Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Visiting the Steel City

I am back in my hometown of Pittsburgh this week and plan on completing several studies for my research.

Firstly, I plan to create a colors/materials palette of the city. This will give my audience a better grasp of the city's beautiful rainbow of brick and painted steel. Clearly, the bones of the city are from its industrial boom, and much of the city is weathered to a profound and dark palette. The city's past, replete with steel mills and smokey skies, has left its permanent print on nearly every building built before the 1970's. In downtown, this deep palette mixes harmoniously with the skyscrapers built in the 1980's and 1990's as well as the convention center built this past decade. Bricks meet glass and steel meets steel, and the outcome is surprisingly well balanced. The backdrop of the mountains, covered with trees, adds a green presence rarely felt in the center of a metropolis.

Secondly, I plan to ride the "T" (Pittsburgh's light rail system). This will give me a good feel for the details and operation of the system. This includes development of the system, how frequently it is used, above/below grade situations, electrical mechanics, stations, signage etc. With this critical information, I will be able to better understand any efforts in adding to the system.

Thirdly, I will spend a day wandering downtown to see where the best sites for new stations. I will need to gather further information by studying maps, street grids and traffic patterns, but this will give me a jumpstart understanding the role of the T on the pedestrian scale in downtown.

Finally, I will try to document the city's steel history and its current presence in the city. From the slag heaps in Nine Mile Run to the Waterfront's smokestacks to the heavy machinery in Station Square which is now used as sculpture, the remnants of the city's industrial past penetrate Pittsburgh, both physically and psychologically.

What a beautiful city.
View From Mt. Washington
Source: Pittsburgh.About.com

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Getting Started

This blog will record my efforts over the coming year regarding my Master's thesis in Architecture. I am a student at Virginia Tech's WAAC Campus in Alexandria, VA earning my M.Arch 2. I plan to graduate in May 2012.


Public Transportation System for Pittsburgh, PA


Pittsburgh is an important city in the United States' history. It once served as the headquarters for American steel production, producing the steel that was used to develop this nation.  With the mills churning around the clock, the air was filled with soot, and Pittsburgh gained its gritty hue. Then, the steel trade moved out of town and Pittsburgh’s economy and population recessed. The city has recently made the jump from industrial powerhouse to post-industrial urban center and is looking to regain its status as a top-tier American city. Pittsburgh is replacing its soot-covered image with that of a contemporary green city. And one of the criteria for remaking the city’s image is public transportation.

Currently, Pittsburgh’s public transportation consists of many incoherent systems that fail to support the population's current and future needs. The bus system is the major mode of public transit, but the city also offers a limited busway system, a light rail system that serves mostly the suburbs and of course the two inclines which climb Mount Washington. Though this list seems extensive, the outcome is a mess rather than a cohesive whole, and commute times are much longer than they should be.

My thesis project will address the idea of a comprehensive public transportation system (most likely a light rail) for the region. I will lay out a basic master plan for the region and design the central hub station (and/or a typical station).

Architectural concepts that I would explore include:
Commuting, routine and travel
Living and Working
The image of a city, and architecture as rebirth
Regional Connectedness
Issues of public and private activities

It looks to be a very exciting year.