Design Pittsburgh 2015

View the winners of our juried competition

By AIA Pittsburgh Posted on October 22, 2015




PROJECT: Uptown Lofts on Fifth
CLIENT: ACTION-Housing, Inc.
ARCHITECTURE FIRM: FortyEighty Architecture
ENGINEERS: Langan Engineering & Environmental Services, Inc.; Keystone Structural Solutions; Iams Consulting, LLC
CONTRACTORS: Mosites Construction Company
PHOTOGRAPHER: FortyEighty Architecture

DESCRIPTION: The Uptown Lofts on Fifth are two new multi-unit apartment buildings constructed on opposite sides of Fifth Avenue in Uptown, a neighborhood of Pittsburgh that suffers from steady population decline due to a lack of adequate housing. The developer for the project, ACTION-Housing, Inc., serves a mission to empower people to build secure and self-sufficient lives through decent, affordable housing, and has worked to demonstrate the importance of energy efficiency through various projects. This project was designed to allow for a comparison of the operational performance of the two buildings – one designed to meet Passive House standards and the other designed to meet the requirements of the current energy code.

JURY COMMENTS: This is the project the jury discussed the most. Perhaps not best in any one category, this project achieved so much in so many categories. Architecture is about richness, layers of meanings, and social responsibility. This project surpassed others by doing so much in terms of being solidly designed in the context of its neighborhood, with aggressive sustainable goals, and all on a very tight budget. It is serving as a demonstration to the greater sustainable community with two test buildings from which to compare the ROI on a project designed to meet passive house standards versus a building meeting the current energy codes. Most importantly, this building brings a high level of dignity to an all too often overlooked user in a neglected part of town.



PROJECT: Cathedral Campus
CLIENT: Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston
ARCHITECTURE FIRM: Strada Architecture, LLC
ENGINEERS: Allen & Shariff; Atlantic Engineering Services; Lennon, Smith, Souleret Engineering, Inc.
PHOTOGRAPHER: Dennis Marisco

DESCRIPTION: The Cathedral Campus project is an exercise in campus place making, which created a new administrative and religious center for the Diocese of Wheeling/Charleston. An opportunity for a makeover emerged when the parish school was closed due to low enrollment. The final result combines selective demolition, adaptive reuse of historic structures, and strategic additions to establish a new religious place focused on the historic St. Joseph’s Cathedral.

JURY COMMENTS: While in some ways this project seems very basic, it is deceptively so. Its details, materials, and spaces – both internal and external – are rich and sophisticated. The building is strong and very comfortable in its response at an urban scale, just as it is very successful at the detail scale. It demonstrates a great understanding of the campus by removing those parts that do not work and creating a beautiful courtyard that enhances all of the surrounding buildings. The glass and metal façade, while modern, continues the lines of the brick buildings next to it and fits masterfully. Beautiful landscape work too!


ARCHITECTURE: Certificate of Merit

PROJECT: School of Freshwater Sciences
CLIENT: University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee
ARCHITECTURE FIRM: Bohlin Cywinski Jackson with Continuum Architects + Planners
ENGINEERS: GRAEF; Henneman Engineering; PSJ Engineering; Bloom Companies, LLC
CONTRACTORS: J.P. Cullen & Sons, Inc.
PHOTOGRAPHER: Christopher Barrett

DESCRIPTION: The location of the site along the Kinnickinnic River as it flows into Lake Michigan is replete with industrial activity – shipping containers, tug boats, freighters, and coal pile reserves. Within this context, the School of Freshwater Sciences was designed to be an icon for important freshwater research and a stimulus for future development, with inspiration found in expressing the nature of water.

JURY COMMENTS: The architect successfully alluded to the past use of the building as a ceramics plant, while providing a simple straight ahead solution that reflects its current use as a building dedicated to freshwater sciences and its location near the Great Lakes with a playful façade that has movement, color, texture ,and beauty.


