As I walked into the Heinz Architecture Center I was greeted by large 4’ x 8’ sheets of finished plywood leaning against the wall. On them was printed in bright blue letters, “Building Optimism: Public Space in South America.” The exhibition at the Carnegie Museum of Art showcases “the powerful public role of architecture and urban design.” Many of the projects are located in informal portions of the city where residents use found materials and repurpose them in meaningful ways (hence the plywood title boards seen throughout the exhibit). The show features innovative public space and infrastructure projects in Chile, Brazil, Venezuela, Peru, and Colombia. El Equipo de Mazzanti’s awe-inspiring Biblioteca España, ELEMENTAL’s incremental housing project Villa Verde, and Urban...
Seeing the Impact of a Public Architecture
A Look at "Building Optimism" at the CMOA
By Brian Gaudio, Assoc. AIA Posted on November 4, 2016
The Story of Collapse
The Art of Seth Clark
By Bea Spolidoro, Assoc. AIA Posted on August 18, 2015
The first time I viewed Seth Clark’s work, the intern architect in me felt threatened. What loss and shame in all of these collapsing architectures! Clark’s collages, though, are too mesmerizing to be dismissed that easily, and I couldn’t resist that attractive pull of something that scared me. I decided to learn more and set up an interview with Clark, who has been named the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts 2015 Emerging Artist of the Year. I started with a joke about the fact that, initially, he could be seen as a nemesis of architects, and believe it or not, that broke the ice. While also working as a graphic artist, his installations and collages focus on collapsing buildings and...
Looking Inside “The Wrong House”
The Architecture of Alfred Hitchcock
By Raymond Bowman, Assoc. AIA Posted on April 29, 2015
Alfred Hitchcock was an indirect part of my architectural education at Carnegie Mellon University. The professor who taught one of my strangest studios had a list of recommended media that included Vertigo, along with an album by the Flaming Lips that required four CD players to listen to. I also remember (somewhat more fondly) seeing a few of Hitchcock’s other movies, including Rope and Strangers on a Train, when they were playing in the University Center for $1. But I may never have considered his movies as a kind of architecture until I heard about The Wrong House: The Architecture of Alfred Hitchcock by Steven Jacobs. Steven Jacobs begins with a simple and compelling idea: to watch Hitchcock’s movies in the service of painstakingly...
Sketch to Structure: For the People
Seeing How Buildings Take Shape at The HAC
By Bea Spolidoro, Assoc. AIA Posted on March 1, 2015
The process of architecture is not linear, with much back and forth happening before getting to the built product. Nevertheless, Curator Alyssum Skjeie was able to capture interesting architectural moments – and deliver them to the public – with the Heinz Architectural Center’s latest exhibit ‘Sketch to Structure,’ a collection of drawings, sketches, and architectural models that show how architects work. “The goal is to keep it broad and accessible,” Skjeie points out as we start the visit together… All the pieces displayed are from the HAC collection, some donated by architects, and others obtained over decades, with a couple of purchases made as recently as last year. Some historic drawings, already part of the museum’s Fine Arts department before...
Message of Hope, pt. 2
Maggie's Centres: A Blueprint for Cancer Care
By Raymond Bowman, Assoc. AIA Posted on November 18, 2014
In 1988, Maggie Keswick Jencks was diagnosed with breast cancer. For four years she battled, seemingly successfully, but in 1993 the cancer roared back. She was given two months to live. Crushed, she returned home, despondent. And that’s how she may have lived her last two hopeless months. But with her husband Charles Jencks, she assembled a “pile of hope” from popular news at the time. Every day details came out about some new treatment or another. People all over were cheating their own two month death sentences, through treatment, diet, exercise. Empowered by this information, she took charge of her treatment and sought advanced chemotherapy. She also connected with fellow cancer patients for support and community. She lived two full...
Message of Hope, pt. 1
A personal look at Maggie's Centres with Charles Jencks
By Vincent DeFazio, Assoc. AIA Posted on November 12, 2014
Charles Jencks stands at the podium, tall and lanky but defiantly confident. A well-packed Carnegie Music Hall applauds the world-renowned landscape architect and architectural theorist as he pipes out a few initial thoughts to calm the diverse crowd. After a brief description of a 16th century painting on the screen above his head depicting hope on the horizons, Jencks jumps straight into what has propelled him into the international spotlight; Maggie’s Centres. Before even giving an overall synopsis of what his famed centers are, Jencks makes sure to tell the audience what inspired them: hope. He explains that hope is an architect’s best tool when creating any built environment; buildings are trajectories into the future – a horizon and a...
Four Stories to be Seen
Architecture + Photography exhibit at the HAC
By Bea Spolidoro, Assoc. AIA Posted on April 23, 2014
Currently on display at the Heinz Architectural Center is Architecture + Photography, an eclectic exhibition of architecture-related photos, organized in four sections. You will not learn everything about the photography of architecture, nor will you find a complete timeline, to explain all that happened from Daguerre to Photoshop. What you will find is a mesmerizing collection of great images that will let you think about photography, and discover places and architecture that can be interesting for anyone – not only architects or photographers. This exhibition is about four different stories of how people take photographs of and about architecture, and why. The viewers are invited to interpret them according to their own personal experience. In the section “Photographing the World:...
Playing in (and on) The Playground Project
Pure enjoyment from the HAC and 2013 Carnegie International
By Sean Sheffler, AIA, LEED AP Posted on November 21, 2013
There’s a playground not too far from our house where we spend a great deal of our time on the weekends. It’s a small park, well maintained by the township, with a covered pavilion, swings, and a basketball court. The centerpiece is a multi-level play structure, with monkey bars, ladders, and a spiral slide. In the eyes of my son, though, it becomes so much more. It’s a castle… a fort… a truck… a spaceship…. a cave. It’s limited only by his imagination, and inspired by last night’s bedtime story. The architect in me, that part of me that I simply can’t turn off, looks at that play structure with a discerning eye. It’s a simple thing, a kit of...
Walking the Walk
Walkable City, by Jeff Speck
By David Julian Roth, AIA, LEED AP BD+C Posted on August 1, 2013
Mr. Speck thinks that our profession can be obsessed with “gizmo green”, specifying “sustainable” products that often have an insignificant impact on the carbon footprint when compared to a building’s location. It makes little sense to him that we design a LEED-certified building that you must drive to. Architects can’t keep doing what we’ve been doing and just adding a solar panel, wind turbine, bamboo floor, or whatever. Location trumps design.Transportation planner Dan Malouff is quoted here, putting the situation into simple terms: “LEED architecture without good urban design is like cutting down the rainforest using a hybrid-powered bulldozer.” I have been using the real estate web site mentioned in the book to evaluate project locations for my clients. Walkscore.com’s...
Wright or Wrong?
Green Architecture: The Art of Architecture in the Age of Ecology by James Wines
By David Julian Roth, AIA, LEED AP BD+C Posted on May 15, 2013
“Life is right, and the architect is wrong,” said Le Corbusier toward the end of his life. He may have been pleased however, to see his Paris Plan Voisin vision fulfilled in downtown Pittsburgh’s Gateway Center. A green park was planned within this urban space. Through an integration of nature and architecture, we learn about both in a comfortable public place. Tall trees and a central fountain soften three 1950s modernist-style buildings, bridging time and technology. The matured landscape has become symbolic of our city’s green leadership over the last fifty years. “The architect must be a prophet; if he can’t see at least ten years ahead then don’t call him an architect.” – Frank Lloyd Wright During the 20th...