Steel and Serendipity

A Shadyside home is a testament to industry and elegance.

This home may have a tough exterior, but the interior is sweet and gracious,” says architect Harry Levine, AIA, about the attention-getting residence he designed on Howe Street in Shadyside, just a block from the busy Walnut Street business district.

Jeff Walz, who now lives in San Francisco where he works for Google, owns the home. When he lived in Pittsburgh and worked for Carnegie Mellon University, Walz purchased a 140-year-old farmhouse where the current home now stands. “It was a mess, with dry rot and mildew, so he had to build new,” Levine explains.

The two had met in a Shadyside coffee shop (serendipity calling) and found they had shared sensibilities when it came to art and architecture.

“We started talking, sketching ideas and choosing materials we were both excited about, like recycled steel from (Aspinwall-based) Nucor,” Levine says. Levine says the home was a “wonderful collaboration” that included builder Phil Martino, who Levine calls “an engineer and an artist.”

The resulting steel, concrete and glass home, with unusual features like interior catwalks and a garage door-style opening to the rear deck, has received national acclaim, including from Dwell magazine. “I’m surprised at all the warm attention, but I’m especially pleased at the way the home looks and feels,” Levine says. “Balance and proportion are important to me, and in this home is a feeling of well-being and grace.”