Committee on Environment, Geography and Urbanization

Division of Social Sciences, The University of Chicago

April 28, 2022

PGE Students Explore Pittsburgh’s Common Buildings

by Mati Yang

This past weekend, students from Imagining Pittsburgh’s Common Buildings, taught by Luke Joyner, traveled to Pittsburgh as part of their midterm review and research for their final projects. The course is an architectural studio that focuses on exploring the built environment of Pittsburgh and Chicago, specifically the residential buildings and social context of the city, with the final project centered around designing a common building within a neighborhood of Pittsburgh. The goal of this course is to examine both Pittsburgh and Chicago and learn about the history of their common buildings, especially the people who live there and the social significance of housing in the creation of a city.

Throughout the three day trip, students, accompanied by faculty and alumni, deepened their understanding of the city while scouting out a site for the final project. On the first day, the class held midterm reviews at the University of Pittsburgh, visited the Andy Warhol Museum, and finished the day off by settling into their respective Airbnbs. Students were separated into two Airbnbs—one located in the Polish Hill neighborhood and the other in Bloomfield, as each location was vastly different in culture and geography, providing different histories and context to Pittsburgh.

The class began the second day with an exploration of Polish Hill and a tour of TAI+LEE Architects, splitting up after the tour to go on different regional trips led by Luke Joyner, Evan Carver, and Nootan Bharani. Luke Joyner led his group of students to Meadowcroft/Old Economy, where they experienced fun activities like spear throwing and pottery. Meanwhile, Evan’s group biked through the city to an abandoned steel mill, where the group learned about Pittsburgh’s history with steel and the social history of the people who worked at the mills. Last but not least, Nootan brought her group to Frank Lloyd Wright’s famous homes, Fallingwater and Kentuck Knob, as they hiked around the area and toured his architectural works.

On the third day, students separated into small explore groups and scouted out many neighborhoods. Through this activity, the class was able to decide on a site for the final project: the South Side Flats and Slopes. The students spent their afternoon with their project groups and chose sites within the neighborhood, reconvening in the evening and ending the three day trip with a boat ride that touched all three of Pittsburgh’s rivers. By being able to truly immerse into local neighborhoods for a few days, students learned about Pittsburgh’s culture and the various residential fabrics that make up the city.