Portal to the Point

Pittsburgh, PA

Pittsburgh, like many American cities, has significant storm water issues. Point State Park can be a receptor for a new green infrastructure that knits across Commonwealth Place with new green finger parks that connect to existing open space corridors and new green streets. Water from the city is channeled into the park becoming more evident and expressive in the transition from city, to portal, to point. Draining and cascading in an open channel down the grade toward the Portal with additional flow coming from the roof of the new structure, water is experienced variably around the structural arms of the extended portal. This water is then carried through the archway to a series of wetland areas that help to filter it before discharging into the Allegheny River. Water’s productive potential is expressed and natural hydrologic function restored through a diversity of operations that also transform the experience of the park.

Fundamental to this strategy is development of a softened edge along the river to manage variable flows while stacking an urban pedestrian and bicycle circulation over the broad inlet. Looking back over millennia of geologic change it became apparent that the Allegheny side of the point has experienced much more dramatic shifts in the location of the channel than the Monongahela which has conversely remained in a fairly constant channel. As a result of this discovery as well as research about historic industrial canal structures in the park, we carved into the bulkhead edge on the North side of the site to receive and flush upland drainage while on the south side of the park proposing new pier structures that facilitate protected small craft access. Redefinition of the edge with varied experience, additional shade, better upland access, will improve not only the experience of the park but also its function as natural environmental filter for the city. The mediated perimeter path stretches to a sharp point at the end which will bracket free fl owing river water that is lit at night, mirroring the magic of the portal.

On the city side of Point State Park, the “cultural stadium” features the relocated Fort Pitt Museum and an extension of the “T” beyond the Wood Street station. These amenities create a western edge to the cultural district, which currently features Pittsburgh’s dynamic art and entertainment scene. Despite its name, Point State Park lacks an actual point, so new walkways are created leading out to the point where the Ohio River is created. This new point is lit and visible from Mount Washington, further defining the park’s identity.

"Portal to the Point, A Design Ideas Exploration", 2011. www.portaltothepoint.org


Project completed with Marlon Blackwell Architect. www.marlonblackwell.com