West 8, BIG and Atelier Ten have revealed their masterplan design for Pittsburgh’s Lower Hill district, just outside the city’s downtown region. Located on the former site of Pittsburgh’s Civic Arena, which was demolished in 2012 and has since left a significant hole in the city’s fabric, the design will bring 1,200 residences and over 1 million square feet of retail space to the area, while reconnecting the wider Hill District with the downtown core by reinstating the city’s road grid, overlaid with a series of pedestrian footpaths, public plazas and green spaces.
The masterplan design takes advantage of Pittsburgh’s sloping topography, with terraced roofs on the residential buildings to offer views and outdoor space to residents, while zig-zagging pedestrian paths provide gently sloping routes through the site, combining with the buildings to define a number of triangular neighborhood plazas. At the eastern edge of the site, closest to the downtown, towers surround the largest open public space, just a short distance from the Pittsburgh Penguins’ current home at Consol Energy Center.
West 8 is an award-winning international office for urban design and landscape architecture, founded in 1987 with offices in Rotterdam, New York and Belgium. Over the last 25 years West 8 has established itself as a leading practice with an international team of 70 architects, urban designers, landscape architects and industrial engineers. West 8’s New York office was established after winning an international design competition in 2006 for the design of Governors Island Park – a 172-acre island in the New York Harbor.
With a multi-disciplinary approach to complex design issues, West 8 has extensive experience in large-scale urban master planning and design, landscape interventions, waterfront projects, parks, squares and gardens. They also develop concepts and visions for large-scale planning issues that address global warming, urbanization and infrastructure.
Working on an international level from its start, West 8 developed projects all over the world in places such as Copenhagen, London, Moscow, New York, Madrid, Hamburg, Toronto, Amsterdam, Shanghai and Seoul. The office gained international recognition with projects such as Schouwburgplein in Rotterdam (NL), Borneo Sporenburg in Amsterdam (NL), Chiswick Park in London (UK), Expo ’02 in Yverdon-les-Bains (CH) and Miami SoundScape (USA). Many of the projects are the result of groundbreaking entries in important international competitions. Recently won competitions include West Kowloon Cultural District Park (HK), Governors Island in New York (USA), Madrid Rio (ES), Sagrera Linea Park (ES), and Yongsan Park in Seoul (KR).
West 8 approaches the production of nature in two different – but characteristically Dutch – ways. First, they take a classic civil engineering approach for creating landscape – a logic based on utility and necessity. Second, they are part of a landscape tradition that confers identity and, therefore, understand the need for creating symbols in the production of landscape. This method envisions a new nature, a ‘second nature’ of constructed landscapes that respond to pragmatic demands (water management, population growth, traffic congestion) and also reinforce the culture to which they belong (identity, symbols, expression).
In a departure from the old demolish and install engineering methodology, or the current preserve and protect model, they are adding and expressing new natures. They say the real future in today’s debate about sustainability lies not in a political or philosophical dialogue about what to protect or how to ‘sustain’ it, but rather how to actively create new ecologies. Creating land and then painting it: in many ways, this is the soul of Dutch culture.