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Places: New architectural projects get their platform

Thursday, June 05, 2003

By Patricia Lowry, Post-Gazette Architecture Critic

It's delivery week for "Pittsburgh Platforms: New Projects in Architecture and Environmental Design," as architects bring in their contributions to the fast-track exhibit that opens in Carnegie Museum of Art's Heinz Architectural Center on June 28.

Fast-track because in April, the museum canceled its big, expensive summer show, a traveling exhibit on the work of the Swiss firm Herzog & de Meuron, for lack of funding, and tapped Heinz curator Raymund Ryan to organize a substitute. For Ryan, who arrived in January, it's been baptism by, if not quite fire, then surely instant immersion.

After spending the first couple of weeks getting settled, he plunged into ferreting out some of the region's most imaginative and innovative projects, work he believes can "re-present" a city with a legacy of heavy industry and a new economy.

The exhibit will present 19 recent projects, built and unbuilt, designed for Southwestern Pennsylvania by Pittsburgh-based or Pittsburgh-trained architects, engineers, landscape designers and artists, most in the early phases of their careers.

Each project will be presented on an 8-by-4-foot platform bearing drawings, photographs and models, as well as material samples that show something of the building's physical character. The platforms are intended as both physical and conceptual platforms for the introduction, display and dispersal of visionary ideas.

The projects will be loosely grouped into five categories: home, work, engineering/infrastructure, landscape and culture.

Thinking outside the conventional architecture exhibit box, Ryan will include, in the engineering category, Kennywood's The Phantom's Revenge roller coaster.

"I think it's a really elegant thing," said Ryan, who liked it even before he knew it was "kind of a recycling project. It's reusing previous installations and the site very cleverly and to great advantage."

Kennywood's Harry Henninger Jr., who came up with the concept, and Morgan Manufacturing, which executed it, get credit for that.

Other projects include EDGE studio's redesign of the Oakland Carnegie Library interior and Loysen + Associates' makeover of the Brookline Carnegie Library; Klavon Design Associates' landscape for the First Avenue Parking Garage and Trail; and part of the interior of Julian Kinal's Squirrel Hill apartment.

"He lives in a generic apartment but made an amazing interior that's entirely red that looks like some of the early modernist projects," Ryan said. And it's portable, built entirely within the apartment's shell. "He can dismantle the entire thing in 36 hours."

Also participating are Goil Amornvivat, Thomas Morbitzer and Can M. A. Tiryaki; Burt Hill Kosar Rittelmann Associates; CBPD; Celento Henn Architects + Designers; dggp architecture (with Bruce Lindsey); D.I.R.T. studio (with AMD&ART); FISHER ARCHitecture; Arthur Lubetz Associates Architects; Parsons Brinckerhoff Quade & Douglas with Christine Davis Consultants; Pfaffmann + Associates; William Shepler, Architect; SPRINGBOARD Architecture, Communication, Design; studio d'ARC architects; and Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates with Mel Bochner.

A free opening-night reception (with cash bar) will be held from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. June 27. In mid-July (no date yet set), the museum will host a tour of selected "Pittsburgh Platforms" projects. And on Sept. 20, the museum will host a "Meet the Architects" symposium.

Welcome to Heritage World

It's a sure sign of the coming of age of heritage areas: the International Heritage Development Conference will be held Saturday through June 11 at the Westin Convention Center hotel.

The conference is sponsored by the Alliance of National Heritage Areas, a collaboration of 23 congressionally designated regions focusing on heritage tourism. While the alliance, established in 1997, has had annual conferences since 2000, this is the first time the event will take a global perspective.

"A lot of countries have been doing this a lot longer than we have," said Augie Carlino, director of the Steel Industry Heritage Corp. and one of the local hosts. "They started their projects around preservation and have been quite successful. A lot of our projects have been started around community revitalization and tourism. It's going to be interesting to see how we can learn from each other's experiences and problems."

Visitors from Eastern Europe will talk about how Polish, Czech, Slovak and Hungarian interests came together to create a regional heritage initiative that integrated conservation, recreation and tourism in an area that was almost inaccessible a decade ago. Italians will show how their parks have created value-added products and tourism industries based on cultural resources.

Among the mobile "workshops on wheels" showcasing Western Pennsylvania will be the "Babushkas and Hard Hats" tour led by Doris Dyen, director of the Steel Industry Heritage Corp.'s cultural conservation division, and retired steelworker Roy Smith, who will visit some of the region's ethnic neighborhoods, churches and social clubs.

Speakers include historian David McCullough and cookbook author and public radio host Lynne Rossetto Kasper. About 300 people are expected to attend.

Carlino said the public is welcome to explore the 23 exhibit booths in the hallways outside the conference rooms.

To learn more, visit www.nationalheritageareas.com.

Coming of age, part two

The newly established Commonwealth Design Awards, sponsored by 10,000 Friends of Pennsylvania, will recognize design excellence and responsible development in the state.

"A crucial component to assuring responsible growth and attractive communities is the ability of local officials, professionals and the community to be able to see viable, appealing examples," said Mark Bristol-Evans, chair of the group's advisory board. "The Commonwealth Awards will provide them."

Submission deadline is June 20; information is at www.10000friends.org.

Patricia Lowry can be reached at plowry@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1590.

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