Phipps Conservatory is being held up as an example of what makes Pittsburgh a model to the world. Troops of presidents and prime ministers will shortly descend on it, and yesterday the place was crawling with State Department suits flashing their badges and working out the thorny details of who stands where for the photo opportunities.
It would be hard to think of a better showpiece for Pittsburgh. This is one of the world’s most beautiful glasshouses, a rare relic of classic Victorian Gothic conservatory architecture. Yet it has adapted to the modern age with a new entry and a spectacular tropical forest, both of which are remarkable for their use of “green” technology. The new entry, seen here, harmonizes well with the original greenhouses; yet the design is clearly a product of our own age. Pittsburgh can help teach the world how to make the old new again; and perhaps, in teaching that lesson, we can learn it better ourselves.