The neighborhood of Oakland is the academic and healthcare center of Pittsburgh. Within this neighborhood resides the Pittsburgh Board of Education Administration Building. This building is an integral part of the Schenley Farms National Register Historic District which was designated July 22, 1983. The district includes residences and 24 commercial, religious, and institutional buildings that are designed in the Beaux Arts style of architecture, and is a grand display of the history and styles of European architecture. Ingham & Boyd also designed two additional buildings located within the district, the Western Pennsylvania Historical Society and the United Presbyterian Church. There is elegance to this part of the city with its large boulevards, green spaces, and dense collection of Beaux-Arts architecture, making one feel they are strolling the streets of a European city.
The facility depicts a version of Italian High Renaissance palace architecture in material from a scholarly period when pleasure, rather than excitement or profundity, was the architect’s objective. A grand four story, thirteen by four bay Italian palazzo with widely spaced fenestration on the exterior elevations is contrasted by a well-lit interior courtyard. The hip roof is adorned with terra-cotta tiles and small room-sized projections at the center of the west façade.
The fifth story is an attic story with square single sash paired windows in architrave frames; corner windows are oculars with ornate frames. Stone corner quoins and quoin strips delineate each bay. The third and fourth stories are adorned with rectangular recessed casement windows, and an architrave belt course above the third story and below the second. Third story windows have brackets supporting projecting sills with corner windows that are two stories – French doors with transoms, pediments, and stone balustrades.
The first and second stories have random-coursed smooth-faced ashlar, with windows again recessed casement style or sliding sash. A central entry has stilted arched transoms with metal grillwork and double-glass doors with sidelights. Stones are splayed in the arch above the door and wrought iron lamps flank the simple entry. The south elevation has a patio with stone balustrades punctuated by large foliated urns. The third and fourth stories on the south elevation have a grand triple-arched French window arrangement.
Ingham & Boyd spaced the exterior facade windows far apart in the Italian manner; in the well-lit large central garden court the windows are much closer to bring daylight into the offices. The design strategies of day-lighting and passive cooling have been reconsidered and utilize the current resurgence in sustainable best practices. On a summer afternoon, the green cortile with its central fountain is a charming oasis removed from the heat and the heavy traffic of the Oakland streets.