ARCHITECTURE: Certificate of Merit

PROJECT: Sharpsburg Public Library
CLIENT: Borough of Sharpsburg, Cooper-Siegel Library
ARCHITECTURE FIRM: Front Studio Architects, LLC
ENGINEERS: Chris Motz, P.E.
CONTRACTORS: Franjo Construction Corporation
PHOTOGRAPHER: Massery Photography, Inc.; Front Studio Architects, LLC

DESCRIPTION: This project began with the idea that the public library would become the centerpiece for the central commercial district. This library replaces a mundane building via an addition and renovation, tripling the size of the existing structure, creating a dynamic community center that can accommodate many activities within a tight budget.

JURY COMMENTS: This library is very approachable, cheerful, and enlivening.  The architect showed a high level of thoughtfulness, organization, and attention to detail, all while working within a very tight budget.


ARCHITECTURE: Certificate of Merit

PROJECT: Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, Beechview Branch
CLIENT: Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh
ENGINEERS: Sci-Tek Consultants, Inc.; Whitney Bailey Cox & Magnani, LLC; Allen & Shariff
CONTRACTORS: Volpatt Construction
PHOTOGRAPHER: Massery Photography, Inc.

DESCRIPTION: The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, Beechview Branch, originally built in 1967, was in need of more space and an upgrade. The project completely transformed the building to give it a more recognizable and welcoming presence within the street face of the neighborhood along with a reorganization of the services and spaces and to provide a sustainable design that is universally accessible.

JURY COMMENTS: The renovation and addition to this library reinforce its position as part of neighborhood and the fabric of the community. The addition blends very nicely with the context of its neighborhood while the interiors are light and airy, inviting the users to think of the library spaces as an extension of their homes.


ARCHITECTURE: Certificate of Merit

PROJECT: Orientation Center, Frick Art & Historical Center
CLIENT: Frick Art & Historical Center
ARCHITECTURE FIRM: Schwartz/Silver Architects, Inc. with Loysen + Kreuthmeier Architects
ENGINEERS: Roome & Guarracino; Hampton Technical Associates; Allen & Shariff
CONTRACTORS: Turner Construction Company
PHOTOGRAPHER: Massery Photography, Inc.

DESCRIPTION: The Orientation Center houses an admission/ticketing area, museum shop, and education and orientation galleries, integrating technology to provide interaction with the museum’s collections and programs. Designed as a campus focal point, the Center was conceived as a garden pavilion, with high-transparency glass offering uninterrupted views to orient visitors to their surroundings.

JURY COMMENTS: This pavilion is truly a welcome center with beautiful materials, spaces, and detailing. The building presents as an object surrounded by glass allowing the user to see the campus while gathering information.


ARCHITECTURE: Certificate of Merit

PROJECT: University Center Transformation
CLIENT: University of Houston
ARCHITECTURE FIRM: WHR Architects with WTW Architects
ENGINEERS: Walter P Moore; E&C Engineering
CONTRACTORS: Tellepsen Builders
PHOTOGRAPHER: ESTO Photographs, Inc.; Hester + Hardaway Photographers

DESCRIPTION: Located at the intersection between residence halls, the recreation center, and the academic store, the transformed and expanded University Center serves as the crossroads of the campus. The building is organized such that it integrates campus circulation routes into the building while providing a new, contemporary front door to the University of Houston campus.

JURY COMMENTS: This project is well-conceived in all aspects of its design and construction. It is very contextual while working with the sun challenges of Texas. Its spaces and interior are elegant, light, and open.



CLIENT: Dino DeConcini, Elizabeth Murfee, and Keith DeConcini
ENGINEERS: Harris Engineering Service; PH Mechanical Engineering; Balda Electrical Consulting
CONTRACTORS: Steve Hazen, Ltd.
PHOTOGRAPHER: Liam Frederick Photography

DESCRIPTION: The DISCRETE HOUSE project involved the adaptive reuse of a territorial adobe mud block structure constructed in the 1930s into a permanent residence for retirement for the clients and the accommodation of their adult, disabled son. Each intervention made was human centered and focused on the orientation/re-orientation in response to the needs of the inhabitants, utilizing a language of detailing and materiality that makes clear the distinction between past and present, as well as the integration of strategically placed sustainable technologies such as water harvesting cisterns and a photovoltaic array.

