North Side park near Children's Museum will be dedicated Saturday as a welcoming public space
June 21, 2012 10:03 AM
Chris Siefert, deputy director of the Children's Museum, test activates "Cloud Arbor," an installation that dispenses a mist through the Buhl Community Park at Allegheny Square, which opens to the public Saturday across from the entrance to the Children's Museum on the North Side.
By Marcus Schwarz Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Allegheny Square Park on the North Side, which closed last July for renovations, was not the sort of place usually associated with the word "park." Mostly concrete, the old space lacked grassy areas and shade from trees.
But a $6.5 million renovation of the city-owned park that was spearheaded by the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh has changed that. Visitors to the redesigned space, which will be dedicated at noon Saturday as Buhl Community Park at Allegheny Square, will walk among plants, grasses and trees, many native to the Pittsburgh area.
The Children's Museum, which is next to the park, is offering free admission Saturday to celebrate the park's opening.
The new design "reflects the community's desire for a central gathering place," said Chris Siefert, who led the renovation for the museum. North Side residents contributed ideas for the park's design at several community meetings that the Northside Leadership Conference helped organize.
"I think our designer deserves a lot of credit for how good a listener she is," he said.
The museum launched a nationwide contest to find a designer and selected Andrea Cochran Landscape Architecture of San Francisco.
Ms. Cochran said the park, which was built in 1840, had a long history as a community gathering space. But a 1960s modernist redesign neglected function for form. Part of that renovation lowered the park's center by 14 feet, making it difficult for people to see into the area, a safety concern for neighborhood residents. The park lacked grass and shade. Its concrete surfaces were too cold in the winter and too hot in the summer.
Now there's a lawn of meadow grass and clover, both which do not require fertilizers or pesticides, Ms. Cochran said. The redesigned park is also level, allowing visitors to see from one side to the other, and includes areas for sitting or holding events.
"The idea of creating a space that had a strong civic presence became really clear in our meetings with the community," Ms. Cochran said.
Providing a visual focus in the park is "Cloud Arbor," a piece of artwork by Ned Kahn of California. It includes an assembly of 64 stainless steel poles, each 32 feet high. Twenty-four of them have nozzles that emit water particles at high pressure to create fog that surrounds the poles in cloud forms.
"There's no crisp line where the atmosphere ends and the artwork begins," Mr. Kahn said.
He also designed the skin of the Children's Museum building.
The park is now named for the Buhl Foundation, a major contributor to the redevelopment. The Boggs & Buhl Department Store also once stood on Allegheny Square. Other contributors included The Heinz Endowments, The Charity Randall Foundation, The Grable Foundation, Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Diane and Guilford Glazer and UPMC Health Plan.
Saturday's events include entertainment in the park from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Correction/Clarification: (Published June 22, 2012) Heinz Endowments, Charity Randall Foundation and Grable Foundation also were major donors that helped fund a renovation of a North Side park by the Children's Museum that will be dedicated Saturday. The donors were omitted in a story published Thursday.neigh_city