After six years of planning, fundraising and construction, Mellon Square Park, long considered an outstanding example of modernist urban design, will hold a public rededication ceremony to officially reopen one of Downtown’s most iconic and innovative green spaces.
“Every landscape has an evolution and a story to tell,” says Susan Rademacher, parks coordinator for the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy, adding that Mellon Square isn’t just a vital space in heart of the region, but an historic example in the realm of green roofs.
In restoring Mellon Square Park, the PPC looked directly to the park’s history. The conservancy worked with Vermont-based Heritage Landscapes and local architecture firm Pfaffmann + Associates to replicate and update the work of original design firms Simonds & Simonds and Mitchell & Ritchey. Local firm PJ Dick did the construction.
In one case, the conservancy was able to use one of the same vendors from the park’s initial construction. The park’s fountains, made of bronze basins by North Side metal workers Matthews Foundry, were shipped back across the river and restored by the company’s current incarnation, Matthews International.
“We reconstructed both of the fountains to replicate the original design of Mellon Square,” Rademacher says. “The bronze basins in the fountain were the largest of their kind ever made in a single casting.”
Among other improvements, park patrons will notice LED lighting in fountains, trees and walkways, a terrace overlooking Smithfield Street and a rustic paving design of marble chips and bronze arranged in interlocking angles.
When it opened in 1955, Mellon Square was hailed as a masterwork of urban landscape architecture and called “the Square in the heart of the Golden Triangle.” But like many parts of Pittsburgh, it fell into disrepair as the local economy collapsed and the city couldn’t afford to properly maintain it.
Rademacher says she doesn’t anticipate that being a problem in the near future. Of the $10 million raised for the project, $4 million will go directly into a fund set aside for park maintenance.
To celebrate Mellon Square’s rededication, the PPC will host a free, public celebration with music, food and other festivities on Thursday from noon to 1:30 p.m.