Keystone Oaks students give the Hill District a facelift
On Monday, December 7, 2015, eleven Keystone Oaks students began developing ideas for a project that could potentially give the city of Pittsburgh a new personality.
The Hill District, once home to a thriving jazz community composed of almost 40 music clubs, has been supplanted by the remnants of the demolished Civic Arena, now a parking lot, and aging buildings that provide an unsightly and dated atmosphere. One of these buildings, the former Connelley Trade School built in 1930, has begun to start the trend towards renovation, modernization, and most importantly, environmental sustainability in the area, as almost $80 million have been invested in converting the school to a new structure, the Energy Innovation Center. The Energy Innovation Center is a not-for-profit organization hoping to engage corporate and community leaders, combine workforce development and education, develop and demonstrate technology, and encourage entrepreneurship that will grow emerging clean and sustainable energy markets.
The building is 200,000 square feet and will continue repairs throughout the year of 2016. “Green” features include a complex energy system that gathers data every few minutes on the cheapest source, buying the most cost effective option and running on self-generated energy when possible. In addition, the surface of the establishment’s parking lot has been made permeable, allowing water to penetrate and be collected to feed urban parks such as the rooftop garden in a new wing of the building’s construction.
The EIC also houses an “ice park”, located in the converted Olympic-sized swimming pool of the old trade school. The ice park serves to create ice at night, when doing so is cheapest, and in turn uses this ice to provide air conditioning for the building. In the future, the EIC has plans to design an environmentally friendly café, where packaged foods will hopefully becoming obsolete, limiting the impact of plastic wrappers on the surrounding ecosystem.
The historical restoration has worked to preserve and enhance existing structures, and has been successful in doing so, sporting only a single new addition, the glass elevator shaft that provides access for those with disabilities. The EIC will be home to a number of offices and research or development spaces that promote STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math) studies, housing names such as the University of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Mellon University, CCAC, and Penn State. Despite the drastic changes taking place inside the building, however, the front entrance poses an aesthetically displeasing problem, and for that reason the EIC has turned to Keystone Oaks, Carlynton, Quaker Valley, and South Fayette for a solution.
Hoping to capitalize on the creative ideas of high school students in the area, the EIC has invited each of the four schools to develop a plan for an environmentally sustainable courtyard that will replace the current “meadows” of overgrown grasses and front façade of worn brick. Each school, Keystone Oaks under the leadership of CADD instructor Mr. Oestreich, will design and submit a functional, eye-catching, and practical sketch. Components will be combined from each sketch to formulate a final, collaborative product. The sketches must take into consideration the noise of the busy outer street, rain-water runoff from the steep hill, slanted landscape, and most importantly, the culture of the Hill District as well as the surrounding city of Pittsburgh. In doing so, the EIC hopes our students can create a friendly and welcoming place for community members to enjoy, as well as a starting point for other neighboring businesses to begin the transition toward a greener existence.