A Pair of Renaissances Shape
Sad to say, but by the conclusion of World War II
Pittsburgh was looking a bit shabby, and corporations
found it increasingly difficult to lure talent to the
city. Consequently, many corporations threatened
to leave the area. Fearing an exodus, the city
fathers deemed that Pittsburgh needed a facelift or a
To kick off this major urban renewal, later known as
Renaissance I, the urban planners went back to the
city's birthplace -The Point. Located at the tip
of the Golden Triangle, which is formed by the
confluence of the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers, this
area after the war was littered with run-down buildings,
railroad tracks, an auto tow pound, vacant lots, and
tons of litter. The dilapidated buildings were
razed and the trash hauled away, leaving a park that has
since become the heart of the city and a communal
Gateway Center and Mellon Square
Adjacent to The Point a new development was
constructed called Gateway Center. In 1952 the
four buildings hugging The Point that make up Gateway
Center were opened. These sleek skyscrapers were
vastly different from the grand, opulent buildings
constructed in previous decades by the city's
industrialists. The next major portion of this
renewal occurred further up the Golden Triangle in what
is now known as Mellon Square. Originally a residential
area, Mellon Square opened in 1955 as the city's first
green space. It is the nation's oldest
park/parking garage complex and was listed as a National
Historic Place in 1985. Mellon Square's
modernistic triangular pavings and asymmetrical
arrangement of planters and fountain further helped to
establish Pittsburgh as a forward-thinking city.
Surrounding the square were the Alcoa Building, Koppers
Building, and William Penn Hotel.
While Renaissance I established a break with
Pittsburgh's past, Renaissance II set off a building
boom and radically changed the city's skyline.
Renaissance II began in the late 1970s and lasted until
approximately the early 1990s.
Pittsburgh's tallest building was erected during this
period. The U.S. Steel Building, 600 Grant Street,
was completed in 1970 and was the headquarters for U.S.
Steel Corporation. At 64 floors, it is the fourth
tallest building in Pennsylvania and the 37th in the
nation. Architecturally, it is noted for its
triangular shape and its Cor-ten steel exterior.
Made by U.S. Steel, Cor-ten was a new product that
resisted meteorological corrosion, forming a dark brown
oxidation over the metal, which required little or no
maintenance. UPMC is now headquartered in the U.S.
Steel Building, and in 2008 UPMC installed its initials
atop the building.
In 1982, Oxford Center was opened on Grant Street.
The 45-story aluminum and glass octagonal towers brought
a modern look to this historic area of the city, which
is home to the Allegheny County Courthouse. The
Atrium provides a grand entry way to the complex which
houses retail, office, and dining facilities.
Melding Pittsburgh's past architecture with modern
materials and design elements, PPG Place looks like a
castle from the Land of Oz. The six-building
complex was designed by architects Philip Johnson & John
Burgee and was built between 1981 and 1984. The
center point is the 40-story tower. Fittingly as
the headquarters for a corporation known for its glass
products, PPG Place is constructed of reflective glass.
Gothic influences, inspired by the University of
Pittsburgh's Cathedral of Learning, are evident in the
towers and 231 pinnacles topping the buildings.
The complex also showcases the Wintergarden, an enormous
solarium, and an outdoor plaza. In the winter, The
Rink at PPG Place opens for ice skating enthusiasts.
EQT Plaza, formerly CNG Tower and later Dominion
Tower, was completed in 1987 and is 32-floors tall.
Located at 625 Liberty Avenue, its architecture hearkens
back to the Art Deco style of the Gulf Tower and Grant
Building. Its towers are topped with distinctive,
Fifth Avenue Place
Fifth Avenue Place was completed in 1988.
Located on the site of the former Jenkins Arcade, at the
corner of Fifth and Liberty Avenues, Fifth Avenue Place
has 31 floors and its major tenant is Highmark Blue
Cross Blue Shield of Pennsylvania. It is chiefly
constructed from Spanish pink granite, and the top of
the building forms a pyramidal shape. Soaring from
the top of the skyscraper is a 178-foot tall mast.
The height of the mast indicates the intended height of
the building before the city deemed that too tall for
In 2002, Alcoa moved from the Golden Triangle across
the Allegheny River to the North Shore. This six-story
office building hugs the river bank and is adjacent to
the numerous dining and entertainment complexes located
there. It was designed with an open office space
concept and oversized floor-to-ceiling windows that
allow natural light penetration and views of the river
and city skyline.
The David L. Lawrence Convention Center
The David L. Lawrence Convention Center was built in
1981 but was completely redesigned and reopened in 2003.
It is situated on the southern shore of the Allegheny
River at the head of the Strip District. It is a
colossal hall at 1.5 million square feet. Its wall
of glass overlooks the Allegheny River and affords
gazers a spectacular view of the North Shore including
PNC Park and Heinz Field. A water feature bisects the
building and leads to the Allegheny River. In
2011, the convention center's Riverfront Plaza was
Pittsburgh's skyline is never static. In fact,
PNC recently announced that it has purchased properties
at the corner of Fifth Avenue and Wood Streets in order
to construct a 40-story headquarters for the expanding
financial institution. Construction is slated to
being in spring of 2012 and the headquarters is
forecasted to be completed by the summer of 2015.
by Jan Palko
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