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Pittsburgh's changes necessitate 'Whirlwind Walk' revisions

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By Bob Karlovits
Monday, Nov. 14, 2011

Albert M. Tannler from the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation can see a never-ending challenge in the group's book, "Whirlwind Walk."

Buildings change names. Or disappear. Streets are rerouted. Or their neighborhoods are changed by renovation.

"It drives you crazy," says the foundation's historical collections director. "It is exactly the kind of book that gets out-of-date."

For those reasons, the foundation has published a second edition of "Whirlwind Walk" (106 pages, $10), a guide to exploring Downtown on foot. It has 168 color photographs and a fold-out map that illustrates a suggested route for the tour.

Louise Sturgess, executive director of the foundation, says it is easy "for people to forget how fast things change." That speed created the need to upgrade the book that came out initially in 2008.

Entries were added on PNC Firstside Center and Park and Three PNC Plaza and Triangle Park. And additions were made to the section on the Cultural District and the Fourth Avenue Historic District, adding the August Wilson Center and the area between Wood and Smithfield streets, respectively

The entries on Market Square Place, Market Square and Market at Fifth all were expanded and rewritten because of new construction to the three.

Sturgess says one entry was eliminated. When the lobby of One Oliver Plaza, now the K&L Gates Center, was redesigned and its murals eliminated "we felt the building lost much of its significance."

One of the important additions, she says, is "What's Green Downtown," which shows off new building and renovations Downtown. The foundation worked with Pittsburgh's Green Building Alliance in assembling that section.

Alyssa Hopper, a research specialist with the alliance, says she believes the green section is important because it expresses a "powerful thing about Pittsburgh."

Not only does it show green buildings, such as the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, but it has older buildings that have been made efficient, such as the Century Building or Market at Fifth.

She says the work of new developers and the foundation are helping "to keep the character of Pittsburgh alive."

Sturgess says the foundation staff decided to keep the book the same 5-inch-by-8-inch format, so making the changes was basically a matter of adjusting new material to fit into already-defined space. Tannler and assistant archivist Frank Stroker provided the research and oversaw editorial content.

Sturgess says the 168 color photos are important.

"The greatest difficulty ... was finding 'good-weather' days for taking photos," she says. "We like the air to be very clean and clear and the light to be just right. Light can bring a building surface or urban stage to life."

Tannler believes many people, particularly visitors, still look at Pittsburgh as a city burdened by the smoke and grime of industry rather than thinking "of it as it is." He believes taking this whirlwind walk will be a cure to such misconceptions.

Tannler, who has written or contributed to several other similar guides in his 20 years with the foundation, says he now is working on a guide to 20th-century architecture in Pittsburgh. He hopes it will be published in 2013.

Sturgess says "Whirlwind Walk" and the foundation's similar publications all emerge from the same mindset.

"The point is, if you know about a place, you are more likely to care about it," she says.

Additional Information:

'Whirlwind Walk'

This 106-pages guide to exploring Downtown on foot has 168 color photographs and a fold-out map that illustrates a suggested route for the tour. $10 at 412-471-5808, ext. 525; or .

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