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New riverfront portal will connect Wood Street to Mon Wharf

Friday, March 16, 2012
Wood Street Mon Wharf drawing for header image


Design is collaboration between artist Nobuho Nagasawa, LaQuatra Bonci

Riverlife and Point Park University revealed design concepts for a portal connecting Downtown’s Wood Street corridor to the Mon Wharf riverfront today during a public presentation on Point Park’s campus. The designs are the result of a collaborative partnership between New York City-based artist Nobuho Nagasawa and Fred Bonci and Natalie Byrd of local landscape architecture firm LaQuatra Bonci Associates. 

The design team was tasked with creating a stronger pedestrian connection between Point Park’s Academic Village and the recently constructed Mon Wharf Landing linear park. The design team commission was funded by a grant from The Heinz Endowments and administered by the Office of Public Art.

The design concepts were developed by the artist and landscape architects to create a welcoming pedestrian experience that draws visitors, fosters activity and grants access from Point Park’s bustling campus down to the lower riverfront park. Nagasawa worked with LaQuatra Bonci to complete an extensive site study and conduct feasibility meetings with project stakeholders and the public over the past several months. 

According to Nagasawa’s artist statement, the proposed Wood Street/Mon Wharf connection is inspired by the interplay of traffic and the movement of the Monongahela River and has a nautical theme. The design features a connected series of sculptural and lighting elements that will guide pedestrians from Wood Street to the Mon Wharf Landing linear park.  

In the design concept, a 40-foot mast and stay cable structure topped with an LED beacon is positioned over the parking access stairway on the traffic island at the end of Wood Street, signaling pedestrian access to a lighted pathway that ends at a shore-side floating pier. As pedestrians descend the stairs beneath the mast to get to the parking lot, they encounter a “jointed skeletal spine, suspended by cables from the Parkway support beams, reminiscent of the bones of a whale and the ribs and keel of a long boat.  The spine follows the lighted path from above and extends beyond the Parkway to the river side floating pier. The pier, planted with three planted eastern hemlock trees, provides a stage for performance as well as contemplative seating for viewing the river and water traffic,” according to Nagasawa’s statement. 

“The collaboration between an internationally known artist like Nobuho Nagasawa and a top Pittsburgh firm like LaQuatra Bonci represents the best kind of problem solving and planning that allows Downtown to blossom,” said Point Park University President Paul Hennigan, Ed.D. “Point Park is pleased to work with Riverlife and the design team to establish this important riverfront connection to our campus. In addition to extending the Academic Village, these compelling designs open up the entire Wood Street corridor to the Monongahela River.”

Access to the Mon Wharf Landing is currently limited by a network of roadway and highway ramps at the intersection of Wood Street and Fort Pitt Boulevard. Street-level improvements at the intersection are included in the design to provide clear and direct crosswalks. “The small islands at the entry to the Mon Wharf Parking are consolidated to provide a larger and safer landing for those headed to the water,” explained Fred Bonci, founding partner at LaQuatra Bonci Associates.  “[In the new design,] the existing stairs that lead down to the Mon Wharf are reconfigured to provide a more inviting pedestrian experience, and surface planters and decorative barriers help to control views and pedestrian movements.”

“Point Park has been a revitalizing force in Downtown Pittsburgh and the new Wood Street-Mon Wharf project builds on that energy, drawing students and visitors to the river using art and landscape design to make the experience of getting there enjoyable,” said Lisa Schroeder, Riverlife president and CEO. “With this portal, we see the importance of reconnecting Pittsburgh’s riverfronts to its interior neighborhoods, and the challenges of overcoming urban infrastructure like roads and highways to get people to the water,” Schroeder said. “The portal will breathe new life into the Mon Wharf Landing and serve as another fabulous entrance to Three Rivers Park, Downtown’s riverfront park system.”

Nobuho Nagasawa was chosen to work on the design team with LaQuatra Bonci Associates last June after more than 50 local, national and international artists submitted their qualifications for consideration. Nagasawa was selected by a committee comprised of representatives from the Pittsburgh Parking Authority, City of Pittsburgh, PennDOT, Carnegie Museum of Art, Carnegie Mellon University School of Art, The Art Institute of Pittsburgh, Riverlife and Point Park University in addition to downtown residents and business owners.  The artist selection and design development processes were organized by the Office of Public Art, a public-private partnership between the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council and the City of Pittsburgh’s Department of City Planning. 

Fundraising for final design and construction of the Wood Street-Mon Wharf portal will begin this spring, led by Point Park University and Riverlife.


Click on image below to download the .zip file with three renderings of the proposed project. 
Thumbnail for zip file link.

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