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24 July 2008

Heinz Architectural Center

'Ecology*Design*Synergy' at Heinz Architectural Center

Behnisch Architekten + Transsolar - RiverParc Development, Pittsburgh, PA - Sketch of future downtown - 2006

PITTSBURGH, PA - Ecology.Design.Synergy, an exhibition that presents recent collaborative work by Behnisch Architekten, the distinguished Stuttgart-based architectural firm, and Transsolar ClimateEngineering, the Stuttgart-based environmental engineering company, will be on view at Carnegie Museum of Art’s Heinz Architectural Center February 23–May 25, 2008. Ecology.Design.Synergy documents 10 innovative, aesthetically refined, energy-efficient, and sustainable building projects in Europe and the United States including RiverParc, a green, mixed-use, residential and arts neighborhood in downtown Pittsburgh.

Behnisch Architekten and Transsolar ClimateEngineering share the belief that quality is not a quantitative measure and their collaborative design approach to projects utilizes natural resources to highlight their value. Ecology.Design.Synergy is organized around six key topics—temperature, air, sound, light, material, and human scale. Each topic is explored through two recent or current projects and includes working methods, the results of previous collaborations, and prospects for the future on the subject matter. Examples include a natural light collection system in Genzyme Corporate Headquarters, Boston, Massachusetts, that uses heliostats and mirrors mounted on the roof to redirect sunlight into the building’s atrium. A “double fa├žade” of glass on Hannover, Germany’s Norddeutsche Landesbank protects against noise as well as vehicle emissions, offers wind protection, and serves as an air supply duct to adjacent offices. The 120-foot high flower-like structures in the Senscity Paradise project provide both shade and cool air to the park beneath them by pumping water through the hollows in the structures’ leaf forms, creating an evaporative cooling effect.

The work of Behnisch Architeken and Transsolar is noteworthy for its ability to connect infrastructure and technology to human scale. A human silhouette, the installation’s graphic identity, guides visitors through the exhibition.

“It’s an opportune time to exhibit this collaborative work in Pittsburgh”, says Raymund Ryan, Carnegie Museum of Art curator of architecture and organizer of the Pittsburgh installation, “both because of potential for Pittsburgh of the RiverParc proposal and because Behnisch and Transsolar are at the forefront, internationally, of excellence in sustainable environmental design.”

Ecology.Design.Synergy is curated by Frank Ockert, Stuttgart, in cooperation with IFA, German Institute for Foreign Cultural Relations, and represented by the Goethe Institute and Galerie Aedes, Berlin. The exhibition was inaugurated in Berlin in November 2006 and scheduled to tour across America.

Specific to Pittsburgh, the show highlights the RiverParc proposal for more than 700 residential units between 7th and 9th Streets, and between Penn Avenue and Fort Duquesne Boulevard, that offers varied forms of urban living and mixed uses of retail, restaurants, leisure and hotel facilities. Winner of an international design competition in 2006, the RiverParc project locates public spaces and recreational areas on the southern, sunny sides of residential streets and provides a wide range of opportunities for people to linger, meet, and interact. In accordance with Behnisch and Transsolar’s collaborative ethic, the plans are not only environmentally responsible but aim to produce a new architectural aesthetic and aid in Pittsburgh’s desire to be a leader in the development of “green architecture.”

The three finalists in the Pittsburgh competition will also be exhibited at the 707 Penn Gallery, 707 Penn Avenue, Pittsburgh, April 25–June 7, 2008. The exhibition, Live Green, View Blue, Paint the Town Red: Finalist designs from the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust International Design Competition will be feature the design models of the three finalist development and architectural teams. Visit : www.pgharts.org

Behnisch Architekten and Transsolar Climate Engineering have been successful for many years in their efforts to design sustainable and responsible architecture. Current common projects in the US include Harvard’s Allsont Science Complex in Cambridge, Sencity Paradise Universe in Las Vegas, Mill Street Lofts in Los Angeles, and the Arizona State University Gateway Project in Tempe.

Ecology.Design.Synergy should be noted for its efforts to take a more conceptual approach to these ecological goals. With this exhibition, the firms hope to investigate solutions to environmental issues and prevent new problems from arising, through a rewarding and challenging fashion.


Riverfront Pittsburgh

August 20th, 2006

My submission to last week’s carnival of real estate on virtual real estate received a “bummer” from brownstoner because I didn’t talk about Pittsburgh architecture. So with the concurrence of the pine needle lawn’s discussion of metro lake homes on Friday and today’s Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article on RiverParc in Pittsburgh, I thought I’d talk a bit about this coming waterfront development in Pittsburgh.

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For those not from Pittsburgh, RiverParc is the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust’s proposed 700 housing unit development estimated to take 10 years to complete in full. It is located in downtown Pittsburgh next to the theatre district and just a short walk across the river to PNC Park, where the Pittsburgh Pirates play.

Already called a project “without equal in the United States today” and “different than most” privately funded real estate projects, the project has big shoes to fill. While the current emphasis is on green building and integration with the arts area and riverfront, in my opinion, the development will see a number of residents purchasing primarily for its waterfront location downtown.

