Pittsburgh’s Mellon Square Recognized By Docomomo US’ 2016 Modernism in America Design of Excellence Award

JUN 22, 2016 

Downtown plaza, restored by Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy and City of Pittsburgh in 2014, wins prestigious national design award.

Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy and City of Pittsburgh, in partnership with Heritage Landscapes, have been recognized with the Docomomo 2016 Civic/Institutional Design Award of Excellence for their restoration of Mellon Square.  The award recognizes Mellon Square as one of ten projects in the United States that is exemplary of the efforts that have contributed to the advocacy, restoration, and celebration of the architecture, landscapes and typologies of postwar society in the United States.


Modernism in America Awards is the only national program that celebrates the people and projects working to preserve, restore and rehabilitate our modern heritage. The program seeks to advance modern design preservation efforts; to increase appreciation for the Modernist period, and to raise awareness of the on-going threats against modern architecture and design. The awards acknowledge the substantial contribution preservation in general and the postwar heritage in particular makes to the economic and cultural life of our cities and towns and their respective communities. Mellon Square is widely considered a masterpiece of the Modernist era, and its recent extensive restoration has spurred economic growth around its downtown Pittsburgh perimeter.

Envisioned as a cornerstone of Pittsburgh’s post WWII renaissance by Richard King Mellon and Mayor David L. Lawrence, Mellon Square was collaboratively designed by architects Mitchell & Ritchey and landscape architects Simonds & Simonds. It opened in 1955 as the nation’s first urban plaza designed with an underground garage and retail space as an integral composition. After falling into decline due to weather, economic hardships, and use, a Preservation, Interpretation & Management Plan was first developed in 2008 and informed the five-year restoration and revitalization project.  The plan focused on recapturing the original design intent and solving persistent issues of decline.   The reimagined restoration – including new elements designed to meet the needs of present-day park users – was completed in 2014. A maintenance fund is a key part of this restoration, ensuring that Mellon Square never again falls into disrepair and remains a vital element in Pittsburgh’s downtown for generations to come.

Docomomo Design of Excellence jury chair, architect Frederick Bland noted, “As one of the nation’s oldest modern urban plazas – and an original component of the success story of Pittsburgh’s mid-twentieth century renaissance – Mellon Square’s detailed and comprehensive restoration considers both daytime and nighttime uses, includes an interpretative display to convey the meaning of the design to the public, and establishes a maintenance endowment.” 

The Parks Conservancy’s Curator Susan Rademacher, Hon. ASLA, said “The Docomomo Award is a wonderful honor for our city, and for the Parks Conservancy, City of Pittsburgh, Heritage Landscapes, and all our professional and community partners. The public’s enthusiastic embrace of Mellon Square since its reopening has been beautiful to see, and the national recognition that this award brings to the Emerald Jewel of the Golden Triangle is a cause for celebration for our city and region.”

The award will be presented to the Parks Conservancy, City of Pittsburgh, and Heritage Landscapes on Thursday, September 22, 2016 at a ceremony in New York City.


High resolution image available upon request; image credit Jeremy Marshall.

About the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy:

The Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy was founded in December 1996 by a group of citizens concerned with the deteriorating conditions of Pittsburgh's historic city parks. A nonprofit organization, the Parks Conservancy works closely with the City of Pittsburgh under an official public-private partnership agreement to restore and improve the city’s park system to its full potential. Originally including Highland, Schenley, Frick, and Riverview Parks, the scope of the Park Conservancy’s work now includes a focus on community parks including Allegheny Commons, Arsenal Park, Cliffside Park, McKinley Park, and Mellon Park. To date, the Parks Conservancy has raised $92 million toward park improvements.

About Docomomo US:

Docomomo US is dedicated to the preservation of modern architecture, landscape and design. Through advocacy, education and documentation, we provide leadership and knowledge by demonstrating the importance of modern design principles including the social context, technical merits, aesthetics and settings of these important pieces of American history. Docomomo US (documentation and conservation of buildings, sites and neighborhoods of the modern movement) was founded in 1995.