United Steelworkers Building from the Boulevard of the Allies

Architects Curtis and Davis enlivened what would have been a simple square box with a distinctive diamond-grid facing that continues down into the pillars at ground level.

Reflections in PPG Place

Artsy if not artistic pictures of PPG Place reflecting PPG Place and nearby buildings.

Croatian Fraternal Union Building

Croatian Fraternal Union Building

This sadly abandoned building, which has its own Wikipedia article, has been sitting empty in what has become a valuable part of Oakland for at least three years. It has come into the hands of the University of Pittsburgh, as everything in Oakland does sooner or later, and Pitt wants to demolish it. Preservationists want to keep it, because it is an important part of Croatian-American history. Pitt usually wins.

The architect was Pierre A. Liesch, a disciple of the great Frederick Osterling. Liesch is credited with some of the detail on the Union Trust Building downtown: “Liesch was a native of Luxembourg and later used a similar Flemish Gothic style for his design of the Croatian Fraternal Union Building,” says Wikipedia. “Similar” is generous. The Union Trust Building is, in Old Pa Pitt’s opinion, a work of colossal genius. This building is interesting and, again in Father Pitt’s opinion, not in the best taste. (His opinion might be different if the building still had the “highly ornate overhanging cornice and a pointed-arch apex topped with a sculptural element” mentioned in the Wikipedia article.) Of course it may well be that the Croatian clients had no budget for colossal genius, and Mr. Liesch gave them what they could afford.

Herron Hill Pumping Station

Herron Hill Pumping Station

Why shouldn’t a water-pumping station look like a Roman basilica? It’s what the Romans would have done. This substantial building was designed by William Smith Fraser, and it has its own appropriately substantial Wikipedia article. Unfortunately the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority has thought it necessary to brick up the windows, so that what used to be an airy temple of technology must be like a tomb inside now.

Gailliot Center for Newman Studies

Gailliot Center for Newman Studies

There is still at least one architect in Pittsburgh who can work in the Gothic idiom with modern materials. His name is David J. Vater, and he designed this building on Dithridge Street (which opened in 2007) and the Ryan Catholic Newman Center around the corner on Bayard Avenue. His listing on Porch.com has this to say about his firm: “Based in Pittsburgh, David J Vater Ra is an architectural firm that provides bathroom design, site planning, and master planning as well as other services.” The fact that bathroom design is mentioned first suggests that the demand for grand Gothic institutional buildings is low.