Pittsburgh Board of Education Administration Building

Location: Pittsburgh, PA
Completion: 1928
Services: Architecture

The neighborhood of Oakland is the academic and healthcare center of Pittsburgh. Within this neighborhood resides the Pittsburgh Board of Public Education 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 twenty-four 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. The architects 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, makes one feel they are strolling the streets of a European city.

­The Board of Public Education Building was completed in 1938. The building is an example of Italian High Renaissance palace architecture in material from a scholarly period when pleasure, rather than excitement of profundity, was the architect’s object. A grand four story (with attic story) thirteen by four bay Italian palazzo with widely spaced fenestration on the exterior elevations, contrasted by a well-lit interior courtyard.

The exterior facade windows are spaced 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, are practices that have been reconsidered are being utilized currently as 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.

Other features that define the style are utilized. The hip roof is adorned with terra-cotta tiles; windows in architrave frames; ocular windows with ornate frames. Stone corner quoins and quoin strips delineate each bay. An architrave belt course defines each floor. Windows with brackets supporting projecting sills and two stories tall – French doors with transoms; pediments, stone balustrades and smooth faced ashlar complete the composition.

The building resides in the midst of two university campus and is the steward of secondary education in the city. Preparing the young residents of the city to one day, hopefully, attend one of these institutions and shape the future.