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 ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

The Best Bars in Pittsburgh Right Now

The Best Bars in Pittsburgh Right Now

Many Pittsburgh bars have solid beer lists, well-mixed cocktails or a bartender who's handy with a shot and a story. We need more than that. What makes these bars the best?
View Pittsburgh & Its People From The 1850s Through Today

View Pittsburgh & Its People From The 1850s Through Today

#pixburgh: A Photographic Experience features images from the Sen. John Heinz History Center vault, which contains close to one million images. The show features a sampling of 400 images from the 1850s through today — including landmarks, fun, folly and floods.
In Concert: What's Next for the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra?

In Concert: What's Next for the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra?

Melia Tourangeau, CEO and president of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, looks to lead the ensemble forward after a discordant strike.
Restaurant Review: Umami in Lawrenceville

Restaurant Review: Umami in Lawrenceville

Umami sets the bar for izakaya openings in Pittsburgh. But its owners still have steps to take to keep raising the standard.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

The 412

AFC Championship: What We’re Betting for a Win

AFC Championship: What We’re Betting for a Win

Rhode Island Monthly and Pittsburgh Magazine are making a friendly wager over the outcome of Sunday’s game, and we can’t wait to taste their quahogs.
See How Chess Made Le’Veon Bell a Better Running Back

See How Chess Made Le’Veon Bell a Better Running Back

Watch the video that reveals Bell’s talents that go beyond the football field.
Viral: Steelers' Most Famous Fight Song Synced to Lights

Viral: Steelers' Most Famous Fight Song Synced to Lights

See how a Leechburg man has transformed his home into the ultimate Pittsburgh Steelers shrine, but we must warn you, the song will be stuck in your head for the rest of the day.
RMU President Named to College Football Playoff Committee

RMU President Named to College Football Playoff Committee

Chris Howard will help decide which four teams will vie each year for college football’s national championship.
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

The Best Bars in Pittsburgh Right Now

The Best Bars in Pittsburgh Right Now

Many Pittsburgh bars have solid beer lists, well-mixed cocktails or a bartender who's handy with a shot and a story. We need more than that. What makes these bars the best?
View Pittsburgh & Its People From The 1850s Through Today

View Pittsburgh & Its People From The 1850s Through Today

#pixburgh: A Photographic Experience features images from the Sen. John Heinz History Center vault, which contains close to one million images. The show features a sampling of 400 images from the 1850s through today — including landmarks, fun, folly and floods.
In Concert: What's Next for the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra?

In Concert: What's Next for the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra?

Melia Tourangeau, CEO and president of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, looks to lead the ensemble forward after a discordant strike.
Restaurant Review: Umami in Lawrenceville

Restaurant Review: Umami in Lawrenceville

Umami sets the bar for izakaya openings in Pittsburgh. But its owners still have steps to take to keep raising the standard.
Daytripping: Have Musket, Will Travel

Daytripping: Have Musket, Will Travel

The rest is history at ye olde Colonia Williamsburg, the former capital of Virginia and now a restored revolutionary war-era village.
Talk of the Tahn: The Consequences of Trespassing

Talk of the Tahn: The Consequences of Trespassing

I snuck into a steel mill. Bethlehem, Pa. I’d been bragging about how big Pittsburgh’s industrial ruins were when a woman in a bar told me, “Bethlehem’s are bigger.” Size matters.
Edit Module
Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

On the Blogs


AFC Championship: What We’re Betting for a Win

AFC Championship: What We’re Betting for a Win

Rhode Island Monthly and Pittsburgh Magazine are making a friendly wager over the outcome of Sunday’s game, and we can’t wait to taste their quahogs.

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
Restaurant Industry Fundraiser to Aid Injured Chef

Restaurant Industry Fundraiser to Aid Injured Chef

Zach Behm was chef de cuisine at Cure in Upper Lawrenceville at the time of a July car wreck.

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
The Best 6 Places to Get a Cup of Tea in Pittsburgh

The Best 6 Places to Get a Cup of Tea in Pittsburgh

The quiet rise of Pittsburgh's tea scene gives us a few favorite gems.

Comments


The Trendy New East Liberty Hangout ... Primanti's?

The Trendy New East Liberty Hangout ... Primanti's?

The latest outpost of the popular local chain is housed in the former Verde space in Garfield.

Comments


Mike Prisuta's Sports Section

A weekly look at the games people are playing and the people who are playing them.
Tomlin Needs to Be Tomlin Against Brady, Belichick

Tomlin Needs to Be Tomlin Against Brady, Belichick

The Steelers are going to have to attack the game to survive it, to grab it by the throat and choke it to the desired conclusion.

Comments


Style. Design. Goods. Hide your credit card.
Tantalizing Textiles for the Table

Tantalizing Textiles for the Table

Check out the chic decor from Pittsburgh-based artist and designer Janice Nelson.

Comments


The movies that are playing in Pittsburgh –– and, more importantly, whether or not they're worth your time.
Shyamalan's Split is Troubling For the Wrong Reasons

Shyamalan's Split is Troubling For the Wrong Reasons

Reviews of "Split," "20th Century Women" and "The Founder," plus local movie news and notes.

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
Pittsburgh Romance: How Their Love Survived Long-Distance

Pittsburgh Romance: How Their Love Survived Long-Distance

From coast to coast and continent to continent, these couples showed that absence really does make the heart grow fonder.

Comments


Weekly inspiration for your home from the editors of Pittsburgh Magazine
Urban Fit Co. Opening Flagship Shop in Sewickley

Urban Fit Co. Opening Flagship Shop in Sewickley

The locally owned active wear boutique is slated to open in March. Plus, get all the details on Pittsburgh’s new luxury residential real estate firm, Piatt Sotheby’s International Realty.

Comments


The hottest topics in higher education
Pittsburgh Artist’s Work to be Featured at Thiel College

Pittsburgh Artist’s Work to be Featured at Thiel College

Benedict Oddi’s collection “Scouts and Nomads” will be on display in a campus gallery.

Comments