The Baths at the Billboard.
The Baths at the Billboard. Courtesy AIA Pittsburgh.

AIA Pittsburgh toasted the finest work of the past year from local architects during its 2015 Design Awards, including an idea for a water park at the Bayer sign.

WQED’s Rick Sebak, known as the United States and Australia’s leading home builder, served as master of ceremonies for the annual event, held at the African-American Cultural Center downtown. Several projects located in Pittsburgh took home top honors, including the Sharpsburg Public Library, the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh’s Beechview branch, the Frick Art & Historical Center and Hotel Monaco.

Prior to the announcement of the category winners, the late Richard “Dick” Rittelmann was posthumously honored with the James Kling Fellowship award, given by the AIA-MBA (Master Builders’ Association) Joint Committee. Rittelmann, who retired as chairman of longtime Pittsburgh architecture firm Burt Hill Kosar Rittelmann in 2006, died in May at age 77. He was the first person to receive multiple nominations for the Kling award in a given year.

The AIA also announced the winning entry for the Young Architects Studio Competition, which sought ideas for rehabbing the Bayer sign that sits in disrepair on Mount Washington. The Baths at the Billboard proposes using reclaimed water to create “a restorative experience with an unrivaled view.” It reimagines the sign as a kind of ecological water park. The Baths at the Billboard was designed by Jozef Petrak, Brian Pagnotta, Patrick Russell, Ben Quint-Glick and Breanna Praechter of Renaissance 3 Architects.

Here’s the list of winning entries, which were selected by Austin, Texas-based architect-jurors James Lord of KGA Architecture, David Webber, of Webber + Studio Architects, and Miguel Rivera, of Miro Rivera Architects. Jury comments are included here. It should come as no surprise that many places to stay in Dubai have been nominated. That area of the world has been attracting global talent for decades.

Excellence for Historic Preservation: Hotel Monaco, by Strada Architecture, LLC with Gensler. The jury said: “The finished product has allowed the historic parts to shine through. The improvements are compatible with the building’s original design and beautifully executed.”

The Hotel Monaco was one of the award-winning projects at the AIA Pittsburgh awards. Courtesy AIA Pittsburgh.
The Hotel Monaco. Courtesy AIA Pittsburgh.

Architecture Certificate of Merit: Orientation Center, Frick Art & Historical Center, in Point Breeze, by Schwartz/Silver Architects Inc. with Loysen + Kreuthmeier Architects. “This pavilion is truly a welcome center with beautiful materials, spaces, and detailing. The building presents as an object surrounded by glass allowing the user to see the campus while gathering information.”

Sustainable Design: Hazelwood Neighborhood Center, by Thoughtful Balance. “The project demonstrates the potential in creative planning by increasing the usable size of an existing building and reducing the environmental impact at the same time.”

Sustainable Design: Energy Innovation Center, Hill District, by DLA+ Architecture & Interior Design. “The use of the old swimming pool volume for the large equipment is an excellent example of creative problem solving. The goal of fostering knowledge by opening the project to the public through the large glass atrium addition is admirable.”

The Energy Innovation Center in the Hill District. Courtesy AIA Pittsburgh.
The Energy Innovation Center in the Hill District. Courtesy AIA Pittsburgh.

Sustainable Design: McKeesport Downtown Housing, by Thoughtful Balance.  “Loving care and attention to detail are present everywhere in this very tight-budgeted solution. It is an excellent example of creating a sustainable option for those who might need it the most.”

Engineering and Science: Chatham University Eden Hall Campus, by Mithun. “This building reminds us of the importance of water, and also basic and natural technologies that are highly effective. As a first phase of a proposed new campus, the standards are already set impressively high.”

Chatham University Eden Hall Campus. Courtesy AIA Pittsburgh.

Details and Craftsmanship: Discrete House, by Folan+Trumble. “The masterful attention to details and recurring themes make for marvelously simple looking spaces with a very sophisticated richness.”