JURY COMMENTS: The masterful attention to details and reoccurring themes make for marvelously simple looking spaces with a very sophisticated richness. How the glass, wood, and metal come together is beautiful.  The architect and craftsman worked very well together.



PROJECT: Project RE_
CLIENT: Project RE_; Heinz Endowments; Colcom Foundation; Ford College Community Challenge; Autodesk
ARCHITECTURE FIRM: Urban Design Build Studio
ENGINEERS: Merit Electrical Group, Inc.; Iams Consulting, LLC; G.A. Mattern and Associates
CONTRACTORS: Urban Design Build Studio
PHOTOGRAPHER: Urban Design Build Studio

DESCRIPTION: Project RE_ is a collaborative education, job training, research, and pre-fabrication facility with a mission to reuse materials, rebuild communities, and restore lives, located in an existing warehouse currently home to several other non-profits focused on waste reduction. The building was designed for deconstruction and incorporates examples of material reuse, with each building element being a marketable product or strategy built by the partner organizations who use the space.

JURY COMMENTS: The jury was unclear as to how a building inside of another structure should be understood, but found many praiseworthy aspects including the attention to details, participation in the construction, and ability to disassemble and reassemble.


DESIGN + INNOVATION: Award of Excellence

PROJECT: The Prairie House
CLIENT: Name Withheld

DESCRIPTION: Designed to relate directly to its location, the Prairie House recontextualizes Midwestern building motifs from the 1950s and ’60s, simultaneously old fashioned and tough yet ambiguously futuristic. Interior spaces are nestled in the ground, with earth sheltered construction protecting from high winds and variable temperatures that characterize this part of the country; rooms have a direct relationship with one of three partially enclosed courtyards that are carved from the solid mass of earth.

JURY COMMENTS: The interesting aspect of this project is the self-imposed exploration of contextualizing a Midwest site where there are only roads and cornfields. The iconographic images remind us of Venturi’s Learning from Las Vegas, from the large-scale billboard and letters to the symbolic buffalo on the renderings.  The design gestures all seem responsive to its site both in terms of its cultural heritage and to its environmental realities.


DESIGN + INNOVATION: Award of Excellence

PROJECT: RE_FAB Mobile Fabrication Lab
CLIENT: Ford College Community Challenge and Project RE_
ARCHITECTURE FIRM: Urban Design Build Studio
CONTRACTORS: Urban Design Build Studio
PHOTOGRAPHER: Urban Design Build Studio

DESCRIPTION: RE_FAB is a mobile fabrication lab that functions as an educational and digital fabrication tool with the capacity to serve schools, facilities, and communities. The project is designed to exploit and celebrate the potentials of the tools that it houses, and will house (full size CNC router, laser cutter, vacuum former, digital spatial scanner, and a 3D printer) and was funded by grants from two corporations interested in architecture community outreach projects.

JURY COMMENTS: This is a project that every jury member unanimously loved. Every aspect of its problem-solving design seemed smart and responsive, and it is those responses that resulted in a design that is both innovative and legible to what its function is intended to serve.  Why is there not one of these in my neighborhood?


ENGINEERING + SCIENCE: Award of Excellence

PROJECT: Chatham University Eden Hall Campus
CLIENT: Chatham University
ENGINEERS: Civil & Environmental Consultants, Inc.; Biohabitats; Interface Engineering
CONTRACTORS: SOTA Construction Services, Inc.
PHOTOGRAPHER: Annie O’Neill Photography

DESCRIPTION: The Eden Hall Campus’ stormwater and wastewater management systems employ a number of proven strategies and technologies in combination and with a unique decentralized approach. A “treat it where it falls” approach utilizes a series of rain gardens around the site to manage small drainage areas while roof runoff is directed to a 50,000 gallon retention tank and is repurposed for site irrigation needs. The wastewater treatment system includes individual building primary treatment tanks and two sub-surface constructed wetland cells. Site design and landscape not only performs a functional purpose for stormwater and wastewater but also provides an aesthetic bridge between the architecture and the site.

