Category: Oakland

  • Niches on the College of Fine Arts Building, Carnegie Mellon University

    Henry Hornbostel designed the front of the Fine Arts Building with niches that display all styles of architectural decoration, and more practically give students a place to sit between classes. The niches have continued to accumulate sculpture in styles from all over the world. The whimsical figures in the Gothic niche may have been done by Achille Giammartini.

    Figure in first niche
    Figure in first niche
    Foliage with critters in first niche
    Lion eating an unfortunate Gothic figure
    Figure in first niche
    Figure in first niche
    Second niche

    In the classical niche, the three orders of Greek architecture: Corinthian, Doric, Ionic, demonstrated with correct proportions.

    Third niche
    Fourth niche
    Sculpture in Indian style, with Egyptian column
  • College of Fine Arts, Carnegie Mellon University

    Creare over the entrance

    The front of the College of Fine Arts in sunset light. Above, the word CREARE (“to create”) inscribed above the entrance by decorative sculptor Achille Giammartini.

    College of Fine Arts, Carnegie Mellon University
    Entrance decoration




  • Western Pennsylvania School for Blind Children, Oakland

    Western Pennsylvania School for Blind Children

    George S. Orth was the architect of this palace of education, which was finished in 1894. It’s a little bit Flemish Renaissance, with eye-catching horizontal stripes and Rundbogenstil eyebrows over the arches.

    Front of the school
    Entrance arcade
  • Carnegie Mellon University

  • Hampton Hall, Oakland

    Hampton Hall

    We have seen this Tudor palace before, but there is no reason we should not see it again, with some different details this time.

    Entrance and light well

    The entrance lobby. The interior is filled with richly colored tiles, some with decorative figures like this griffin.

    Griffin tile
  • Cathedral of Learning From Centre Avenue

  • Cathedral of Learning

  • Stairway in Baker Hall, Carnegie Mellon University

    Spiral stairway in Baker Hall

    Stairways can be good opportunities for architects to show off, and here is a stairway designed by Henry Hornbostel that defies imitation.

  • Holy Spirit Byzantine Catholic Church, Oakland

    Begun in 1960 and dedicated in 1962, this church was designed by the firm of Williams, Tribilcock, Whitehead and Associates1 in a modernist Byzantine style. And no one notices the architecture, because the church is deliberately oriented to display its huge and colorful mosaic triptych, “made entirely of genuine Venetian glass,” to traffic outbound on Fifth Avenue.

    The mosaic is a complete introduction to Christian theology. On the left, the Old Testament prophets who foretold Christ, with illustrations of their lives and visions; on the right, the Apostles who knew and were taught by Christ, with equally appropriate symbols; and in the center, the Trinity, up among the birds and airplanes.

    Some Old Testament prophets.
    A selection of Apostles.

    The mosaic has suffered some cracking over the years, but it is still a stunningly colorful sight to come across as one walks from Oakland toward Shadyside.

    The south-transept entrance features three aluminum-glazed onion domes served on an hors-d’œuvre tray.

    On city planning maps, the church is in Shadyside, but Pittsburghers have always considered the Oakland monumental district to begin at Rodef Shalom at the eastern end, and the church calls its neighborhood “Oakland,” and the post office places it in the Oakland postal code.

    1. The source for all our information is the “About Us” page on the Holy Spirit site. ↩︎
  • The Fairfax, Oakland

    Front wall of the Fairfax

    One of our grandest apartment buildings, the Fairfax just got a thorough going-over. It was opened in 1927 as the Fifth Avenue Apartments, but changed its name with its ownership a year later and has been the Fairfax ever since. The architect was Philip Morison Jullien from Washington (that’s Big Worshington to Picksburghers from the South Hills), who also gave us the Arlington Apartments.

    Front elevation

    The architectural style is sometimes referred to as “Jacobethan,” meaning that it takes inspiration from the long period of the reigns of Elizabeth I and James I, without being too pedantic about the exact period.


    This Jacobean Gothic arch is about as broad as it can be and still qualify as an arch.

    Entrance and decorations above
    The Fairfax, perspective view

    The perspective above is impossible. There is no place to stand far away enough to get a natural-looking perspective view of the Fairfax. The lens had to be at a very wide angle to capture the whole building, which created what photography critics of a century ago would have called “violent perspective.” Father Pitt has made some intricate adjustments, at the cost of some distortion of individual objects like the cars on the street, to create a more natural-looking view of the sort Mr. Jullien might have given the client in his perspective rendering. In fact, different parts of the picture are at different perspectives, and if you look closely you can see the seam running down through the blue car toward the right.