East of Liberty : reclaiming Main Street
Author(s)Westervelt, Nathalie M. (Nathalie Marie)
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Dept. of Architecture.
John P. De Monchaux.
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Although we were taught about the success of the Civil Rights movement in elementary school, it is undeniable that socioeconomic differences create community borders throughout the world. Specifically discussed here is East Liberty part of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania's "East End." Over a forty-five year period East Liberty has been disassociated from her neighbors and become an archipelago like many of Pittsburgh's neighborhoods. Since the sixties, when the first interventions were commissioned by David L. Lawrence's Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA), development reinforced already present socioeconomic barriers and people began to fear East Liberty, on the other side of the tracks from Shadyside. Today, the URA no longer directly influences design, but oversees the federal funding that non profit Community Development Corporations (CDCs) receive for the commercial and residential development projects. Ironically, CDCs are comprised of real-estate brokers, not politicians, architects, nor planners. Economically, East Liberty is improving if the big box stores make profits, then the land will generate revenue from taxes and its value will rise. If more developers and business owners take interest, the empty storefronts will fill. This process, however, should include a plan for the retention of the poorer residents who wish to remain in their homes. The cost of economic success is the continual displacement of those who do not have any stake in where they live due to their dependence on the government. Displacement severs familial and community roots inhibiting the success of both.(cont.) To paraphrase Lao-Tsu: a thing must take root in order to be nourished. Thus this thesis addresses the necessity to create opportunity as well as architecture when planning the redesign of a poor community. To this end, this thesis proposes that in order to redevelop, the community must build from within. The proposal here is to plan a series of developments that will tie East Liberty into the East End. The first development is a Building Arts School capable of providing Bachelors degrees in the Arts and the Sciences and dedicated to the education of the poor who live in the East End. In addition to creating a catalyst for urban and economic growth, this school provides a means to raise one's social status through education and marketable skills. With East Liberty as its campus, the school will provide much needed public space and a re-connection to the other side of the tracks inasmuch as it is one of a network of developments based upon the projected rise in traffic caused by the school, connecting bus hub and bridge to Shadyside. The chosen site, a point along bus way, at a major bus stop, and in the periphery between three neighborhoods is optimal because the architecture acts as a gateway, a beacon and a connector. Providing a monumental continuity between inside and outside, this project is 4 an initial urban intervention a chain of reactions that will reclaim the civic space of Penn Avenue, the Main Street of the East End and the opportunities that once were there. East Liberty is an interesting case study because it shows the strata of abandonment and renewal common to many American post-industrial cities.(cont.) It is a protagonist in the saga of the rise and fall of the railroad and steel industry. The latter undermining the economic base of Pittsburgh which may be recognized in the decayed urban fabric of lower class neighborhoods. East Liberty is one of many former urban centers fallen victim to the demise if inner city community at the rise of the suburb.
Thesis (M. Arch.)--Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Dept. of Architecture, 2006.Includes bibliographical references (p. 66-67).
DepartmentMassachusetts Institute of Technology. Department of Architecture
Massachusetts Institute of Technology