JURY COMMENTS: This building reminds us of the importance of water, and also basic and natural technologies that are highly effective.  The complete built project functions as an efficient machine while never giving the appearance of being a machine. As a first phase of a proposed new campus, the standards are already set impressively high.



PROJECT: Hotel Monaco
CLIENT: PMC Property Group and Kimpton Real Estate Investment Funds
ARCHITECTURE FIRM: Strada Architecture, LLC with Gensler
ENGINEERS: Atlantic Engineering Services
CONTRACTORS: Fastrack Construction, Inc.
PHOTOGRAPHER: Dennis Marsico

DESCRIPTION: The Hotel Monaco reinvigorates the original 1903 Duquesne Light Company Building, creating 248 guest rooms, 13 suites, 11,300 sf of meeting space, a restaurant/bar, and a rooftop garden. The project aimed to inhabit the building seamlessly while bringing it (the historic building) back to life; repairing and restoring the exterior facades were an important part of this. Additionally, grand ballrooms on the main floor take advantage of the original two-story lobby, where windows and columns have been restored, while a basement mailroom has been converted into a new restaurant.

JURY COMMENTS: The finished product has allowed the historic parts to shine through. The improvements are compatible with the buildings original design and beautifully executed.



PROJECT: 21c Museum Hotel Durham
CLIENT: 21c Museum Hotels
ARCHITECTURE FIRM: Perfido Weiskopf Wagstaff + Goettel with Deborah Berke Partners
ENGINEERS: Coulter Jewell Thames, PA; Stewart; KLH Engineers, PSC
CONTRACTORS: Skanska USA Building
PHOTOGRAPHER: Chris Cooper Architectural Photography, Glint Studios

DESCRIPTION: 21c Museum Hotel Durham reimagines the Hill Building, designed in 1937 by Shreve, Lamb and Harmon. Art Deco details of the National Register landmark embody the glamor and modernity of their age, an inspiration for the $27 million transformation of the building into a hybrid 125-room boutique hotel, with 10,500 sf of gallery space for contemporary art open to the public free of charge 24/7, a signature restaurant, bar, and event and meeting spaces. The goal for the transformation to a museum hotel was to find an effortless relationship between the original structure and contemporary design for the building’s new program. Throughout, efforts were made to restore and incorporate the Art Deco detailing and the design team worked closely with the State Historic Preservation Office to evaluate existing conditions and determine what elements of the original fabric could be restored.

JURY COMMENTS: The jury felt this was a really wonderful building across the board. It is a very well done preservation project, with its modifications seeming to exceed even the best preservation projects. It is also a really beautifully done interior architecture project with a very high level of interior finish. Relating the project to its Landmark status and Art Deco details could have been overwhelming, but this design respects and enhances those aspects with grace and style.



CLIENT: B DeFrancis
ARCHITECTURE FIRM: Bucco Architecture
ENGINEERS: Watson Engineers; Claitman Engineering Associates, Inc.
PHOTOGRAPHER: Walsh Photography

DESCRIPTION: Altius sits on the crest of Grandview Avenue and embraces its physical position to inspire the design, striving to create an ‘elevated’ experience. Spatially, that means creating a directional pull to the view with a series of elements: hostess station, open stair, communal tables, and bar are all positioned perpendicular to the windows to allow guests to move through the space with a continual connection to the expanse of windows.

JURY COMMENTS: This restaurant is really beautifully detailed with very rich materials. We especially appreciate that the detailing did not stop before it made it into the washrooms. The minimalist approach to these details adds a richness that will be appreciated more with each visit.



