POSITIONING a public space

A hall of this dimension doesn’t depend on its environment: it creates its environment.              Mies van der Rohe

Contrary Mies theory on exhibition halls, the design of the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, which I had the pleasure of working on with Tomo draws upon formal and symbolic references from its place of site: The City of Pittsburgh.


By working with references established by the geometry of Allegheny River and the City Street grid the building’s basic geometry was formed. By adopting the river and the city order as an operative geometry, it allows the building be responsive to the site. These two forces constantly served as a reminder to its positioning within the urban fabric. The shape of the roof which served as a figurative gesture, echoes the sister bridges of Pittsburgh.  It places the building into the context as a symbolic embedment. In many ways, the adopted guidelines from the site are justifications for context correctness. As opposed to the architecture of global homogenization.

Considerations of positioning also involves linking downtown to the Strip District, as well as the water feature connecting the City to the River.  Similar to Boston North End, where a separation was created by the interstate highway.  The connection between Downtown and the Strip are bisected by I-376, which separates one neighborhood from another.  To further establish the relationship between the City and the River, the Tenth Street Water Feature was devised.  Essentially a passageway linking the street to the river, the water feature opens up toward the Allegheny as the horizontal surface descents with two diagonal, water cascading surfaces, the water feature becomes a public space that downtown Pittsburgh lacks.