ShareThis Page

New Frick Environmental Center designed to entertain, educate, conserve

| Monday, Sept. 5, 2016, 7:12 p.m.
Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review
'It looks like a veil as it sheets over the side of the building,' says project architect Patricia Culley of the rain veil that runs along the north side of the new Frick Environmental Center in Squirrel Hill on Friday, Sept. 2, 2016.
Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review
Untreated black locust was picked for the outside of the new Frick Environmental Center in Squirrel Hill because the tree is native to Pennsylvania and it will weather in different ways across the building, as photographed on Friday, Sept. 2, 2016.
Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review
The new Frick Environmental Center at the entrance to Frick Park in Squirrel Hill sits above a hillside of trails and wetlands as photographed on Friday, Sept. 2, 2016. The center is scheduled to open on Sept. 10th.
Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review
Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy Senior Manager of Communications and Creative Scott Roller, left, of Highland Park, and Bohlin Cywinski Jackson Project Architect Patricia Culley, right, of Zelienople, stand by the photovoltaic arrays at the new Frick Environmental Center in Squirrel Hill on Friday, Sept. 2, 2016. The solar panels will offset the energy used by the center, feeding the energy back into the grid.
Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review
The front desk at the new Frick Environmental Center in Squirrel Hill is made from salvaged wood from city trees as photographed on Friday, Sept. 2, 2016.
Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review
The front desk at the new Frick Environmental Center in Squirrel Hill is made from salvaged wood from city trees as photographed on Friday, Sept. 2, 2016.
Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review
Furniture made from native woods is in the classrooms at the new Frick Environmental Center in Squirrel Hill on Friday, Sept. 2, 2016.
Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review
Long vertical windows of different widths are intended to mimic the effect of looking through trees, said project architect Patricia Culley at the new Frick Environmental Center in Squirrel Hill on Friday, Sept. 2, 2016.
Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review
Pieces of salvaged granite curb stone are placed throughout the masonry to soften the overall stone structures within the new Frick Environmental Center in Squirrel Hill on Friday, Sept. 2, 2016.
Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review
The ironwork at the new Frick Environmental Center in Squirrel Hill reflects the flora of the surrounding natural area as photographed on Friday, Sept. 2, 2016.
Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review
Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy Senior Manager of Communications and Creative Scott Roller of Highland Park stands atop a cascade of rock that will turn into a play area during rainstorms at the new Frick Environmental Center in Squirrel Hill on Friday, Sept. 2, 2016.
Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review
With one of the themes of the center inspired by the idea of 'Neighborhood to Nature,' a series of curving paths leads to the new Frick Environmental Center in Squirrel Hill on Friday, Sept. 2, 2016.
Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review
Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy Senior Manager of Communications and Creative Scott Roller of Highland Park points to the child size door at the entrance of the new Frick Environmental Center in Squirrel Hill on Friday, Sept. 2, 2016.
Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review
Manifold gaskets to adjust the geothermal heating and cooling system line the wall of the new Frick Environmental Center in Squirrel Hill on Friday, Sept. 2, 2016. The center taps 18 geothermal wells on its four acre property to pre-condition the water for the radiant heating and cooling system that runs throughout the building.

There's a new attraction in town that could prove popular among nature-loving families on the hunt for educational outings — particularly on wet, cloudy days this fall.

Whenever it rains, an 80-foot-tall veil of water will cascade down a sloped roof and flow in sheets over the northern facade of the newly constructed Frick Environmental Center, creating a visual spectacle while pumping fresh rainwater into a garden and children's play area.

The so-called “rain veil” feature is among strategic design elements and artful touches with kids and the environment in mind that have gone into Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy's construction of the center overlooking woodland trails in the northwest section of Frick Park, the city's largest at 115 acres. The three-story complex and surrounding facilities — a project of the city of Pittsburgh and nonprofit Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy — replace the former environmental center that burned to the ground on the about 3-acre site in 2002.

“It's all about understanding nature and being around nature, and so that's a main part of our design,” said Patricia Culley, project manager with Bohlin Cywinski Jackson architectural firm. “We're really celebrating water and wrapping it around the building. We're also encouraging you to go outside and play in that rain veil area.”

The center serves as a tangible example of the environmentally conscious practices and technologies the conservancy promotes. The 16,440-square foot center — with solar-powered carports and geothermal heating — collects as much energy as it uses, and meets the most rigorous environmental certification — “Living Building Challenge” — a step above LEED Platinum, Culley said.

Workers are installing interior furnishings and artwork this week at the new version of the center, which is set to open to the public with an all-day celebration Saturday.

Youngsters can opt to use the building's child-sized doors next to the standard ones at each entrance, check out nature kits with bug boxes and collecting tips and learn about widlife in bright, airy classrooms lined with irregularly spaced floor-to-ceiling windows that mimic the treelines of surrounding woodlands.

“No matter where you live, no matter what your economic background is, there is no cost to come into the Frick Environmental Center,” said Camila Rivera-Tinsley, hired as the conservancy's director of education as of July 1. “You're supposed to be able to enjoy nature no matter what walk of life you are.”

The facility and its classrooms will be used for programs offered to children in pre-kindergarten through high school at more than 20 schools, mostly within Pittsburgh Public Schools, Rivera-Tinsley said.

“Our parks make the best classrooms,” Rivera-Tinsley said.

Natasha Lindstrom is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 412-380-8514 or nlindstrom@tribweb.com.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.