PROJECT: City View
CLIENT: Faros Properties
ENGINEERS: Atlantic Engineering Services; Allen & Shariff
CONTRACTORS: Turner Construction Company
PHOTOGRAPHER: Perkins Eastman

DESCRIPTION: The interior renovation of City View Apartments restores an I.M. Pei-designed apartment tower to its original modernist design aspiration. The 1960s brutalist structure had lost its design purity during various renovations. The design team conducted a full renovation of the 11,000 sf lobby to create an array of on-site amenities for residents while respecting the building’s architectural heritage, taking cues from both published I.M. Pei works and other modernist interiors.

JURY COMMENTS: A very respectful update of a project whose original design was showing its age. Much of the design of the space is beautiful, simple, and tasteful.



PROJECT: Pittsburgh Monospace
CLIENT: Name Withheld
ARCHITECTURE FIRM: studio d’ARC architects, P.C.
ENGINEERS: Keystone Structural Solutions; Iams Consulting, LLC
CONTRACTORS: McNicol Construction
PHOTOGRAPHER: Massery Photography, Inc.

DESCRIPTION: Located on the edge of Mt. Washington, this project is a new construction within a 1970s era building apartment building made of brick, block, and hollow core plank. The interior acts as a overlapping series of open areas which at times can be spatially reconfigured, including a rotating couch, allowing for flexibility and select views of Pittsburgh and its landscape.

JURY COMMENTS: The attention to detail and seamless integration of all systems, lighting and mechanical, into this rigid bamboo box is commendable. The space is so rich and nicely detailed. Ultimately, it feels very comfortable and seems as if it would always feel fresh and inviting. The red sofa looks very James Bond and though distracting, the strength of the overall design minimizes that singular image.


REGIONAL + URBAN DESIGN: Certificate of Merit

PROJECT: Dubai Water Canal
CLIENT: Meydan

DESCRIPTION: The Dubai Water Canal not only connects the Business Bay to the Gulf but also connects the Safa Park to the Jumeirah Beach Park, improving the Dubai public realm and green network. The developable land along the Dubai Water Canal is strategically located within the existing fabric of Dubai, complimenting the city network while introducing new experiences.

JURY COMMENTS: The concept of bringing water into the city to create connected neighborhoods is a wonderful idea that creates a more liveable scale and a more walkable city.  This scheme recognizes the immenseness of its scale but remains disciplined enough not to become too extravagant a solution compared to other things that one finds in the fantastical city of Dubai. As a consequence, one can read the humaneness of what was designed and one could sense that it would be used lovingly by its inhabitants.


REGIONAL + URBAN DESIGN: Certificate of Merit

PROJECT: McKees Rocks Chartiers Avenue Streetscape
CLIENT: McKees Rocks CDC
ENGINEERS: Keystone Structural Engineers; Trans Associates

DESCRIPTION: The original Urban Renewal Plan for McKees Rocks in the 1970s prioritized the automobile over the pedestrian, resulting in the disengagement between the pedestrian and the downtown district. This new streetscape plan for the district deemphasizes the automobile traffic, giving a more balanced approach to multiple modes of transportation, returning two-way traffic to the main thoroughfare, narrowing streets, and widening sidewalks where possible.

JURY COMMENTS: The opportunity for the same team to revisit their own project 40 years later is rare and this solution shows how the goals, perceptions, and expectations of society change. The current response is well researched and intended to be realized with meticulous detail at the pedestrian scale.  This project seems to place a high level of focus on the basic precepts of urban design that are user-based and that will have a tangible effect with an already existing space that needs some reinvigoration as it has matured.


SUSTAINABLE DESIGN: Award of Excellence

PROJECT: Energy Innovation Center
CLIENT: Pittsburgh Gateways, Inc.
ARCHITECTURE FIRM: DLA+ Architecture & Interior Design
ENGINEERS: Atlantic Engineering Services; CJL Engineering; The Gateway Engineers, Inc.
CONTRACTORS: Mascaro Construction Company, L.P.
PHOTOGRAPHER: Jim Schafer Location Photography

DESCRIPTION: Originally built in 1930 as the Clifford B. Connelley Trade School, the facility was an educational landmark and nationwide model for vocational training. With a vision for revitalization, the Energy Innovation Center (EIC) renews the region’s tradition in workforce development during today’s age of advancing technology. The 6.6 acre complex will promote energy-sector research and innovation and create direct and deliberate bridges to job creation, entrepreneurship, and urban economic revitalization. The mechanical, electrical, and plumbing design provide a state-of-the-art, historically sensitive, energy efficient design that provides superior indoor air quality and maximizes the use of rentable floor space.

