Wednesday, February 28, 2007

mineral and vegetable

Just because the story about planned soot removal from the Cathedral of Learning reminded me of it.... does anyone remember what the Carnegie Library in Oakland once looked like? Growing up I swear I thought the building was made of some black granite and was shocked when I saw what it looked like with the soot removed. Not many pictures of the the building when completely soot encrusted online.. A few pictures and more detail than you may want to know about the changes on the CofL are in this paper:
Soiling Patterns on a Large Limestone Building. Changes Over 60 Years. By Cliff Davidson and others at CMU. 1999.

...but speaking of changing Pittsburgh.. this also sparked a neuron. The NYT today has a piece on some customer angst among the customers of Whole Foods. What does that have to do with Pittsburgh? Nothing really, but it has been interesting seeing the success of the Whole Foods store in East Liberty. People have talked about it as filling some long latent demand that nobody was addressing. Yet there have been attempts to fill the high-end grocery niche here before. Right up from where Whole Foods is was one of the first of two Food Gallery supermarkets in the region. Yet it couldn't really make it here in the 80's and 90's, and the site would eventually be bought out by Giant Eagle and made into a regular store. Yet now that same section boasts the Whole Foods, a Trader Joe's and the same site has been rehabbed by Giant Eagle in their high end market-district motif. So it's not that retailers suddenly woke up and realized there was some unfulfilled market in the city... it's a sign that the city itself that has changed more than anything else.


Blogger Jefferson Provost said...

I was a student at Pitt when they cleaned the Carnegie and I was very disappointed. I thought the old black building had a lot more character. After the cleaning it looked just like every other 19th century institutional building. In addition, it's clear that the architect who designed the Scaife gallery addition meant for its exterior to blend in color with the then-soot-black exterior of the older building. Now it looks totally out of place.

On the other hand, it's about time they cleaned the Cathedral. Have you ever noticed that the western faces of the building (Fifth and Bigelow sides) are pretty clean, while the east faces are quite dirty. Interestingly, most of the photorgraphs of the building available online are from the clean side.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007 5:31:00 PM  
Blogger C. Briem said...

You know.. this is a vague memory and I could have this wrong but I think someone told me once that there was opposition to the cleaning for a similar argument.. sort of the soot was now part of the history to be preserved. It's not my field, but were the architects actually planning on the color change... sort of how the planned oxidation of the steel building was part of the plan. I dunno?

Wednesday, February 28, 2007 8:59:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'd be interested to see if there really have been demographic changes that facilitated the entry of high-end grocers. Pittsburgh has always had a fairly wealthy core in the east end.
Whole Foods is a much better retailer than the Food Gallery was, and they've really set the standard for other grocers going after the high-end market. Giant Eagle has picked up a lot of their product mix and displays. And global distribution and logistics have changed the grocery business considerably in the last 10 years.

Thursday, March 01, 2007 10:04:00 AM  
Blogger C. Briem said...

I think that is right in lots of ways. Lots of issues in the retail industry that make new competition hard to introduce. and Food Gallery was more of a high end retailer at the beginning and by the end it was not much more than any other... and thus it failed competing against the others which were larger. but just think about how much gocery sales are right there where it pulled out of... economy of scale or not, if it is such a prime location now, why didn't it work at all back then.

I bet there are some decent enough income changes over time that facilitate the changes being seen. But more than that it may just be psychology... I bet fewer people felt appropriate going to a high end store to shop in the mid 80's when all the economic news was so abyssmal.

Thursday, March 01, 2007 10:33:00 AM  
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