A whimsical Postmodernist design that opened in 1984; it echoes Pittsburgh landmarks without pretending to be anything other than a parking garage. Father Pitt believes the architects were Burt Hill Kosar Rittelman Associates, who also designed Liberty Center (including the Federated Tower). If anyone has better information, it will be accepted with gratitude.
6th and Penn Garage
Connoisseurs of brutalism in architecture regard this as a remarkably fine example of the style. (Father Pitt could not find the architect with a short search, and he was not willing to do a long one.) “Brutalism” is the modernist school that makes its aesthetic statements through exposed raw concrete. The “raw” part is very important here: the architectural world blew a collective gasket when, in Washington, D.C., the Metro authorities responded to the increasing grubbiness of 1970s Brutalist subway stations by painting over the grime, which was blasphemy. Old Pa Pitt is not a great lover of brutalism (except for the Metro stations in Washington, which are like modernist cathedrals), but he can appreciate the care that went into making the most of concrete as a material in this building—the curved surfaces, the geometric forms, the play of light and shadow. It is also notable that, instead of killing the whole block, the builder put storefronts on the ground floor, so that some life could remain on the streets below the garage.
Old Garage, Oakland
A garage from the early days of the automobile; on a 1923 map it is simply marked “Garage.” The fundamental simplicity of the Spanish Mission style made it popular for garages, and this front on Melwood Avenue looks almost like a cartoon drawing of a Spanish mission. We have already seen the ghost sign on the south side of it revealed by the demolition of the old Chevrolet dealer next door:
On the other side of the building is another ghost sign, probably later, advertising the Overman Cushion Tire Co.—a name that is still, or again, in use today by an Ohio restorer of antique tires.
Mugele Motor Inn, Uptown
If the plans go through, this building is about to undergo a curious transformation: it will be surrounded by and encrusted with new development, leaving the façade exposed. It was originally the Mugele Motor Inn. (In the early days of the automobile, “Motor Inn” was a popular name for a garage.) More recently it belonged to the city Department of Public Works. It has a good location across from the restored Fifth Avenue High School, and it will be along the new “bus rapid transit” line to Oakland.
Brutalist Spiral on Smithfield Street
This concrete spiral on the Smithfield Street side of the Smithfield-Liberty Garage is certainly a striking addition to the streetscape. Whether it is a good addition may be left to other critics. Father Pitt’s own opinion is that it would be welcome on a street of other modernist buildings, but it harmonizes poorly with its Victorian neighbors.
Old Pa Pitt sometimes wonders what the architect told the client when he presented the plans. “It’s like a Guggenheim for cars,” he imagines the architect saying.