replace this, so it better be replaced by something architecturally significant.
Not ideal, but necessary:
- Learning Research and Development Center is bulldozed to make way for a new student rec center (the O’Hara St parking garage is also lost). The LRDC was an award winning building by Harrison & Abramovitz and is one of Pitt’s only interesting modern buildings. This is a moderate, but acceptable loss. A new student rec center is much needed.
- Falk Clinic, which is actually a Pitt building, looks to be lost and replaced. Falk Clinic is actual a 1931 Edward Purcell Mellon building. It’s original style and facade was largely obliterated by a modernist glass addition to the Forbes Ave entrance. Because of that, it is not much of a loss.
- Redesign, but not closure of Bigelow Blvd: this goes with their zero acquisition of new properties theme in their presentation but not pushing for a full closure is a failure. Slowly squeezing it is closed may be the way to proceed.
- The Space Research & Coordination Center, a 1965 monstrosity that obliterated the classical facade of the main entrance of Thaw Hall, looks to be coming down. A new building appears to replace it on the parking lot. It looks like, and I really hope that, Thaw’s facade could be restored. Great move if so.
- Two buildings are going up on the former Syria Mosque site, too long a surface parking lot. Long overdue. Nice to see they’re incorporating a quad feature. The design of these buildings is critical. Hopefully they don’t skimp and make some lasting, signature buildings that complement the campus.
- The Center Oakland Apartments and Oakwood Apartments are demoed and replaced by dorm like structures. Also a building is placed on the Sennot Square parking lot. These changes are all long overdue as the existing apartment buildings were worn and dated, but I can see substantial push back from community residents. Also the student micro farm on Oakland is lost, which is not unexpected and never meant to be permanent, but I imagine that will cause some students to raise a stink.
- New housing (likely in the style of Irvis and Panther Halls) going up on the former site of the Mineral Industries Building/original dental school. About time.
- Crabtree Hall (which is an annex to the Public Health building) is being demoed and rebuilt as tower. This is a good idea and replacement of that building is long overdue and its surface lot has been an eyesore on that corner.
- New building going on the former Burger King site/current parking lot across Bouquet from the Towers. This has long been planned and way overdue.
- New building on the PNC Bank site on Fifth and Craig. Long overdue.
- Previously known expansions of Scaife Hall and WPIC are shown. Victoria also getting an addition.
- The plaza around the Towers looks like it will get a major rennovation/rebuild.
- Lothrop Hall looks like it will be demolished and rebuilt.
- Forbes Hall looks like it is targeted for demolishing and rebuilding as an Innovation District building
- Looks like chunks of Montefiore Hospital along 5th are targeted to come down.
- Salk Hall Pavilion (the 1967 annex in front of the landmark hospital, but thankfully not the historic hospital building) looks to be redone.
- Frick Fine Arts Building annex: this has long been in the works, overdue, and needed, so I’ll assume they build something complementary to FFA and not something that ruins or detracts from it.
Athletics (I see no problem with any of these):
- Most of Trees Hall (except for the pool which looks to get an addition, probably a diving well) is bulldozed and replace by an indoor facility with an apparent glass covering. It looks like its front lawn is lost.
- Major development on the OC lot
- Fitzgerald Field House is bulldozed and rebuilt as flex support space with a quad.
- Expansions to the Pete and and PSC.