The neighborhood of Knoxville lies just north of the South Side and Mt. Oliver. Today it’s a working class neighborhood and, unknown to most Pittsburghers, it has an interesting architectual history. The neighborhood started as a fruit farm owned by Reverend Jeremiah Knox; it started developing after the introduction of the inclines, and is now dotted with Victorian and brick homes.
I drive past the Knoxville Library on Brownsville Road often – admittedly, I always thought the building looked like a misplaced concrete fortress. It wasn’t until I came across this urban history of Pittsburgh that I realized I was driving past an architectural landmark. (Thanks to Dr. Frank Toker, professor of architecture at the University of Pittsburgh, for posting this in its full glory.)
Apparently, the library was designed by Paul Schweikher, former chairman of the schools of architecture at Yale University and Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie Mellon University). The Knoxville Library can be cited as an example of “new brutalism” (from the French brut, or concrete.)
Schweikher also designed the studio theatre at CMU, the Duquesne Union at Duquesne University, and the WQED building.
Here is one interpretation of the Knoxville library (from the urban history of Pittsburgh):
“The neighborhood … provides a remarkable setting for Paul Schweikher’s elegant and self-contained Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh–Knoxville Branch (400 Brownsville Rd., SW corner Matthews; 1966). This cement-block structure pulls back from the street by means of two deeply recessed vestibules that muffle traffic noises. It receives its main light not from the street but from two grey metal hoods that rise, fortresslike, from the central block of the building and terminate in skylights. The design of the library is a daring concept, elitist rather than populist in tone, since its shrinks from contact with the rag-tag architecture of the street, and sets itself up as a sanctuary of learning for the neighborhood residents who want one.
Well then, this teaches me not to look at buildings as uninspiring slabs of concrete.
Does anyone have any photos of the library? I scoured the Internets, but alas, I could not find anything. Please comment or e-mail if you have any more info (or if you feel like taking a picture yourself!)