The expansive, two-story main lobby and lounge areas of the Glasshouse apartments are filled with fabulous and colorful works of art, from a massive mural to dazzling glass art to an enormous wood collage dense with Pittsburgh signs.
While the project’s developer, High Street Residential (in partnership with Northwest Mutual), is based in Dallas, and the art curator is from Atlanta, many of the custom art pieces in the lobby and throughout the Glasshouse buildings are from Pittsburgh makers.
There’s the striking Ron Copeland collage called “The City” (see photo above), which spans more than 800 square feet and is set dramatically high over the building’s Jewelbox Lounge.
And outside each apartment door is a beautifully crafted glass disc with the unit number (photo left). The finishing touch above each glass disc is a handcrafted glass pendant light shaped like a soup can, a nod to Pittsburgh’s own Andy Warhol.
From the start, the curator for the development wanted to showcase local makers and artists throughout the complex but needed connections in Pittsburgh to make it happen. She reached out to Monmade — a trade group for craft businesses and makers in Pittsburgh — for help in finding the right local artisans who could create the dramatic pieces she had in mind.
“We’re that conduit that connects and helps grow these creative businesses,” says Katie Schaible, Monmade‘s design and development specialist. Her group pointed the way to all the talented makers showcased at Glasshouse.
They have made similar connections before, for projects like Eastside Bond, an apartment complex that teamed up with the Pittsburgh Glass Center to display pendant lights in the model apartment. The collaboration enhanced the beauty of the space while giving local glass artists exposure.
At times Monmade’s role is to simply introduce a maker to a developer or other client looking for distinctive pieces. But sometimes their work goes a step further.
At the Glasshouse on the South Side, Monmade helped designer Carl Bajandas and his studio Other Wonders work out plans for glass signage to be used throughout the property — on a budget.
They found a manufacturer in Jeannette — JSG Oceana, the last manufacturer in the region making a particular type of pressed glass — that was already making glass discs that could be used to create door signage. As a small company with limited time to seek out new clients, JSG had never considered working with a design firm on this type of project. They were delighted to find a new source of income for something they already produced.
The front door pendant lights that look like metal soup cans were created by Vessel Studio Glass.
Like other art on display there, the pendant lights incorporate glass as an element at this development which is located on the former site of glass factories. (Historic fun fact: Glass factories were located here because they could easily mine sand from what was then a massive sandbar in the middle of the Monongahela River.)
Again, Monmade fostered those connections: “When someone comes in from another city, they need to know what’s going on in your town,” Schaible explains. Working with them “wraps into our vision of having a lot of local product or local representation of Pittsburgh flair, and doing it in an elegant way.”
Eighth & Penn
As the interior designer, Sharon Ginocchi had a vision for the lobby of the new Eighth & Penn development Downtown: Warm and welcoming with distinctive furnishings that echo the building’s history. And she wanted local art.
Developers — in this case TREK Development and Q Development — know that custom furnishings and striking works of art can increase the appeal of a residential or office building. They are also becoming increasingly aware of the benefits of working with local makers to support the local economy and to promote their work.
But even with the desire to support local makers, finding the right ones can seem like a luxury that time and budgets just don’t permit.
So along with scouring auctions for unique art, Ginocchi approached Monmade.
Among the coolest items that came out of the collaboration: A dramatic wall (pictured right) created by Brian Peters and his firm Building Bytes, which designs and fabricates custom 3D printed ceramic blocks and tiles for architectural applications.
Inspired by the intricate architectural design on the exterior of the McNally building (one of the two historic sections of Eighth & Penn), Peters’ company 3D-printed 136 open ceramic blocks inset into a wood frame and backed with colored acrylic, forming a wall that separates the lobby from the building’s office. The number of blocks matches the number of apartments in the new complex.
Peters’ creations have been popular elsewhere in the country, but Eighth & Penn was among the first clients he collaborated with since he moved to Pittsburgh.
The Eighth & Penn development also includes pendant lights made by the Pittsburgh Glass Center and several cool items by metalsmith Greg Gehner, all nods to the building’s history.
During excavation for the newly built section of Eighth & Penn, construction crews found several stone blocks still intact from what was once the Heeren Building. These relics were too beautiful not to preserve, but Ginocchi had to find a creative way to use them.
So Gehner was called upon to create metal holders to display these pieces on the lobby’s walls, with several arranged like numbers on a massive clock. He then created one huge, metal clock hand to bring the whole art installation together and serve as a reminder of the building’s history — long ago, one section of the building was a watchmaking factory.
The storytelling by local makers doesn’t end there: The Bonn and McNally buildings were also once home to a manufacturer of woolen clothing. Ginocchi envisioned a large, welcoming table for the lobby that had legs shaped like enormous clothespins.
Gehner rose to the challenge again, creating dramatic table legs out of metal, while local sculptor Brian Ferrell handcrafted the wood tabletop.