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

Top 10 Things to Do in Pittsburgh in April

Top 10 Things to Do in Pittsburgh in April

This month's best bets in the ’Burgh.
Take a Hike: 10 of the Best Trails in the Pittsburgh Area

Take a Hike: 10 of the Best Trails in the Pittsburgh Area

Lace up your sneakers or hiking boots and head outdoors for 10 great walks for spring.
412 Food Rescue: Revolutionary Repurposing

412 Food Rescue: Revolutionary Repurposing

Local nonprofit organization 412 Food Rescue is taking food that otherwise would be tossed aside and connecting it with those in need through-of-the-moment technology.
Spring Fashion: The Height of White

Spring Fashion: The Height of White

Fashion is white haute this spring with the best looks from local stores.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

The 412

It's a Sign: Could Pittsburgh Be the New Hollywood?

It's a Sign: Could Pittsburgh Be the New Hollywood?

Pittsburgh could be well on its way to replicating one of Hollywood’s most prominent landmarks.
Where in Pittsburgh to Dump Your Old TV or Computer

Where in Pittsburgh to Dump Your Old TV or Computer

You are going to want to print this list and keep it handy.
Watch: Jameson Taillon's Remarkable Recovery

Watch: Jameson Taillon's Remarkable Recovery

Sports media company Whistle Sports documented Pirates pitcher Jameson Taillon's recovery workout regime.
Celebrating 75 Years: Connecting History with Community

Celebrating 75 Years: Connecting History with Community

The Heinz History Center’s World War II traveling exhibit focuses on western Pennsylvania’s ties to history.
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

Top 10 Things to Do in Pittsburgh in April

Top 10 Things to Do in Pittsburgh in April

This month's best bets in the ’Burgh.
Take a Hike: 10 of the Best Trails in the Pittsburgh Area

Take a Hike: 10 of the Best Trails in the Pittsburgh Area

Lace up your sneakers or hiking boots and head outdoors for 10 great walks for spring.
412 Food Rescue: Revolutionary Repurposing

412 Food Rescue: Revolutionary Repurposing

Local nonprofit organization 412 Food Rescue is taking food that otherwise would be tossed aside and connecting it with those in need through-of-the-moment technology.
Spring Fashion: The Height of White

Spring Fashion: The Height of White

Fashion is white haute this spring with the best looks from local stores.
Restaurant Review: Pork & Beans

Restaurant Review: Pork & Beans

The latest restaurant from the Richard DeShantz Restaurant Group brings Texas-style smoked meats and more to Downtown.
Daytripping: Brave the Cave

Daytripping: Brave the Cave

Go subterranean at Laurel Caverns, the largest cave in Pennsylvania.
Edit Module
Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

On the Blogs


It's a Sign: Could Pittsburgh Be the New Hollywood?

It's a Sign: Could Pittsburgh Be the New Hollywood?

Pittsburgh could be well on its way to replicating one of Hollywood’s most prominent landmarks.

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
Dish Osteria and Bar To Close

Dish Osteria and Bar To Close

The beloved Pittsburgh institution will serve its last meal in April.

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
Five Inexpensive But Memorable Date Spots in Pittsburgh

Five Inexpensive But Memorable Date Spots in Pittsburgh

These spots are tailored for couples who are looking for a simple, chill night out on Valentine’s Day (or any other day). If your significant other isn’t the type to be wooed by expensive wines and chocolates, this is the list for you.

Comments


The (Very Good) Brewery You Should Be Patronizing in Homestead

The (Very Good) Brewery You Should Be Patronizing in Homestead

Voodoo Brewery is an enticing alternative to the many chains in and around the Waterfront.

Comments


Mike Prisuta's Sports Section

A weekly look at the games people are playing and the people who are playing them.
Steelers’ Philosophy Back on Display After Hightower Flirtation

Steelers’ Philosophy Back on Display After Hightower Flirtation

Even as they entertained Dont’a Hightower for nearly seven hours during a free-agent recruiting trip to the South Side, the Steelers never lost sight of who they are or what they’re all about.

Comments


Style. Design. Goods. Hide your credit card.
Turn Your Bath into a Spa with These Oils

Turn Your Bath into a Spa with These Oils

The miniature bath- and shower-oil collection from Aromatherapy Associates makes every shower a luxury experience.

Comments


The movies that are playing in Pittsburgh –– and, more importantly, whether or not they're worth your time.
The CMU Film Fest Opens with One of 2016's Best

The CMU Film Fest Opens with One of 2016's Best

Reviews of two films appearing at the 2017 Carnegie Mellon International Film Festival: "I, Daniel Blake," and "The Eagle Huntress." Plus local movie news and notes.

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
Combating the Cold: How This Couple Pulled Off Their Winter Wedding

Combating the Cold: How This Couple Pulled Off Their Winter Wedding

Happy to see warmer weather? This gorgeous winter wedding may actually have you missing the snow.

Comments


Weekly inspiration for your home from the editors of Pittsburgh Magazine
Auction Alert: Own a Piece of Artistry

Auction Alert: Own a Piece of Artistry

Looking for a unique piece? Inventory from Artistry, which closed up shop in the Strip District after more than 25 years in business, will be sold at auction this weekend.

Comments


The hottest topics in higher education
New Club is a Hit at Thiel College

New Club is a Hit at Thiel College

The Outdoor Recreation Club becomes the newest student organization at the college.

Comments