Alcoa Building, North Shore

The Alcoa headquarters is a modernist symphony in aluminum. Father Pitt confesses to liking this building a great deal better than the old Alcoa building downtown, which still looks like a pile of old television sets to him.

Frederick Osterling’s Architectural Studio

Frederick Osterling built this charming little building in 1917 to be his office and studio. From it he had  a fine view of the Pittsburgh skyline that he was helping shape—a view now blocked by the new Alcoa building.

Koppers and Gulf Towers

Our two most splendid Art Deco skyscrapers, as seen from Crawford Street in the Hill. This view is made possible by the demolition of the old Civic Arena, and will disappear when the currently vacant lot is filled again.

Litchfield Towers, Oakland

“Distinctive” is a good neutral term for these skyscraper dormitories that loom over the Oakland business district. The architect was Dahlen Ritchey, who designed three cylinders of unequal heights that he designated A, B, and C. Students quickly named them Ajax, Bab-O, and Comet.

Strand Theatre Building, Oakland

This once-splendid movie house on Forbes Avenue was designed by Harry S. Bair, a specialist in neighborhood movie palaces who also designed the Regent in East Liberty. According to comments on, it was built with the screen at the street end: you had to walk up a long hall to come in at the rear of the theater. Thus it took advantage of the hillside location to make a naturally sloped auditorium. The building ceased to be a theater about four decades ago; it is now retail stores and apartments.

The picture above is a composite of four photographs.

Mt. Lebanon Municipal Building

Mount Lebanon is a township, technically speaking; but it feels more like a city of its own. Post-Gazette columnist Peter Leo always referred to it as “the Great State of Mount Lebanon,” which sums up how Pittsburghers think Mount Lebanese think of themselves. The central business district is “uptown”—a word that means an area outside downtown in most cities (even Pittsburgh itself), but in southwestern Pennsylvania usually means a downtown area that happens to be on a hilltop. Uptown and the surrounding area is now a national historic district, and this 1930 Art Deco building is one of its gems: it is the masterpiece of its architect, William Henry King, Jr.

A decade-old article from the Trib has quite a bit of good information about the building.

Camera: Canon PowerShot S45. The picture of the whole building above is a composite of four photographs.

U. S. Steel Tower

U. S. Steel is actually moving out of this tower to a new building to be constructed in its shadow, where the Civic Arena used to be. But this will always be the building that says “steel” on the skyline, or (depending on your opinion of the architecture) the building that says 2001: A Space Odyssey. When it opened in 1971, it was the tallest building outside New York and Chicago. Though there are many taller buildings now, it is still record-breakingly massive. There is no other building with a roof that big that high. All taller skyscrapers are narrower at the top; the U. S. Steel Tower is an acre on each floor and an acre on the roof. There is a good bit more office space in here than in the Empire State Building.

The architects were Harrison & Abramowitz, who also gave us the noticeably similar Westinghouse Building (now called 11 Stanwix) and the Alcoa Building (Regional Enterprise Tower for a while, but seems to be called something else now).