Tag: Skyscrapers

  • A Corner of Gateway Center

    A corner of Three Gateway Center

    One corner of Three Gateway Center, half sun and half shadow.

  • Porter Building

    Side of the Porter Building

    Is it a 1960s sci-fi space liner, or…

    Porter Building

    …another aluminum-clad building by Harrison & Abramovitz?

    It almost seems as though H. K. Porter, a diverse manufacturing concern that began as a locomotive maker, had pointed to the Alcoa Building and said, “We want that, but shorter.” It is not the same building, but the similarity is striking. This one opened in 1958, five years after the Alcoa Building. It used to have the name “PORTER” in big aluminum letters in that niche at the top, but it now carries the logo of FHLBank Pittsburgh, the tenant with naming rights.

    The picture above was taken from Steel Plaza, and that is the back of the U. S. Steel Tower flag waving in the breeze. The U. S. Steel Tower, of course, is another Harrison & Abramovitz design.

    Oblique view of the front face
    Perspective view

    Historic Pittsburgh has an interesting picture of the Porter Building under construction.

  • Cathedral of Learning

  • One PPG Place from Third Avenue

  • Looking Up

    Koppers and Gulf Towers

    …at the Koppers Building (left) and the Gulf Building (right).

  • Allegheny General Hospital

    Allegheny General Hospital

    Allegheny General is one of the few classic skyscrapers in Pittsburgh outside downtown. It was built in 1926; the architects were York & Sawyer. These views were taken with a long lens from across the Allegheny River.

    Below, with bonus pigeons:

    Allegheny General Hospital with flying pigeons

    A change in the light makes quite a different picture:

    With sun
  • Federated Tower

    Federated Tower

    For a very brief period in the 1980s, the style known as “Postmodernism,” which perhaps we might better call the Art Deco Revival, was the ruling trend in skyscraper design. Fortunately Pittsburgh grew a bountiful crop of skyscrapers in the Postmodern decade, and here is one of the better ones. In it we see the hallmarks of postmodernism: a return to some of the streamlined classicism of the Art Deco period, along with a sensitive (and expensive) variation of materials that gives the building more texture than the standard modernist glass wall. This skyscraper is part of Liberty Center, which was begun in 1982 and finished in 1986; the architects were Burt Hill Kosar Rittelman.

    Federated Tower
  • U. S. Steel Tower from Grant Street

    U. S. Steel Tower

    With the aid of a very wide-angle lens, we can see the whole face of the tallest building in Pittsburgh from Grant Street. This was a very tall building when it was put up: it was the eighth-tallest in the world, and the tallest outside New York and Chicago. Now it doesn’t crack the top two hundred, but it is still record-breakingly massive in one way: no other building has a roof that big that high. Other tall buildings taper; this one goes straight up.

  • The Convention in Sky-Scrapers, 1903

    Hartje Building
    The Hartje Building, later the West Penn Building, at First Avenue and Wood Street, is a classic example of the Beaux-Arts skyscraper formula of base, shaft, and cap. The architect was Charles Bickel.

    The three original homes of the skyscraper were New York, Chicago, and Pittsburgh. When people first began to talk of “sky-scrapers,” those were the three cities they mentioned. And for the first three decades or so of skyscraper building, a definite style predominated in all three places—the Beaux-Arts formula of base, shaft, cap. From 1903, only a few years into the skyscraper age, a writer in the Architectural Record observes the uniformity that had quickly come to pervade American skyscraper design.


    When steel construction began to have its effect upon the height and the looks of office-buildings, two tendencies were traceable in their design. In New York there was no attempt to make their appearance express their structure. A convention of treating them as columns with a decorated capital, a long plain central shaft, and a heavier base, was early adopted; and within the limits of this general idea, the regular architectural, structural and decorative forms were used regardless of their ordinary structural functions and associations. In Chicago, on the other hand, while many buildings were designed along the same lines as New York, there was a tendency, partly owing to the influence of Mr. Louis Sullivan, towards a franker expression in the design of these buildings of the plain facts of their steel structure. Such is no longer the case. The new sky-scrapers, which have been, and are being, erected in large numbers in Chicago and Pittsburgh, as well as New York, almost all conform to the conventional treatment, long since adopted in the metropolis—and this in spite of the fact that Mr. Louis Sullivan had between the two bursts of building activity completed several brilliant and comparatively good-looking attempts to solve the problem within the limitations imposed by the structure. Whether or not the American architect has, in this instance, chosen the wrong alternative, he has at any rate, for the time being, adopted a comparatively uniform type for the design of the “skyscrapers.”

    The Architectural Record, December, 1903.

  • FNB Financial Center

    FNB Financial Center tower nearing completion

    It’s getting close to done—our fifteenth-tallest skyscraper, if old Pa Pitt’s calculations are right, and the first really big one built outside downtown since the Cathedral of Learning. When the Lower Hill was demolished to get all those poor people out of sight of the executives downtown, the promise was that it would be replaced with a gargantuan cultural and commercial center that would make Pittsburgh proud. Instead it became mostly arid wasteland. This complex, of which the tower is the most visible manifestation, is promoting itself as finally delivering on those promises made all those decades ago, with “next-level social impact” and everything. Since we waited this long, we came out of the era of arid and uninspired International Style architecture, went straight through the era of Postmodernism, and landed smack in the middle of the Arid and Uninspired International Style Revival. The design came from Gensler, the world’s largest architecture factory.