REVIVING THE HILL- One of Pittsburgh's oldest residential neighborhoods | Udday Shankur Datta

Pittsburgh, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania

©UddayShankur Datta

Historical Context

As part of the City of Pittsburgh's urban renewal efforts of the late 1950s, the historic African American neighborhood of Lower Hill declared blighted, and 95 acres of the Hill District neighborhood cleared, including 1300 buildings, 413 businesses, and 1600 families (over 8000 people). A new Cultural Center planned which was to include an opera house, playhouse, art gallery, upscale hotel, and apartment buildings. By 1966 the area contained only a new public auditorium (that became known as the Civic Arena), an apartment building, and an apartment/ hotel complex. Significant portions of the land never developed and remained surface parking.

Current Challenges

Interstate 579 opened in 1962 separated the Pittsburgh central business district to the west with the historic Hill District to the east. As a result, the Hill District became isolated and soon once a vibrant neighborhood became degraded. In recent years, the Hill District has gained a reputation for being an unsafe neighborhood. Because of many vacant lands and dilapidated buildings, crime rates are on higher sides in this area.


Opportunity

The Hill District is physically cut off from downtown Pittsburgh by the highway routes. To reduce travel time, the Hill District needs to be linked with the downtown area and must be accessible by walking. The proximity to Oakland and the Downtown area can play a crucial role to revive the economy of Hill District. Although Pittsburgh has a working bus network and is heavily used by the people, the situation is different in the Hill District. Only a few bus routes are connected to Hill District and the bus stoppages are deprived of many basic facilities. Alternative bus routes can be proposed with bus stoppages including sitting facility and shade create a transit-oriented transportation system.

Design Proposal

The project aims to develop a comprehensive design strategy that integrates existing development proposals and connects the different parts of the hill to create a unified Hill District. By generating an infill plan to properly utilize the vacant lots in the Hill District, new residential development areas are proposed. As part of Pittsburgh Biophilic Cities Initiative, the project connects the existing green with new urban forest to create a green network with pedestrian walkways and bicycle paths, so people can enjoy increased connectivity to the natural environment.


To attract students and new businesses to move into the Hill District, new connections are proposed. The increased connectivity will make hill district easily accessible by walking, bicycling, and public transportation. The design connects the CAP with the lower Hill District by removing the existing vehicular road, which makes the greater Hill District physically connected to downtown Pittsburgh. The development plan comprises the following strategies:


Create a biophilic community

Make it walkable

Create connections

Make it dense

Giving choices


To summarize, the project addresses the existing problems faced by the people living in Hill District and proposes an integrated planning and design strategy that includes housing proposals, improved transportation networks, and street design to revive the once-thriving neighborhood of Pittsburgh, the Hill District.

PROJECT DETAILS:

Project Name:Reviving the Hill- One of Pittsburgh's oldest residential neighborhoods


University: West Virginia University

University Location: Morgantown, West Virginia, USA


Project type: Course project

Project location: Pittsburgh, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania
 

Landscape Architect: UddayShankur Datta


All Text and Renderings credits: UddayShankur Datta


Instructor: Stefania Staniscia, Dr. Shan Jiang

Designer's Details:

Name: Udday Shankur Datta

About Udday Shankar Datta: Bridging the gap between theoretical knowledge and practical implementation to create a robust livable community is my goal as a landscape architect. My path towards landscape architecture stems from my passion for cities, human and ecosystem health, and a sense of urgency to preserve the environment. I graduated with a Bachelor of Architecture from the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology. Later I joined West Virginia University (WVU) as a graduate student and received my Master of Landscape Architecture (MLA) degree in 2020. My passion for travel and photography has taken me to different places where I got the chance to get involved with the community. I am currently pursuing my Ph.D. in Human and Community Development at WVU. I plan to work on community development projects and continue to research contemporary urban challenges as a designer and educator.

What inspired him to become an architect: I always wanted to do something to help my community, to develop the city I live in. I realized that the unsustainable practices in our society are taking us away from the natural environment. This realization inspired me to be an architect. To learn how to blend nature with the human realm, I decided to continue my higher studies in landscape architecture. As designers, we can shape our environment, and afterward, our environment shapes us to lead a sustainable lifestyle.

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