Tag: University of Pittsburgh

  • Nordenberg Hall, University of Pittsburgh

    Nordenberg Hall

    Mark A. Nordenberg Hall, built in 2011, is a perfect example of what old Pa Pitt calls the neoneoclasssical style: it uses the shapes and symmetry of classical architecture without the embarrassing ornamentation. In this building, some of the effect of that missing classical ornamentation is simulated by a pleasing variation in the materials. The architects were the St. Louis firm of Mackey Mitchell Architects, with our own MCF Architecture (the successors to Edward Stotz) coming along for the ride.

    This building replaced the 1926 University Place Office Building by Edward B. Lee, a much smaller building that, in its sparse detailing, almost anticipated the neoneoclassical style.

  • Two Views of the Cathedral of Learning

    Above, from the grounds of Soldiers and Sailors Hall; below, from the steps of Bellefield Presbyterian Church.

  • National Union Fire Insurance Company Building, Oakland

    National Union Fire Insurance Company Building

    Now Thackeray Hall of the University of Pittsburgh. The architect was Abram Garfield, son of our martyred president. This section on University Place is the older part of the building; a larger addition was built on Thackeray Avenue in 1925.


    Mr. Garfield would not have approved of those asymmetrical doors on his rigorously symmetrical Renaissance palace. Is Pitt really so strapped for cash that these are the best the university can do?

    Rear of the building

    Here we see how the older building connects to the carefully matched 1925 addition (on the left), with a new entrance at the seam between the buildings.

  • Clapp Hall, University of Pittsburgh

    Clapp Hall entrance

    In 1956, twenty years after Charles Z. Klauder’s Cathedral of Learning opened, Clapp Hall opened its doors. It was designed by Trautwein & Howard, the successors to Mr. Klauder, but it was no longer possible to make an academic building in the ornate Gothic style that had been Klauder’s specialty. Instead, the architects gave us a restrained late-Art-Deco modernist Gothic that fits well with Klauder’s buildings but doesn’t embarrass postwar sensibilities too badly. The entrance is at an angle to the rest of the building so that the Cathedral of Learning is perfectly framed in the doorway as you walk out.

    Below, three views of the Fifth Avenue side:

    Fifth Avenue side of Clapp Hall
    Fifth Avenue entrance
    Fifth Avenue side

    The Tennyson Avenue side has a similar face:

    Tennyson Avenue side of Clapp Hall
    Tennyson Avenue side
  • School of Mines Building, University of Pittsburgh

    Henry Hornbostel’s drawing of the south façade of the School of Mines Building, later State Hall. It was demolished in 1973 to make way for the Chevron Science Center, and perhaps someone thinks that was an improvement.

    This drawing was published in 1909 in The Brickbuilder, an architectural magazine from which we’ll harvest more illustrations in the future.

  • Cathedral of Learning in Postcard Colors

    A two-color rendition of the Cathedral of Learning.

  • Panther Head Fountain at the Cathedral of Learning

  • A Kinder, Gentler Brutalism

    Hillman Library

    Brutalism is the school of modernist architecture that uses raw building materials, especially concrete, as its main aesthetic statement. Father Pitt is not a great lover of the style, but some Brutalist buildings work better than others. The Hillman Library at the University of Pittsburgh has a cool elegance lacking in many other Brutalist buildings. The vertical window bays give us shading that keeps the wall from becoming monotonous, and they also flood the interior with natural light.

    It is very hard to explain who designed this building. Wikipedia says, “Design of Hillman Library was led by Celli-Flynn and Associates who served as coordinating architects. Kuhn, Newcomer & Valentour served as associated architects with Harrison & Abramovitz acting as consulting architects to the university. Dolores Miller and Associates consulted on the interior design, and Keyes Metcalf served as a library consultant.”

    An architect might be able to sort out the nuances of coordinating, associated, and consulting. Harrison & Abramovitz gave us numerous skyscrapers downtown, but Wikipedia adds that “In 1996, architect Celli-Flynn and Associates and Kuhn, Newcomer & Valentour won the Timeless Award for Enduring Design from the Pittsburgh chapter of the American Institute of Architects for its design of Hillman Library.” This suggests that Harrison & Abramovitz really were consultants rather than responsible for the design; perhaps their role was to say, “No, you can’t do that, or it will fall down.”

    Kuhn, Newcomer & Valentour still exists as “DRAW Collective,” based in Mt. Lebanon. Celli-Flynn and Associates was absorbed into Buchart Horn Architects, based in York, but maintaining the staff and office of the Pittsburgh company. It is an interesting commentary on architectural trends that both firms’ recent projects, as displayed on their Web sites, lean toward a timid neoneoclassicism. It does not have the courage to break completely with modernist dogmas and go back to Vitruvius, but neither does it have the daring to invent its own forms and make something new. We get the impression that the clients will be satisfied—but satisfied as in “Yeah, it’s okay,” not satisfied as in “They gave me a masterpiece.”

  • Schenley Quad, Oakland

    Schenley Quad from the grounds of Soldiers and Sailors Hall

    Originally the Schenley Apartments, but now Schenley High School has been turned into apartments as the Schenley Apartments, so using the original name would be confusing. This huge complex was built in 1922 as luxury apartments to go with the Hotel Schenley. The architect was Henry Hornbostel, with the collaboration of Rutan & Russell, the original architects of the hotel. In 1955 the University of Pittsburgh bought the Schenley Apartments (for less than they had cost to build in 1922), and since then the buildings have been Pitt dormitories. Above, we see the complex from the grounds of Soldiers and Sailors Hall; below, the steps up from Forbes Avenue.

    Forbes Avenue steps

    Since we have a large number of pictures, we’ll put most of them behind a “Read more” link to avoid weighing down the main page of the site.

  • The Acropolis Plan for Pitt

    Henry Hornbostel imagined filling the University of Pittsburgh’s hillside site with classical temples, making a new Pittsburgh Acropolis that would be the envy of the intellectual world. The plan was never completed, because classical architecture went out of fashion too soon, and because it was supplanted by the even madder plan of putting a university in a skyscraper. But several of the classical buildings that remain on Pitt’s campus were meant to be part of this Pittsburgh Acropolis.

    The image comes from an advertisement for Ruud water heaters, the amazing improvement in hot-water supplies that didn’t require servants to tend to a boiler.