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Category Archive: Lighting Historic Resources

  1. Bright-hued bridges? Reaction to idea spans full spectrum of views

    Friday, June 15, 2001

    By Diana Nelson Jones, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

    Arthur Ziegler and his staff have been discussing colorful bridges for a couple of years. Now, may the public debate begin.

    The president of the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation has suggested that bridges be painted a variety of vibrant colors when they come due for a new paint job. These include most bridges that line the Allegheny River, a few along the Monongahela and, most immediately the Fort Pitt — due for a new coat of paint in 2003.

    The new colors bring to mind the hues of overpriced polo shirts in catalogs — candied yam, purple ice, grassy meadow and perfect peach among them — and at least one aesthetically-minded cultural leader is horrified.

    Tom Sokolowski, director of the Andy Warhol Museum, said, “Why doesn’t he go and work for IKEA?” Bridges, he said, “are not bath towels.”

    Architect Syl Damianos, who sits on the advisory committee for redesign of the Carnegie Science Center, says he likes the idea “a lot. There’s no reason they need to be dull, drab structures.”

    While no one is defending the current “Aztec gold” of some Downtown bridges, Allegheny County public works Director Tom Donatelli has said he believes the color should be consistent. Faded to the color that Maxwell King of the Heinz Endowments calls “old dead bananas,” the original color has been called the city’s “signature color,” in citations of sports teams’ uniforms and an old redevelopment moniker, the Golden Triangle.

    The Federal Highway Administration paid the bulk of $7 million spent for local bridge painting in 1994. A paint job lasts about 15 years. The state Department of Transportation and the county own the bridges and would have to approve any color changes.

    Coinciding with talk of color are plans for bridge lighting. The Riverlife Task Force has targeted three of the bridges — the Roberto Clemente, 7th and 9th Street bridges, three uniform spans side by side on the Allegheny — for a demo-lighting project.

    Davitt Woodwell, executive director of the Riverlife Task Force, calls Ziegler’s suggestion “an interesting idea. There are a lot of interesting ideas. Look at places like Cleveland,” where bridges are being painted and lit, he said. Whatever is done, he said, will indicate “how the city wants to present itself to the world. The more discussion the better.”

    King, executive director of the Heinz Endowments and co-chair of the Riverlife Task Force, weighs in against color variety. “With all due respect for Arthur, I think he’s dead wrong. The right thing to do is paint them all one color. That becomes a signature look.”

    King says he “wouldn’t touch” the Smithfield Street Bridge, but chooses for all the others a vibrant yellow, and lighting.

    “Every visitor would come away with the impression we want them to — that rivers and bridges are defining of our life here. All different colors would achieve the opposite.”

    Director of operations and marketing for History & Landmarks, admitted the colors the foundation has discussed can look “a little bouncy” on the computer-generated images. “But I don’t think any [purple] bridge would be a Barney purple.”

    Sokolowski says the attitude that the Aztec gold is Pittsburgh’s signature color because it matches sports-team uniforms is “provincially simple-minded and second rate. These bridges are exemplars of the 19th -century industrial society. You could do a more creative thing with those bridges than colors, like recognizing the artistic integrity of the period they were made in, then maybe commission an artist to do something that would distinguish it, like with lighting.”

    He said the colors that come to mind with the names such as “purple ice” sound like “tawdry nail polish.”

    We don’t want our bridges to look like whores.”

    This article appeared in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette. © Pittsburgh Post Gazette

  2. New Clemente Bridge lighting ready to glow

    By Tom Barnes,
    Post-Gazette Staff Writer
    Wednesday, November 20, 2002

    Downtown Pittsburgh is about to get significantly brighter, as new lighting bursts onto the scene tomorrow and Friday nights.

    For 10 minutes starting at 6:45 p.m. tomorrow, fireworks will explode from the Roberto Clemente Bridge, marking the debut of the long-anticipated lighting of the span that links Sixth Street with PNC Park.

    The bridge will be closed to vehicles and pedestrians starting at 10 a.m. tomorrow. It won’t reopen until midnight. The span will be closed so workers from Zambelli Internationale can set up the fireworks display. Motorists and pedestrians are advised to use the Seventh or Ninth street bridges.

    The lighting project, which has been in the planning stage for a year, is being funded by a $500,000 grant from Duquesne Light Co. It covers the cost of electricity and includes $50,000 for ongoing maintenance and replacement of light fixtures.

    Installation of the lighting started in August and includes five types of fixtures, most with white globes accented by blue lamps that echo those at PNC Park.

    There will be four new “portal” light fixtures, two on each end of the bridge. Each fixture contains five large white globes 13 feet above a stone pier.

    There will be 32 fixtures, each with a single white globe on top, stretching down each side of the bridge.

    There will be 74 smaller blue lamps attached to the curving upper portions of the bridge structure to outline the top of the bridge.

    Floodlights will illuminate the vertical cables and towers. Floodlights also will shine on the piers.

    Tomorrow night’s ceremony includes speeches by government and Duquesne Light officials, beginning at 6:15 p.m and leading up to the fireworks.

    Speakers include Gov.-elect Ed Rendell; Allegheny County Chief Executive Jim Roddey; City Councilman Sala Udin; Tom Cox, Mayor Tom Murphy’s executive secretary; Morgan O’Brien, chief executive officer of DQE, parent company of Duquesne Light; John Craig, Post-Gazette editor and co-chairman of the Riverlife Task Force, a privately funded group that seeks to beautify and enliven city waterfronts; and Arthur Ziegler, president of Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation, which lit the Smithfield Street Bridge in 1984.

    The Clemente Bridge lights will be turned on right after the fireworks display.

    The bridge, built in 1924, was called the Sixth Street Bridge until a year ago. It will be lit from dusk to dawn, 365 days a year.

    Officials from the city and the Riverlife Task Force are hoping that corporate sponsors can be found to light other bridges, especially the Clemente Bridge’s two sister spans, the Seventh and Ninth street bridges.

    The lighting extravaganza will continue Friday with daytime and nighttime activities that are part of the annual Light Up Night, marking the start of the Christmas holiday shopping season.

    Downtown buildings will keep their lights on and newly installed “snowflakes,” 5-foot-wide fixtures containing small white lights, will decorate streets in the commercial core Downtown, including Fifth Avenue, Wood Street and Market Square. The snowflakes, which will be turned on at 5:10 p.m., are also sponsored by Duquesne Light.

    Murphy will return from a trip to China in time to light a 48-foot decorated holiday tree at the Grant Street entrance of the City-County Building. The lighting is scheduled for 12:30 p.m. Friday.

    Duquesne Light will also sponsor its annual tree of lights near the fountain in Point State Park.

    Another fireworks display will mark Light Up Night at 9 p.m. A complete list of activities is available at the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership’s Web site,

    The Port Authority said it will expand service Friday evening for Light Up Night activities. Extra light-rail vehicles and buses will be in service and shuttle buses will be added between the upper and lower stations of the Monongahela Incline.

    Port Authority officials noted some Downtown street closures Friday night that will affect bus routes, beginning as early as 8 p.m. Routes affected will include those on Liberty, Forbes, Penn and Fifth avenues and Stanwix and Smithfield streets.

Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation

100 West Station Square Drive, Suite 450

Pittsburgh, PA 15219

Phone: 412-471-5808  |  Fax: 412-471-1633