The Senator John Heinz Pittsburgh Regional History Center

200,000 square feet, Adaptive Re-use
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

The Senator John Heinz Pittsburgh Regional History Center is a museum, library, archive, and educational facility celebrating the rich history of Western Pennsylvania. Commissioned by the Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania, the History Center is housed in a century-old restored warehouse.

The building has a plain, muscular quality that bespeaks Pittsburgh’s industrial heritage. Originally used for ice storage, its first floor is tall enough to accommodate the rail cars that delivered the ice. In keeping with its original purpose, the building has relatively few and small windows—a good match for both exhibit and archival storage areas where protection from ultraviolet light is paramount.

The overall design strategy emphasizes the strong character of the building’s original structural materials. New systems, such as exposed ductwork, conduit, and low-voltage lighting systems are integrated with the structure, while adhering to the same direct, unembellished design approach of the old building. New structural glass walls maintain visually open interior spaces, and establish a clear distinction between new construction and existing building fabric. The resulting amalgam of old and new is a fitting setting for the interpretation and celebration of history in America’s foremost industrial city.

Project with Bohlin Cywinski Jackson, Photography copyright Karl Backus