Pittsburgh Parking Authority
9th & Penn Garage

  • Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
  • October 2018
  • Unbuilt

Can a parking structure be a work of art? Just as an artist starts with a blank canvas, designing a structure that both blends in and stands out as part of the fabric of a community requires a nuanced understanding of the talent and creativity that is part of that community’s history. By letting the local talent tell their story, the 9th and Penn Garage presents a shared opportunity to define and magnify the character of a neighborhood while expanding the possibilities of a modern parking structure in the 21st century.


Sitting in the heart of Pittsburgh’s Cultural District, this concept for a garage at the intersection of Ninth Street and Penn Avenue adds a functional and vibrant outpost to the city’s epicenter of creativity. The proposed design features a sculptural façade celebrating the artists of Pittsburgh. Concrete portals provide commissioned artists with a showcase for their individual art styles in a suspended gallery. At night, these portals and elevator lobbies will glow with light-reflecting art to provide a backdrop and respite space for evening patrons, employees, and visitors.


Traditionally, garages have been a means to an end, a place to house your vehicle within a structure that efficiently utilizes limited high-value land. Urban occupants require connectivity and may spend time in their parked car: conducting business, listening to music or a podcast, scrolling through social media, or studying. Options including electric vehicle charging stations, Wi-Fi and Cell service repeaters, space location indicators, bike storage and repair, restrooms, and a common area build-out with vending and phone charging stations support these needs and are considered integral to the design. This concept seeks the highest ParkSmart Certification available.


The proposed garage becomes part of the mosaic of the cultural district’s artistic expressions and plays the role of a sculpture, performance venue, and gathering place. It will serve as a revolving door for patrons and artists en route to a dynamic sensory experience. From below, the large, accessible art portals add visual interest to the neighborhood and can be enjoyed by garage users,
street pedestrians, and the vehicular passersby at all hours of the day. As the sun goes down, visitors can ascend to a rooftop green space for hosting live bands, private parties, and networking events while immersed in the dimming backdrop of the city entering the day’s final act.


Standing as a symbol of opportunity, community, and expression, the garage design strives to minimize the adverse contextual impact that a new hub of activity can create. Careful consideration is given to light pollution in order to create a balanced design that is respectful to neighbors and local businesses. To ensure safety and security of patrons, passive security measures would be incorporated including long span bays, column-free parking, abundant natural lighting, glazed stairs and elevators, limited access points, and speed ramps for efficient post-event departure. The design team also proposed a solution for a potential adaptive reuse of the garage. Should car ownership decline, rideshare use increase, and autonomous vehicles become more prevalent, a portion of the floor plate can be converted into a future pedestrian and retail use.

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