On Our Desktop: Four New Pittsburgh Homes

As sure as it is a New Year, Fisher ARCHitecture is designing four new Pittsburgh homes. They couldn’t be more different:

House 1

Two tech-entrepreneurs have bought a remarkable South Side Slopes property with partially screened views of Pittsburgh. Their expressed goal is to build a special home for themselves in the heart of the city they love.

a) Expressionism: Our first take, depicted above on the left, recalls the Diller+Scofidio Slow House and the famed Casa Malaparte in Capri, Italy. Our idea was to create a curved pier that turns from the street toward the view, extending down the contoured site with interior program elements located below.

b) Terratecture: Our second take shows the building emerging from the eggplant-colored ground like an archeological ruin. Much of the building would be hidden when viewed from afar. Our thought is that no building is ever more beautiful than its setting.

c) Structuralism: Foundations are expensive when your house is located on a coal seam… Our third take floats the project on wood piers set on concrete caissons. This version maximizes the project views while minimizing cost.

After reviewing these sketches at our office, our clients commented that, “obviously, failure is not an option, in this project”.  Which scheme will they choose. We’ll know soon!

House 2

Old meets New: A local business owner and his wife have purchased a hundred year old  gatehouse, depicted above on the right, in one of Pittsburgh’s nicest neighborhoods.  We were planning to renovate the home until a tree fell on it and destroyed it just after the closing. Really, you can’t make these things up!

Our new plan is to save the stone walls of the old home – They represent old Pittsburgh at its best  – and to fashion from them a garden courtyard with an art gallery that preserves the outline of the old home. Then we plan to build a new home on the site that relates in its size and configuration to the existing homes up and down the street.

The owners love the idea.  We’re currently studying how to best brace the wall so it can hold itself up…

House 3

to·tem /ˈtōdəm/
• A person or thing regarded as being symbolic or representative of a particular quality or concept.

A young couple has found a vacant property in North Point Breeze where they will build a modestly sized, progressive home with two offices.

I drew our first sketch, included above to the right, while the clients watched.  It showed the two offices facing one another with a rooftop garden in between.  They liked the idea. He’d work in one office. She’s work in the other. We called it the “Love House”.  This early model shows that sketch developed into architecture.

House 4

Structural Derring-do: A future-thinking couple who moved to Pittsburgh from abroad were hoping to build a home on a vacant downtown lot. When they couldn’t get the price down to what they wanted, they considered this property high up on the Southside slopes that features spectacular views of the City.

Although building here is permitted, the site is so steep that that drillers and geotech folk can’t access it. Our challenge has been to design a home that could be built entirely with equipment set up on the street.

The resulting triangle shape gives the owners more than enough usable square footage. And the rooftop pool and Parametric wall would have been show-stoppers.  However, there were too many up-front costs to suit the owners, who bought an East End tear-down instead, which we will begin to design come Spring…

Four new Pittsburgh homes: Let’s see how the designs develop!

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