Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, Competition Entry with McLoughland, Cornelius and Filoni, 1981
VIn the late 70's, Pittsburgh's Arts and Crafts Center (ACC), located at the intersection of Fifth and Shady Avenues in Pittsburgh, was poised to bust out of its modest beginnings. While, up until the turn of the decade, it had been the leading local arts and crafts institution, supporting and being supported by local artisans of Pittsburgh, ACC was already taking steps to become a significant commercial, educational and exhibition institution in Western Pennsylvania. It's facilities, the Marshall and the Scaiffe units, located on the lush grounds of the now raised Mellon mansion, were woefully inadequate for this leap forward. For decades, these two structures served as magnificent private residences for the Marshall and Scaiffe families, respectively. During the turn of the 19th Century and the rapid rise of Pittsburgh as the heavy industry capical of the world, these facilities were not suitable to accommodate the museum functions into which the ACC was looking to grow. Thus, the name was changed to the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts and an open competiton was announced to transform the opulent, domestic architecture of yesteryear into the pragmatic art gallery of tomorrow.
The approach we took was one of celebrating the urban corner with a flamboyant, figural building while adapting the irregular forms of the two buildings combined, into a meandering footprint that sat comfortably in the pastoral setting of Mellon Park. Various elements of the program were used to anchor important points on the site with solid masses between which glazed enclosures were stretched in order to connect the Marshal Unit to the Scaiffe. A clock tower, grand outdoor stairs and other architectonic elements borrowed from the turn of the century were stylized into the composition. The high-tech glazed elements of the proposed building were intended to provide contemporary counterpoint, in good measure.