A Civic Renewal

Pittsburgh-area architect Robert S. Pfaffmann lays down his plan for renewing the Mellon Arena.



The REUSE of the Civic (Mellon) Arena is my proposal for an alternate plan for the arena. Let’s imagine an extreme makeover that captures its original 1950s hipness and gives it a new meaning and new purpose.

First a little history: Throughout the first half of the 20th century, Pittsburgh was known for its industrial innovation. This often came at a cost in terms of destruction of our environment. In 1958, as part of the 200th anniversary of Pittsburgh, ground was broken for this icon of modern design and engineering. It was a symbol of our recovery with its innovative, movable domed roof showing off the clean air and skyline.

The Arena was designed as part of a visionary but misguided “Cultural Acropolis” akin to New York’s Lincoln Center, edged by then-trendy modern high-rise residential towers offering clean new housing with the promise of light, space and views. Of course, there is another side to the story: the failure of urban renewal that still haunts residents of the Hill District today.

The Vision: Keys to our future competitiveness will be about conservation, recycling and rebuilding green. So let’s imagine that the stainless-steel-clad Igloo could become a unique destination for visitors to learn of our innovative ways. It could become our answer to Chicago’s Millennium Park.

In order to visualize this transformation, imagine that we would remove most of the interior seating “bowl” and all of the nonstructural stuff of the old arena. Now, stripped to its structural elegance, we would have the ability to build new uses within it (imagine a hermit crab!) and still have room for the coolest park around with a roof that opens in good weather and closes in bad!

Imagine this circular park with lush landscape in summer and the recycled Pittsburgh Penguins’ rink in winter. It could have a small amphitheater next to the rink for jazz, Cirque du Soleil, Squonk Opera—all complementing the business for the new Arena across the street. Imagine a hip, job-creating “destination hotel,” retail, restaurants and a surrounding residential neighborhood with views every bit as dramatic as those from Mount Washington. A key feature would be a reconnected Wiley Avenue connecting downtown to the Hill once again.

This would not be an isolated place as it is today, but a truly “civic” space fully integrated with surrounding new development as a symbol befitting Pittsburgh’s rebirth as a place of innovation and a monument to remember Pittsburgh 250th-birthday observance.
 

To learn more about this proposal, look up “Reuse the Igloo” on Facebook groups, and to participate in the upcoming master planning process for the Lower Hill, go to hillhouse.org/communityevents.php.

Robert S. Pfaffmann, AIA, is an architect and planner who is principal of Pfaffmann + Associates. He is known for a wide range of award-winning architecture and urban-design projects in Pittsburgh. His firm’s work in Pittsburgh follows, by 100 years, the work of his great-great-grandfather Daniel Burnham, who was architect of many iconic structures, including the Frick Building and Pennsylvania Station.
Prominent award-winning projects include Meadowcroft Rockshelter, Homewood and Hill District branches of Carnegie Library and Alcoa’s Business Service Center. Green design projects include the Carnegie Mellon Café, Powdermill Nature Reserve and the recently completed East Liberty “Prototype Houses.” Rob is currently working on reuse plans for the Garden Theater on the North Side.

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module
Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags

On the Blogs


2024 Eclipse Will Be Even More Impressive in Pittsburgh

2024 Eclipse Will Be Even More Impressive in Pittsburgh

Don’t toss out those eclipse glasses, you will need them again.

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
Watch: Pittsburgh's Italian Chefs Cook Up an Amazing BBQ

Watch: Pittsburgh's Italian Chefs Cook Up an Amazing BBQ

The fire-cooked meal organized by Justin Severino and Hilary Prescott Severino, included dishes prepared by chefs from Pittsburgh’s Italian restaurant community.

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
Best Places for Kids on Rainy Days in Pittsburgh

Best Places for Kids on Rainy Days in Pittsburgh

Read on for some under-the-radar ideas on how you and the kids can survive a rainy day this summer.

Comments


Time-Travel Drinking: Why We Need an '80s Bar

Time-Travel Drinking: Why We Need an '80s Bar

The case for an establishment where one can dine and drink while truly believing it's 1987.

Comments


Mike Prisuta's Sports Section

A weekly look at the games people are playing and the people who are playing them.
Steelers Are a ‘Close Group’ Still Seeking an Identity

Steelers Are a ‘Close Group’ Still Seeking an Identity

The team looks good on paper, good in practice and even, uncharacteristically, good so far in the preseason. But very soon now, none of that will matter.

Comments


Style. Design. Goods. Hide your credit card.
#Gottahaveit: Take It To the Hoop

#Gottahaveit: Take It To the Hoop

Robert Hallett, Goldsmith, handcrafts the jewelry in his Oakmont shop.

Comments


The movies that are playing in Pittsburgh –– and, more importantly, whether or not they're worth your time.
A Hitman and His Bodyguard Get Into Trouble (No Need to Overcomplicate Things)

A Hitman and His Bodyguard Get Into Trouble (No Need to Overcomplicate Things)

Reviews of "The Hitman's Bodyguard" and "Wind River," plus local movie news and notes.

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
Popping the Question Far Away from Home

Popping the Question Far Away from Home

Three grooms share how they carried their rings long distances to keep their brides-to-be in the dark until the moment they got on one knee.

Comments


Weekly inspiration for your home from the editors of Pittsburgh Magazine
Bombs Away: Arsenal 201 Apartments Open After Cannonball Removal

Bombs Away: Arsenal 201 Apartments Open After Cannonball Removal

Months after the Civil War-era cannonballs were discovered at the former arsenal and munitions factory in Lawrenceville, residents are given the green light to move into the 243-unit apartment complex.

Comments


The hottest topics in higher education
Tuition Increases at the University of Pittsburgh

Tuition Increases at the University of Pittsburgh

School trustees voted this week to increase tuition for in-state and out-of-state students.

Comments

Edit Module

Edit Module