It is the 1999 Home & Garden Show, hardly an event to raise eyebrows. But that year, a 40-year-old architect, using 1953 construction documents, created a full-scale Point View room, Frank Lloyd Wright’s designed-but-never-built 10-story Mount Washington skynudger. Bit of a surprise, there: 350,000 people lined up to see it. “They walked through as if they were in church,” recalls creator Jerry Morosco. “People weren’t used to being so impacted – so moved – by architecture.”
That’s precisely the point, says Morosco, award-winning principal of Gerald Lee Morosco Architects, staunch AIA member, author of How to Choose an Architect, and chairman of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation. “These people saw what I did as a Taliesin apprentice,” he says. “That architecture could define a way of life. That it could craft a beautiful circumstance as a way to live.”
A Philadelphian by birth, Ashtabulan by upbringing, Morosco graduated Washington’s W&J, then, in 1981, began a five-year stint at Wright’s Taliesins, Wisconsin and Arizona. In 1986, having heard about the adaptive re-use at Station Square, he came for a look-see. Between that, Carson Street, and the old Duquesne brewery, “I was hooked,” he says.
Now boasting clients in Pittsburgh – and Miami, Manhattan, and Maine, among others – Morosco takes the Taliesin gospel on the road. An indefatigable speaker, he’s lectured here, in Asheville, Chicago, Buffalo, Philadelphia -- the list meanders like the great prairie. Awards, too, flock to his South Side doors: Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation, National Trust for Historic Preservation, and more. With projects featured in a variety of journals – including Metropolitan Home, Commercial Renovation, and Old House Journal – his own majestically retrofitted 15th Street hacienda two blocks south of Carson Street, and three blocks from his office, has become a valued stop on PHLF, Smithsonian, and National Trust house tours.
As part of Morosco’s on-going architectural ministry, he wrote How to Work with an Architect, which features the stunning photography of lensmeister Ed Massery. In the handsome Gibbs Smith coffee-table volume, Morosco answers a host of practical architectural questions, including when you need one, how to find one, what to ask one, and so on. It’s no accident that with hundreds of helpful tips, all peppered with the author’s own illuminating anecdotes, the first edition sold out.
Since November the board chair of the Scottsdale-based Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, Morosco helps focus the $7-million organization on conserving Wright’s work, supporting his school, and maintaining his archives. Of the prestigious post, the first for a non-Arizonan, Morosco simply says, “It’s a familial obligation.”
For all his visibility, Pittsburgh remains Morosco’s home – by choice. “Here,” he says, “we enjoy a disproportionate share of the nation’s artistic wealth. We’re in the top five in symphony, dance, theater, museums, public spaces – parks and river trails. From the South Side I’m an hour from spectacular wilderness. In five minutes I’m on a bike trail – I can ride to Schenley Park or Washington.” He pauses. “It’s hard to imagine going anywhere and enjoying what we have here.”
Award-winning writer Abby Mendelson is the author of numerous books, including The Pittsburgh Steelers Official History and Pittsburgh: A Place in Time. His last Pop City piece was on Pop Star Lulu Orr.
"How To Work With An Architect" by Morosco, with photographs by Ed Massery
Morosco on stairs of his South Side house
All photographs copyright © Renee Rosesteel