A piece of history: Heinz Endowments is revamping the 31st floor of EQT Tower
November 11, 2016 12:00 AM
The entry area on the 31st floor of the EQT Building, Downtown. The floor was renovated by the Heinz Endowments as meeting space for strategy sessions with nonprofits and civic leaders.
A detail of the garden wall along the hallway on the 31st floor of the EQT Building, Downtown. The floor was renovated by the Heinz Endowments as meeting space for strategy sessions with nonprofits and civic leaders.
A detail of a steel mural — created by Project RE, a social enterprise dedicated to reusing materials, retraining individuals and realizing potential through design — is featured in the entry area on the 31st floor of the EQT Building, Downtown.
The 31st floor of the EQT Building.
By Joyce Gannon / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The Heinz Endowments’ freshly refurbished meeting space on the 31st floor of EQT Tower, Downtown, is bathed in natural light and powered by energy-efficient technology.
But amidst all the environmentally-conscious glass, bamboo floors and recyclable room partitions is a deliberate touch of industrial grit: a nine-foot high wall made of reclaimed metals including steel from the Liberty Bridge and a beam that once supported one of the former H.J. Heinz Co. condiment factories on the North Side.
“It’s a commitment to Pittsburgh’s legacy,” said Grant Oliphant, the endowments’ president.
The wall, which weighs 3,200 pounds, is mounted in the entryway of the space located one floor above the endowments’ headquarters.
The space was designed primarily as a place where nonprofits funded by the charitable foundation as well as community groups can convene to brainstorm and collaborate on challenges facing the Pittsburgh region. It also includes offices for the endowments’ finance department.
The endowments, created from the fortunes of the H.J. Heinz family, is the city’s second-largest foundation with assets of $1.6 billion. It doles out approximately $70 million annually to nonprofits for initiatives in economic development, the environment, culture and education.
When it had an opportunity to expand into an additional 7,377 square feet in the Liberty Avenue high-rise, the endowments envisioned a flexible meeting spot where nonprofits and other groups could hold “out-loud thinking sessions,” said Mr. Oliphant.
After project architects IKM Inc., based Downtown, suggested a steel wall as a feature that would reflect the region’s history, the endowments tapped one of its own grantees, Project RE, to build it.
Project RE, a nonprofit initiative based in Point Breeze, trains apprentices from the Trade Institute of Pittsburgh to obtain certificates in masonry, welding and carpentry by completing projects designed by students at Carnegie Mellon University’s Urban Design Build Studio. Their collaborations use surplus building materials from Construction Junction, a warehouse that sells recycled residential and commercial building products.
John Folan, a co-founder of Project RE and director of CMU’s Urban Design Build Studio, said the completed wall accomplished more than the endowments’ goal of showcasing the region’s heavy manufacturing heritage.
It also tells the story of how the Trade Institute apprentices — whose backgrounds include economic disadvantages and other challenges — worked side-by-side with CMU students to create the piece.
“You’ve got students from CMU coming from great privilege and opportunity working next to people with challenges in life,” he said. “The process was quite extraordinary.”
Project RE is working to obtain federal tax status to operate as an independent nonprofit. Since 2013, the endowments has allocated $1.75 million to the Trade Institute and Urban Design Build Studio to support Project RE programs and equipment.
Most of the material in the wall is carbon steel blanks that are used in Project RE’s welding training program and then typically discarded. The blanks were fabricated and stitched together with steel extracted from the Liberty Bridge renovation project and steel from a former Heinz factory along the Allegheny River which is now part of the Heinz Lofts residential complex.
According to Mr. Folan, pieces were configured into modular components at Project RE. The components, which weighed 35 pounds to 50 pounds apiece, were then assembled into one large structure 16 feet long.
On an evening in late September, the project crew transported the wall to EQT Tower to install it.
In addition to the wall, Project RE built a reception desk constructed of lumber from a Masonic Temple in Uniontown, Fayette County, and limestone from Generation Stoneworks in Elizabeth Township.
Around the corner from the metal wall in the entryway, a green living wall represents the endowments’ commitment to sustainability, said Mr. Oliphant, while glass windows and accents throughout the space “reflect our commitment to transparency.”
Joyce Gannon: email@example.com or 412-263-1580.
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