Downtown: PPG Place
From PPG Place promotional brochure, April 1985.
Pittsburgh's "Crown Jewel"
Welcome to PPG Place, a resplendent complex described by architectural critics and the media as "the crown jewel in Pittsburgh's skyline"..."the towering success of downtown Pittsburgh"..."one of the most ambitious, sensitive and public spirited urban developments since Rockefeller Center."
It is a shimmering glass complex centered on a 40-story office tower, reflecting the skies, hills, rivers and buildings of one of America's most liveable cities.
It is also the home of PPG Industries, a leading manufacturer of glass, chemicals, coatings and resins and fiber glass, which has called downtown Pittsburgh home since 1895. It is the company's commitment to the city and the future.
Located on a five-acre site adjacent to historic Market Square, PPG Place offers premier office space, dining facilities and shopping and service accommodations. In addition to the centerpiece 635-foot tower, there are five other buildings in the complex--a 14-story building and four six-story buildings.
The buildings surround a grand plaza evoking visions of the great public squares of Europe. Paved in a mosaic of red, grey and black granite, the plaza serves, somewhat paradoxically, both as a restful haven and a reflection of a pulsing urban marketplace. The soaring glass-enclosed Wintergarden on the west side of the main tower furnishes an oasis of green while providing a dramatic gathering place for all seasons.
Destined for Greatness
Even before it sprang from the seed of mere idea to fruition, PPG Place was destined for greatness. The internationally renowned architectural firm headed by Philip Johnson and John Burgee was chosen to design it. They developed a theme that is distinctive, and at the same time woven into the architectural fabric of the city.
A thicket of 231 spires crowning the complex, the largest of them 82 feet tall, recalls some of the city's great buildings, such as the Allegheny County Courthouse and the University of Pittsburgh's Cathedral of Learning. But energy-efficient reflective insulating glass is used instead of stone as the building curtain wall material, creating a play of light and shadow across the surface of the buildings that changes, chameleon-like, with the seasons and even the hours of the day.
Departing from the slab shapes dominant in American architecture, the complex features curtainwalls in which the glass is faceted vertically, The neo-Gothic forms of the complex help to serve an as architectural bridge between the historic structures of the city and the newer geometrical high-rises that stud the downtown skyline.
Nearly one million square feet of reflective silver Solarban 550 Twindow insulating glass units--by PPG, of course--sheath the $200 million complex. The tower contains 19,750 pieces of glass.
Energy Is Saved
In addition to contributing to PPG Place's distinctive look, the high-performance reflective insulating glass units provide a degree of energy efficiency unmatched in many new buildings.
The neutral silver glass lowers solar heat gain in summer by reflecting light away from surfaces. It reduces heat loss in winter because of the infrared reflecting properties of its Solarban reflective coating. It also minimizes artificial lighting and air-conditioning requirements, the two large energy consumers in buildings. The wall system includes a thermal barrier that effectively isolates the interior wall components from exterior structural members. A variable-volume air-conditioning system and task lighting contribute to energy efficiency. For added energy savings, heat generated by computer equipment is captured and recycled throughout the structure.
PPG's world headquarters occupies more than half the floors in the tower, known as One PPG Place, and part of another building. The rest of the tower is prime rental space. Visitors enter the tower through soaring five-story-high glass arches on the plaza side of the building.
The 50-foot-high tower lobby is paneled in deep red glass, and all floors are served by 21 high-speed elevators whose walls consist of clear glass panels enclosing fractured glass in a unique process to produce a distinctive artistic pattern.
PPG Place: A People Place
The grandeur and technological sophistication of PPG Place, however, do not mask its function as a gathering place for Pittsburgh area residents and visitors alike.
The Wintergarden, plaza, arcades and retail areas embrace the public with a sense of welcome, encouraging all to tarry. Concerts and other special events will bolster this warm feeling.
Welcomed by civic officials as a jewel of the city's second downtown renaissance, PPG Place has set a high standard for its Pittsburgh neighbors.