Point Park University Pittsburgh Playhouse Design by Westlake Reed Leskosky

by Naomi Crews

ArtistThe new Point Park University Pittsburgh Playhouse, designed by Westlake Reed Leskosky, is to be located in Downtown Pittsburgh on Forbes Avenue.

CLEVELAND, OHIO –– Point Park University has announced plans for the new Point Park University Pittsburgh Playhouse to be located on Forbes Avenue in Downtown Pittsburgh, within an officially designated redevelopment zone, as well as the Pittsburgh Center Keystone Innovation Zone.  The theater and education complex for Point Park University’s downtown campus is designed by Cleveland-based Westlake Reed Leskosky, nationally recognized architects, engineers and technology designers.

Set to open in 2017, the Playhouse will be located on approximately 1.6 acres of land along the Forbes Avenue corridor between Wood and Smithfield streets, close to two major, ongoing construction projects – PNC’s new world headquarters and The Gardens at Market Square by Millcraft.

“We believe the new Pittsburgh Playhouse will be a game-changer for Downtown Pittsburgh,” said Paul Hennigan, president of Point Park University. “Not only will the new facility be a dynamic learning environment for students in our Conservatory of Performing Arts, it will allow their creative process to be an integral part of the Downtown experience.”

Backstage is forestage

The new Playhouse is a complex, large-scale project that will encompass three structures when complete. A 92,000-square-foot new building will be seamlessly interwoven with two existing historic structures – the current University Center, designed by Frederick J. Osterling for the Colonial Trust Company, and the Stock Exchange Building, designed by prominent architect Charles M. Bartberger.

The unique and state-of-the-art space will act as both a learning center and an entertainment venue. Paul E. Westlake, Jr., FAIA, managing principal and a lead designer of Westlake Reed Leskosky, specialists in cultural and performing arts, said the key challenge – and opportunity – is to connect the learning labs and performance spaces to the urban community.

“This is accomplished by creating a concourse akin to a ‘trading floor’ environment which is a hive of activity,” architect Westlake said.

Westlake Reed Leskosky has designed the new Playhouse to offer the public an intimate view of the making of art, as large windows offer an unobstructed view of performance venues typically shielded from observation. A hangar door will connect one theater inside the Playhouse to the outdoor courtyard, providing students the opportunity to perform for the Downtown public at large.

Historic façades become Playhouse focal points

Preservation will be a key element to the Pittsburgh Playhouse.  An urban courtyard – a two-story outdoor plaza and colonnade– will feature three Forbes Avenue façades that will be meticulously deconstructed, then reconstructed as major focal pieces.

 “The Pittsburgh Playhouse at Point Park University will be a project of national significance for a leading academic theater program,” Paul Westlake said. “The project lies at the intersection of urbanism, preservation, education and culture.”

"The collaborative nature of our partnership with Westlake Reed Leskosky helped elevate the final Pittsburgh Playhouse design to something our entire academic community is excited about.  WRL was able to translate our vision of the new Playhouse as a teaching center first, without sacrificing its function or beauty for future patrons," said Paul Hennigan, president of Point Park University.

Corporate gifts launch fundraising effort

The University announced a $74 million campaign for the Playhouse project, which includes site assembly, a very generous parking arrangement and a maintenance endowment.  It will cost $53 million to build and furnish the playhouse.

To date, the University has completed $45 million in funding, including $14 million from Point Park University, its trustees and campaign leadership, corporate gifts totaling $18 million, a $5 million Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program grant and $8 million in foundation gifts. Including the sale of the playhouse in Oakland and gifts that are pending, the University will need to raise an additional $20 million to complete the project. The $18 million in corporate gifts comes from a group of corporations and represents significant investments from The PNC Financial Services Group, Inc., the PNC Foundation and Highmark Health.