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National preservation confab focuses on sustainable design

Pittsburgh Post GazetteBy Patricia Lowry,
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Pittsburgh will be turning green next week, but it won’t be with envy. We’re the lucky ones, after all: the National Trust for Historic Preservation is rolling into town for a week of workshops, meetings and tours, some centered on green design.

The Trust’s conference, which annually attracts about 2,000 people from across the country, is an opportunity for the host city to show off its historic buildings and neighborhoods and what it does best in preserving them.

Since Pittsburgh last hosted the Trust conference in 1960, the city has built a national reputation as a leader in green design, including the rehabilitation of older buildings with sustainable materials and technologies. Field and education sessions throughout the conference will focus on green renovations, including the Pittsburgh Glass Center and the Children’s Museum.

Pittsburgh was chosen for its “rich history and impressive record of preserving and revitalizing important places in the city,” said Richard Moe, president of the nonprofit education and advocacy group based in Washington, D.C. It’s “an ideal location in which to explore the leading issues in preservation.”

Titled “Making Preservation Work!,” the 60th annual conference kicks off Tuesday after a daylong, preconference, charrette-style national summit on green design on Monday at the Senator John Heinz Pittsburgh Regional History Center, where participants will develop goals and guidelines for greening historic properties. Public input will be solicited through a town meeting immediately after the charrette, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the history center. Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation, the Trust’s principal planning partner for the conference, and the Green Building Alliance will co-host the summit and produce a report that will be shared with U.S. Green Building Council members at their Greenbuild conference next month.

While most of the conference’s educational sessions will be held at its three host hotels — the Hilton, Omni William Penn and Renaissance — the entire region will be its classroom for more than 30 field sessions. There will be daylong trips to Allegheny and Homewood cemeteries, the Strip District, Sewickley, Oakmont, Old Economy and Ambridge, Fallingwater and Kentuck Knob, Homestead and Braddock, Chatham College and Woodland Road houses, and Schenley, Highland and Riverview parks. In and around Pittsburgh, conference sessions will tour Downtown, the Hill District, Lawrenceville, Garfield, East Liberty, Shadyside, Homewood, Highland Park, the North Side, Mount Washington, Mt. Lebanon and Carnegie.

Another daylong session, on “Conducting a Historic Landscape Assessment,” will have participants exploring Point State Park and making recommendations for its use, treatment and interpretation.

The conference, which runs through Nov. 5, also will take on a host of challenging issues and opportunities facing communities, such as school reuse, property rights, eminent domain, keeping affordable housing in gentrified neighborhoods, the impact of wind farms, teardowns and McMansions and Katrina recovery in Mississippi and New Orleans. It also will explore the preservation of Carnegie libraries, modernist buildings, battlefields, rural landscapes, the remains of the World Trade Center and buildings on military bases facing closure. The emphasis is on sharing the best case studies and approaches from across the country.

Premiering at the conference will be filmmaker Kenneth Love’s “Saving Fallingwater,” documenting the recent restoration that saved its cantilevered terraces from falling into Bear Run. Mr. Love will speak at a screening at 1:45 p.m. Nov. 4 at the Hilton, one of several free conference events open to the public.

Author David McCullough and Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild founder and CEO Bill Strickland, both Pittsburgh natives, will give keynote addresses at the opening plenary session next Wednesday afternoon at the Benedum Center. Other conference speakers include architect Sarah Susanka, author of the “Not So Big House”; Ruth Abram, founder and president of Manhattan’s Lower East Side Tenement Museum; Charles Landry, founder of Comedia, Europe’s leading cultural planning consultancy; and WQED producer Rick Sebak.

The conference’s social events will be held at many other locations, including the Mattress Factory, Carnegie Music Hall foyer, Allegheny County Courthouse lobby, 1902 Tavern, Bossa Nova, First Lutheran Church and Regional Enterprise Tower (former Alcoa Building).

For those interested in attending the conference, on-site registration is available at the Hilton; the cost for all education sessions is $500, or $175 for students. There is an extra fee for field trips, some of which are sold out. Daily rates also are available at $175 for Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday and $225 for Wednesday (which includes the keynote speeches). A conference program can be downloaded from the Trust’s Web site, Additional information is available at Landmarks’ Web site,

Preservation presentations

These events are open to the public during the National Trust for Historic Preservation conference:

* “National Summit Town Meeting on the Greening of Historic Properties,” soliciting public input on goals and guidelines for LEED certification. 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Monday, Senator John Heinz Pittsburgh Regional History Center, Strip District.

* “The Story of Preservation in the Pittsburgh Region,” lecture by Arthur P. Ziegler Jr., president of Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation, Byham Theater; pick up pass at the theater box office immediately before lecture, 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. Tuesday.

* The National Trust’s Exhibit Hall, including the History & Landmarks Foundation 11th Annual Old House Fair, 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. next Wednesday; 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Nov. 2; noon to 6 p.m. Nov. 3; Grand Ballroom, Hilton. Pick up a pass on the second floor of the Hilton.

* “Saving Fallingwater,” documentary film by Kenneth Love, 1:45 to 3:30 p.m. Nov. 4; Grand Ballroom, Hilton. Pick up a pass on the second floor of the Hilton from Oct. 31 up to time of screening.

Two additional events are open to members of History & Landmarks Foundation and the National Trust for Historic Preservation:

* National Preservation Awards 2006, 5:45 to 6:45 p.m. Nov. 2, Carnegie Music Hall. Pick up a pass at the music hall just before the event.

* Lecture by Sarah Susanka, author of the “Not So Big House,” 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. Nov. 3, Omni William Penn.

— Patricia Lowry

Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation

100 West Station Square Drive, Suite 450

Pittsburgh, PA 15219

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