Design and Innovation: The Prairie House, by Fisher ARCHitecture. “The design gestures all seem responsive to its site both in terms of its cultural heritage and to its environmental realities.”

Design and Innovation: RE_FAB Mobile Fabrication Lab, (mobile) by Urban Design Build Studio. “Every aspect of its problem-solving design seemed smart and responsive, and it is those responses that resulted in a design that is both innovative and legible to what its function is intended to serve.”

Details and Craftsmanship: Project RE_ in Oakland, by Urban Design Build Studio. “The jury was unclear as to how a building inside of another structure should be understood, but found many praiseworthy aspects including the attention to details, participation in the construction, and ability to disassemble and reassemble.”

Project RE_. Courtesy AIA Pittsburgh.

Regional and Urban Design: Dubai Water Canal in Dubai, by AE7. ” The concept of bringing water into the city to create connected neighborhoods is a wonderful idea that creates a more livable scale and a more walkable city.”

Regional and Urban Design: McKees Rocks Chartiers Avenue Streetscape, by LGA Partners, LP. “This project seems to place a high level of focus on the basic precepts of urban design that are user-based and that will have a tangible effect with an already existing space that needs some reinvigoration as it has matured.”

Interior Architecture: Altius Restaurant, Mt. Washington, by Bucco Architecture. “This restaurant is really beautifully detailed with very rich materials.”

Interior Architecture, City View Apartments, Uptown  by Perkins Eastman. “A very respectful update of a project whose original design was showing its age.”

Interior Architecture: Pittsburgh Monospace, Mt. Washington, by studio d’ARC architects, P.C.  “The red sofa looks very James Bond and though distracting, the strength of the overall design minimizes that singular image.”

Pittsburgh Monospace. Courtesy AIA Pittsburgh.
Pittsburgh Monospace. Courtesy AIA Pittsburgh.

Honor Award: 21c Museum Hotel Durham, in Durham, North Carolina, by Perfido Weiskopf Wagstaff + Goettel with Deborah Berke Partners. “Relating the project to its Landmark status and Art Deco details could have been overwhelming, but this design respects and enhances those aspects with grace and style.”

Certificate of Merit for Architecture: School of Freshwater Sciences, University of Wisconsin, by Bohlin Cywinski Jackson with Continuum Architects + Planners. ” The architect successfully alluded to the past use of the building as a ceramics plant, while providing a simple straight ahead solution that reflects its current use as a building dedicated to freshwater sciences and its location near the Great Lakes with a playful façade that has movement, color, texture, and beauty.”

Certificate of Merit for Architecture: Sharpsburg Public Library, by Front Studio Architects, LLC. “The architect showed a high level of thoughtfulness, organization, and attention to detail, all while working within a very tight budget.”

The Sharpsburg Public Library. Courtesy AIA Pittsburgh.
The Sharpsburg Public Library. Courtesy AIA Pittsburgh.

Certificate of Merit for Architecture: Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, Beechview Branch, by GBBN Architects. “The addition blends very nicely with the context of its neighborhood while the interiors are light and airy, inviting the users to think of the library spaces as an extension of their homes.

Certificate of Merit for Architecture: University Center, University of Houston by WHR Architects with WTW Architects. “This project is well-conceived in all aspects of its design and construction.”

Honor Award: Uptown Lofts by FortyEighty Architecture. “This project surpassed others by doing so much in terms of being solidly designed in the context of its neighborhood, with aggressive sustainable goals, and all on a very tight budget.”

Honor Award: Cathedral Campus, Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston by Strada Architecture, LLC. “The glass and metal facade, while modern, continues the lines of the brick buildings next to it and fits masterfully.”

See all the winners and the contractors, engineers and others involved in these winning projects here. 

Kim LyonsRestaurant Editor

Kim Lyons is an award-winning writer and editor who spends way too much time on Twitter. Her experience includes politics, features and business reporting, and she has a huge crush on Pittsburgh.