Traditionally, Pittsburgh’s waterfront was the preferred location of the steel industry, other factories, and roads running along the rivers. But that’s changing. Washington’s Landing at the 31st Street Bridge has proven incredibly popular. There are now trails for hiking and biking running along the rivers. Heinz Field and PNC Park are located along the water. Station Square, SouthSide Works and the Waterfront in Homestead, three big retail, dining and entertainment complexes, are or soon will be places to enjoy the river views. From fishing at the point on Wednesday’s during lunch, kayaking next to PNC Park, or rowing Pittsburgh, the waterfront is a big attraction to many residents considering Pittsburgh. Even two of the three proposed casino locations for Pittsburgh are along the river.

For all the attention that RiverParc gets for its commitment to the arts, it should get equal attention for creating another attraction to Pittsburgh’s waterfront. Another park along the river, called the Three Sisters Gallery, should add to the popularity of the waterfront during workday lunches in the summer and add entertainment options during the evening.

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Fortunately, for those of us who love the outdoors and the waterfront, it’s no longer necessary to go hours from the city to enjoy it.

Artist renditions courtesy of the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust .

Heinz Architectural Center opens the doors on a close designer/client relationship

''There must be a place to hang up the wash which will be sunny and at the same time concealed. Also, be sure that the pressing room is ample for the work involved. My clothes are very long and need a long ironing board."

So wrote John Nicholas Brown to architect Richard Neutra about his desires for the house he commissioned from the Austrian-born Modernist architect that was affectionately called "Windshield" for its incorporation of large expanses of glass windows.

Completed in 1938, the house once on Fishers Island in New York's Long Island Sound has been documented in an exceptionally comprehensive exhibition on view at The Heinz Architectural Center at the Carnegie Museum of Art.

Organized by the Harvard University Art Museums in collaboration with the Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design and the Harvard Design School, the exhibition contains everything from models to furnishings, including extensive drawings, photographs and pieces of correspondence between Neutra and the Brown family, who were scions of the 18th-century founders of Brown University.

So detailed is the personal involvement of architect and clients in this exhibition, that in one photograph on display John Nicholas Brown's gangly, 6-foot,-6-inch frame can be seen lying on a pile of rubble, arm shielding his weeping eyes after the house was severely damaged by a hurricane less than a month after it was completed. Although the house was rebuilt and occupied by the Browns, who summered there throughout the 1950s, it ultimately was destroyed by fire on New Year's Eve 1973.

Now long gone, this quintessentially modernist structure was Neutra's most significant residential building on the East Coast.

At the time the house was commissioned, Neutra, who came to the United States in 1923 to work with Frank Lloyd Wright, already was well-regarded for his boxy residences throughout southern California such as his "Health House," which was built for Dr. Philip Lovell in 1928 and featured in the film "L.A. Confidential."

After seeing Neutra's work on travels out West, some of which are shown in the exhibition in a Collier's advertisement and snippets of home movies contained in a 12-minute video, Brown contacted the then-Los Angeles-based architect for the commission.

Neutra sent the Browns a long questionnaire about their lifestyle and preferences to which they responded with an extensive seven-page memo. This marked the beginning of an architectural dialogue that became a pivotal event in the architect's practice.

"Neutra considered this to be a turning point in his career," says Tracy Myers, curator of architecture at the Heinz Architectural Center. "From this point on, he aimed to make the 'client interrogation,' as he called it, a standard element of his practice so that he could really understand how his clients needed to use the house rather than just what they wanted in the house."

With an extensive knowledge of art and architecture, as well as the money to match, the Browns could afford to obsess over the plans for the house.

With features such as a patio for drying clothes, children's dining rooms, servants' quarters and a large living room that doubled as a music room to which was adjoined a private practice room and storage room for instruments, the eight-bedroom and bathroom house grew to a whopping 14,500 square feet. The initial estimate of $40,000 increased to a final cost of $218,170, making it the most expensive modern house in the country upon its completion. By comparison, Wright's Fallingwater in Mill Run, which was completed a year later, was built for about $70,000.

Aside from the addition of examples of the house's furnishings and interior design plans, which featured brightly painted rooms, what makes this exhibition so enthralling is the numerous pieces of extensive correspondence between the Browns and Neutra, like that above, which was contained in a telegraph.

"It is interesting as an illustration of the way architects and clients can work together," Myers says about the correspondence. "Certainly, this was an unusually collaborative process that yielded a short-lived but extraordinary building."

On view concurrently with this exhibition is "TransModernity: Contemporary Austrian Architects," which features completed projects by three Austrian firms - henke un schreieck, Jabornegg & P lffy, and Riegler Riewe.

Along with detailed drawings, photographs and descriptions of two projects by each firm, a 32-foot, continuously looped video projection shows the interior and exterior of each building, their urban contexts and their respective designers at work.

From sophisticated inclusions such as solar panels and double-layered walls in recently completed structures to fluently integrated modern applications to existing buildings, such as a 19th-century bank in Vienna, Austria, the projects in the exhibition incorporate environmentally friendly designs that exemplify contemporary uses of applied modernist ideals.

This exhibition serves as a complimentary element to the "Windshield" exhibition, making for a well-rounded showing that brings modernism full-circle from the 1920s to the present day.

Well, I stumbled upon this today. It is a little off of what I usually talk about, but my site is all about Everything Pittsburgh. I think this will be incredible. It looks beautiful and a great addition to downtown. I like the thought of all the buildings and businesses coming into Pittsburgh and will be glad to be a part of it once again. I love remembering good old Three Rivers Stadium and that, but I love the change. I think it is a good thing for Pittsburgh. We have a history of being stuck in the old days of the steel mills. I am glad to see us making strides to shake that vision, but still keep that hard-working, blue collar attitude. It makes us one of the best places to live.

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