Sunday, March 15, 2009

An Architectural Aside

Cheers and Jeers on the Pittsburgh architectural and urban design front this week:

First, a big Cheer for the folks at PennDOT for their work on the Boulevard of the Allies bridge project. One of the things that I liked about the old bridge (other than the thrill that it may collapse at any moment) were the four concrete eagle medallions that graced the corners of the bridge. It was a nice little neo-classical public art detail from back in the early part of the last century. The eagles, however, had suffered from the ravages of time, and it appeared that a little bit of decoration to the bridge would be lost.

The folks at PennDOT, thankfully, have installed new eagles on the bridge piers of an even greater scale, still echoing the grandness of the original. If you drive up from Forbes Avenue from the Parkway, you can see these colossal additions to the project. It's a great touch that brings a good shot of public art to an otherwise dreary public works project.

A big Jeer, however, to the folks at Walnut Capital for their "Walnut Place" project at the corner of Browns Hill Road and Old Browns Hill Road. The new development is frankly the same kind of strip mall abortion that we've seen everywhere in this country: devoid of any real attempt at good planning and subservient to the automobile. Now, usually this kind of development would be ignored, but considering that it will be located on the Homestead Grays Briged side entrance to Summerset at Frick Park (a development that the City has gotten great kudos on for its attempts in creating a new Urbanist Community), you would have thought that the folks at the Planning Commission would have advised them to build something a bit... uh... less like somebody vomited shit onto a set of blueprints.

(Now, I'm not saying that there's any connection that City Planning Commissioner Todd Reidbord also happens to be the part owner of Walnut Capital, but...)

So well done for advancing the cause of mediocrity, Todd, but a big jeer from us.

14 comments:

MH said...

Granted, something a bit distinctive would have been nice, but don't forget what was there before they pulled it down for Walnut Place. And what's still nearby (Wendy's and a very run-down beer distributor). At least the world's ugliest Burger King is gone.

Bram Reichbaum said...

At least, from what I understand, WC has sushi restaurant line up for that tract. That's pretty awesome, particularly with Lowes Cinema so nearby.

Anonymous said...

Hey, that "run-down beer distributor" is the best in the City. Which just goes to show how much the PLCB sucks massive donkey dick.

PS - PennDot has been working on those eagles for the last 4 months. The bridge went up quicker than those eagles.

MH said...

I wasn't complaining about the beer distributor's selection or prices, just the building. I've always found what I want there.

Bram Reichbaum said...

Just passed the development. It looks like it was inspired by the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, DC.

MH said...

I really don't see what you are talking about, but that might explain why I kept seeing Maya Lin on the 61c.

Bram Reichbaum said...

Driving past from the road, it looked like this curved gash dug into the ground, sort of sunk in.

While we're on the subject: What is the most beautiful Walnut Capital development?

Anonymous said...

The new WC Browns Hill Road development is simply a gouge in the hillside...they could soften its brown-box design by planting trees (not sticks, but larger trees) in that large parking lot to create a canopy, shading the cars and mitigating the carbon footprint. They also could have livened the facade with some ornamental plasterwork - giving it at least a little texture.

I noticed too that Browns Hill from the Sunoco to the Bridge is slated for reconstruction in the economic stimulus package - wonder how that will impact all of the businesses?

As for best project, they seem to do better when redeveloping old buildings (Cigar Factory, Bakery Square TBD) than new construction. I would give Banana Republic in Shadyside a pass but I'm not sure if they built the building or bought it.

MH said...

I don't know enough about which developer did which project to answer Bram.

To be honest, I wasn't even aware that Somerset was supposed to be New Urban. Somerset itself is certainly subservient to the auto in the sense that it would be much harder to live back there without a car than almost any other place in the East End.

O said...

Somerset itself is certainly subservient to the auto in the sense that it would be much harder to live back there without a car than almost any other place in the East End.

True, but have you noticed that there are no front loading garages?

MH said...

I have a top-loading garage.

O said...

Top loading garage? You mean a hole?

MH said...

With a giant spring at the bottom for when I want to take the car out.

MH said...

But, I do like that the garages at Somerset are not front and center. Its just really expensive in there and you can't even walk to the Giant Eagle.