Preservation Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh, PA

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When the City of Pittsburgh called for the demolition of their iconic “Igloo” Civic Arena in 2010, Preservation Pittsburgh held a design competition in an effort to save this piece of history. Built in 1961, the Igloo was the first retractable dome building in the US. Despite its architectural prestige, the Igloo represented the city’s historic social tension as it disconnected a predominantly low-income residential community from Pittsburgh’s economically prosperous commercial center. Choosing to accept this part of Pittsburgh’s history rather than erase it, VITAL reimagined the existing Igloo structure as a series of buildings framing a grand public space captured underneath the original stainless steel dome. As a permeable hub, the new Igloo would facilitate the intersection of disparate communities and provide an important avenue for public gathering in the cold Pittsburgh winters. The proposal features amenities absent in the area, including public plazas and a grocery store. VITAL’s Igloo is a place of connection—in stark contrast to its history of separation. However, in late 2011, the Igloo was demolished in response to the escalating political pressure to remove a competing entertainment venue adjacent to the new hockey arena.

“The VITAL proposal illustrated an impressive understanding of the existing built environment, while also having a transformative vision of what the site could become. Their design would have effectively saved the iconic aspects of the Arena while repurposing it for practical, new uses. The repurposed Arena would have been a uniquely Pittsburgh destination.”
– Scott Leib, Past President, Preservation Pittsburgh