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Competition aims to improve city's historic public spaces

Thursday, February 22, 2001

By Patricia Lowry, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation will stage a juried competition this fall, inviting young designers to come up with ideas for making eight historic public spaces in the city more attractive and more usable.

Evelyn Montileone, a Troy Hill resident and a school crossing guard for nine years, greets Tito at the intersection of Lowrie, Ley and Froman streets, one of eight public spaces to be redesigned as part of a competition for young architects, planners and artists. (Martha Rial, Post-Gazette)

The eight spaces range from large public plazas, such as Market Square, Downtown, and the sunken plaza at Allegheny Center on the North Side, to tiny Lyndhurst Green in Point Breeze and the area formed by the convergence of three streets in Troy Hill.

"We've got all of these wonderful nodes in the city, and they're often taken for granted or unrecognized, and when they are recognized, often not treated very intelligently or effectively in terms of design," said Barry Hannegan, Landmarks' director of historic design programs.

"The competition will draw, we hope, everybody's attention to the visual richness that the older portions of the city have and also point out that it could be richer still."

Hannegan said the competition was intended "to encourage people not only to recognize and hold on to things with historic significance, but also to make them continue as viable elements of the city."

While there are no plans to implement any of the proposals, Hannegan said that "if something really sensational came along that everybody thought Pittsburgh should have, then we'd see how that could be accomplished."

The competition is open to architects, landscape architects, planners and artists under the age of 35.

Hannegan limited it to young designers because they "don't often have an opportunity, a forum or a platform where they can get up and strut their stuff. And I have the strong impression there's an extreme diversity in the young design community here, and I'd like to find out if my assumption is right.

"I was cautioned by a friend who teaches at an architecture school in Boston that we didn't know what we were letting ourselves in for, and I hope that means some off-the-map or over-the-top proposals."

The eight sites are:

Market Square, Downtown.

Doughboy Square, junction of Butler Street and Penn Avenue, Lawrenceville.

Oakland Square, Dawson Street, Oakland.

The former Ober Park, Allegheny Center (now the center's sunken plaza).

Lyndhurst Green, Beechwood Boulevard and Reynolds Street, Point Breeze.

Convergence of Lowrie, Ely and Froman streets, Troy Hill.

Morrow Triangle Park, Baum Boulevard, Bloomfield.

Intersection of Mahon and Kirkpatrick streets with Centre Avenue, Hill District.

"A number of these spaces are largely negative and we think could be enhanced in keeping with the existing historic neighborhood,," Hannegan said.

The sites were chosen because of their well-defined character.

"Almost all of them involve an interesting arrangement of street patterns," he said. "They all are, or have the potential of being, focal points in the city's structure. They're all places where the pulse should increase and the adrenaline should flow about being there."

Landmarks is offering three prizes, of $5,000, $2,000 and $1,000, for first-, second- and third-place designs.

A letter of intention to enter the competition must be received by Landmarks by May 1. Submissions must be delivered to the Mattress Factory, where the jurying will occur, on Sept. 8. Materials submitted with entries will be selected for inclusion in an exhibition at the Mattress Factory in September.

Th competition will be launched during Landmarks' sixth annual Old House Fair, which will be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at Victoria Hall, 201 S. Winebiddle St., Bloomfield. Landmarks also is mailing invitations to compete to about 1,000 individuals and firms in Pittsburgh.

City Planning Director Susan Golomb will serve on the competition's advisory panel, along with two Landmarks officials, Arthur Ziegler, its president, and Phil Hallen, its chairman. Hannegan will serve as one of five jurors.



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