The City of Pittsburgh has recently launched initiatives to develop the city's first ever comprehensive plans for urban design and public art. The plans--known as DESIGNPGH and ARTPGH--will set guidelines for future development based on the quality and character of design, and create a strategy for the city's public art collection.
The purpose of these plans is to provide predictability in development, not uniformity, says Noor Ismail, director of city planning. "We do not want to stifle creativity," she says, but rather to have development meet a contextual purpose.
Public Art Manager Morton Brown says it would be impossible, and ill advised, to prescribe to Pittsburghers what type of public art should appear in their neighborhoods.
"You want artists to respond to the contexts of each neighborhood,” Brown says. "And likewise with urban design, not every neighborhoods has the same built character. We must remain flexible."
The two initiatives are just two of twelve components of PLANPGH
, the city’s first ever 25-year comprehensive plan, to be completed in 2014.
Ismail says the city is not interested in reinventing the wheel, and project consultants will sift through and incorporate existing neighborhood plans. The plan will be developed following a variety of community meetings and public workshops. Brown says the first of several meetings will seek to put community members on equal footing in terms of understanding design concepts.
"Part of it is education and bringing everyone up to a certain vocabulary level so that we can dig deeper into these conversations and learn what are the needs and desires of the community, and how can we serve them through this plan," he says.
Once the process is complete, DESIGNPGH will produce an urban design manual to guide development in the city.
Joy Abbott, assistant director of city planning, says these manuals will aid developers and community groups with a streamlined set of standards for criteria such as aesthetics in new construction, streetscape elements, and contextual design.
"It's going to make it easier for them to understand what the city is looking for in terms of what things look like," Abbott says. "This is going to supplement our code by showing people with pictures, rather than text, what kinds of projects we're looking for and what the community wants them to look like."
Brown anticipates the first public meeting to be held before the end of the year.
Writer: Andrew Moore
Source: Noor Ismail, Morton Brown, Joy Abbott