IKM Inc

Allegheny County Jail Adaptive Reuse


Location: Pittsburgh, PA
Completion: 2000
Project Area: 200,000 ft2
Services: Architecture
Awards: National Design Build Institute Award for the Best Rehabilitation/Restoration (as well as 10 other project design awards – see below)


IKM Incorporated was commissioned by Allegheny County to design the conversion of the National Historic Landmark Allegheny County Jail into a facility for the Family Division of the Court of Common Pleas.

Our design for the jail reuse project is based on appropriate degrees of preservation, restoration and adaptation. The spaces involved include court and hearing rooms, offices, waiting areas (witnesses, victims and defendants), holding areas, separate entrances, secure corridors, and judges’ chambers and security clearance areas and guard stations. The project also includes public accesses, a cafe linked to an outdoor courtyard, and other courtyards.

Four existing wings radiating like spokes from the central rotunda are the organizing elements for the interior space, and this central focus will remain as originally designed, a partially expressed octagonal colonnade which culminates in a “semi-Gothic” octagonal dome. New work within the old structure is detailed in such a way as to create a formal or visual separation between the old and new, enabling us to realize the need to express the new functional complexity of the program.

Our design retains the important public and civic focus and provides the following:

•  The economy of reusing a structurally sound, functional building for a compatible use rather than erecting a new structure.

•  Consolidation of the Family Division of the Courts into a single, secure building with controlled public access that maintains adjacencies to other County offices.

•  A use that conforms to the building plan, does not adversely affect the historic exterior, and allows the significant spatial characteristics of the interior to remain and serve as focal points of the new scheme.

•  The opening of the former prison yards to the street and their use as public gardens, further enhancing that portion of the downtown area and any future proposed development.

•  The opportunity to relocate historic artifacts from the interior, mostly unseen by the public for over 100 years, into museum or exhibit settings.

Below are a list of awards received for this project:

  • Best Rehabilitation/Restoration/Renovation National Design-Build Institute Award – Design-Build Education and Research Foundation
  • Reconstruction Project Award – Building Design & Construction Magazine
  • Historic Preservation Construction Project Award Preservation Pennsylvania and the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission
  • Preservation Award Historic Review Commission of Pittsburgh
  • Commendation Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation
  • Merit Award AIA Pennsylvania
  • Honor Award AIA Pittsburgh
  • Building Excellence Award, Design-Build – Master Builders Association of Western Pennsylvania
  • TOBY – The Office Building of the Year, (Government Building) – BOMA – Building Operating and Managers Association
  • Finalist Business Week Architectural Record Awards