Now the Gardner Steel Conference Center, the Central Turnverein was German Pittsburgh’s most elegant athletic club. The building is an extraordinary early-modern design by Kiehnel and Elliott, and they trimmed it with geometric decorations inspired by the latest Jugendstil architecture overseas.
Decorations on the Central Turnverein
Central Turnverein, Oakland
A Turnverein (German for “gymnastics association”) was a German athletic club, many of which were scattered through the city. This was doubtless the most luxurious of the lot. It is now the Gardner Steel Conference Center of the University of Pittsburgh.
Art Nouveau is rare in Pittsburgh, but here is a building that crosses Jugendstil with Prairie Style to produce a distinctive classical modernism. (The picture above is big: enlarge it to appreciate the delightful abstract decorative details.) It was finished in 1912, when Jugendstil was perhaps past its peak in Germany but was still adventurously modern here. The architects were Kiehnel and Elliott, who were more experimental in spirit than most Pittsburgh architects of the time. Richard Kiehnel was born in Germany and had absorbed Jugendstil at the source. The firm is actually more famous for its buildings in Florida; Kiehnel designed a Miami mansion for the president of Pittsburgh Steel, and it apparently made such an impression down there that Kiehnel and Elliott moved to Miami in 1922.