JURY COMMENTS: The project demonstrates an intense pallet of sustainable technology while respecting the original building’s forms. The use of the old swimming pool volume for the large equipment is an excellent example of creative problem solving. The goal of fostering knowledge by opening the project to the public through the large glass atrium addition is admirable.


SUSTAINABLE DESIGN: Award of Excellence

PROJECT: Hazelwood Neighborhood Center
CLIENT: ACTION-Housing, Inc.
ARCHITECTURE FIRM: Thoughtful Balance
ENGINEERS: Iams Consulting, LLC; WBCM Engineering
CONTRACTORS: Nelcon Construction
PHOTOGRAPHER: Denmarsh Photography

DESCRIPTION: This building is in the heart of Hazelwood’s main commercial area and has a deep history with the community. The ground level houses office space for local non-profit groups and the upper floor is the new home of the Hazelwood branch of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh. This project allowed the library to double the size of its space, providing a place to gather and come together. The renovation used the Passive House Retrofit Standard, focusing on a well-insulated building envelope with controlled ventilation, optimized passive solar heating, and energy efficiency.

JURY COMMENTS: The project demonstrates the potential in creative planning by increasing the useable size of an existing building and reducing the environmental impact at the same time. Metrics matter and this building made a point of demonstrating what the metrics of its sustainable design yielded.


SUSTAINABLE DESIGN: Award of Excellence

PROJECT: McKeesport Downtown Housing
CLIENT: ACTION-Housing, Inc.
ARCHITECTURE FIRM: Thoughtful Balance
ENGINEERS: Allstate Surveying and Mapping Co.; Conway Engineering; Iams Consulting, LLC
CONTRACTORS: Repal Construction
PHOTOGRAPHER: Denmarsh Photography; Nina Baird

DESCRIPTION: McKeesport Downtown Housing, formerly a YMCA, is an 84-unit SRO for people at risk of homelessness. The old brick and terracotta building was important historically for McKeesport. The project was designed to Passive House criteria, the first of this scale to be designed to Passive House standards anywhere in the country. Although lighting, an elevator, air-conditioning, constant ventilation, and cooking equipment were added, the building now uses 68% less energy consumption than as it was originally built.

JURY COMMENTS: Loving care and attention to detail are present everywhere in this very tight-budgeted solution. It is an excellent example of creating a sustainable option for those who might need it the most.



PROJECT: BATHS at the Billboard
PARTICIPANTS: Jozef Petrak, Assoc. AIA; Brian Pagnotta; Patrick Russell; Ben Quint-Glick; Breanna Praechter
FIRM/SCHOOL: Renaissance 3 Architects

DESCRIPTION: Nestled into the hillside, the Baths at the Billboard uses reclaimed water to create a restorative experience with an unrivaled view. Once a symbol of corporate advertisement, the Bayer Billboard will be revitalized as a valuable recreational amenity that promotes ecological awareness and responsibility for the city of Pittsburgh.

JURY COMMENTS: This entry made a serious attempt at addressing the site. It retains the structure and a vestige of its original use without privileging that function. The jury expressed concern about creating a swimming venue on a steep slope but it could envision it becoming “The Hanging Water Gardens of Pittsburgh” – a unique first-day attraction for the city.



PROJECT: Charleston Area Medical Center Cancer Center
CLIENT: Charleston Area Medical Center
CONTRACTOR: Maynard Smith Construction Company
ENGINEERS: Shelly Metz Baumann Hawk; Stantec
PHOTOGRAPHER: Jeffrey Totaro Architectural Photography

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