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ACSA/AISC Design Competition

This undergraduate studio project was part of a nationwide competition to design a Museum of Steel in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on an underutilized stretch of waterfront along the Monongahela River. The adjacent Carrie Furnace site, now zoned a brownfield, formed the backdrop for the proposed museum and reinforced the importance of the steel industry in America’s history. Entrants were encouraged to develop a museum which celebrated both steel’s historic significance and innovative qualities.

A diminishing industry in America today, steel manufacturing was a booming and innovative phenomenon which dramatically shaped our country’s landscape for nearly a century. Industrial facilities in the United States lay vacant and decaying like open wounds which never healed. The ‘liminal tower’ and its wings seek to address these industrial ruins by interlacing past and present and encouraging a new dialog between the two. Inhabitable and uninhabitable regions create an interplay between solid and void which maintains the conscious readability of the structures while enticing the subconscious to curiously wayfind and discover untold realms.

The tower is composed of three basic elements: the shell, the sky bridge, and the suspended theater. The shell has a rigorous structural rhythm and acts as a hollow container for a collection of incidents. The tower’s shell represents the steel industry as it sits like a ruin in the landscape, recalling the booming industrial past, but sitting dormant and somber. The lighted sky bridge penetrates the tower and provides regional, panoramic views. The sky bridge represents the progression of time - continually moving along, regardless of historic trends or technological paradigm shifts. The embedded theater hides in the shell of the tow¬er and is revealed only from the interior courtyard glazing wall. The curious, floating, red box represents a spirit of inquiry and reminds inhabitants that the steel industry has enabled such surprises to exist and delight. Each element has a relationship to the past, present, and future which promotes conscious and subconscious awareness and introspection.