As the center of America’s steel, aluminum, and structural glass industries, Pittsburgh literally provided the building blocks for construction of America’s Art Deco skyscrapers and other buildings, from the steel girders used to frame the structure to the aluminum, glass block, and Carrara glass used to decorate them. Virtually no small town was exempt from the Pittsburgh style as storefronts were modernized with new facades of black and colored Carrara glass, trimmed with decorative aluminum and stainless steel, and windows and panels of glass block.
But Pittsburgh, which celebrated its bicentennial in 2016, is more than just an industrial town. It is a city of incredible bridges, fine schools and World Class universities, impressive churches, cathedrals, and synagogues, top notch museums, thriving communities each with its own “character” — and great Art Deco. Some of the world’s greatest architects, sculptors, and designers—Frank Lloyd Wright, Walter Gropius, Richard Meier, Joseph Urban, Marcel Breuer, and Sidney Waugh — are represented.
Pittsburgh had its own resident sculptor—Frank Vittor– whose works appear throughout the city, from the dolphin drinking fountains in public parks, to the World War I Memorial at the Boulevard of the Allies, to the massive bas reliefs on the George Westinghouse Bridge. And, Frank Lloyd Wright apprentices Peter Berndston and Cornelia Brierly settled in Pittsburgh and designed dozens of Usonian-style homes.
Pittsburgh was also known for its contribution to the decorative arts. It was the home of Kensington Gift Ware, Ruba Rombic Glass, Pennwood Numechron clocks, and Wendall August Forge ornamental metalware. Through the work of industrial designer Peter Muller-Munk, whose firm continues to operate in Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh had a role in designing America. Among his accomplishments was design of the Normandie pitcher for Revere Copper and Brass.
Pittsburgh is fortunate to have an active preservation organization–the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation–working to restore and preserve the city’s rich heritage. The Foundation, currently led by Executive Director Louise Sturgess, holds frequent walking and bus tours to help expand knowledge and enjoyment of the multitude of treasures Pittsburgh has to offer.
There’s a lot to see and do in Pittsburgh. Take this short post-Congress tour as a quick sampler of the treasures Pittsburgh has to offer. Extend your tour to explore on your own or return later to continue your exploration.
Art Deco Society of Washington