Pittsburgh, PA

- WHAT -

1st Place Epic Metals Competition

- WHEN -

Mar '16 (3 days)


PAVILION: Obscura is flexible learning environment aiming to serve and reflect the community it resides in.  Using light and image as its medium, the space augments and juxtaposes views of the surrounding landscape, bringing attention to the changing adjacencies of the neighborhood and  its resulting frictions.  


Historically, Hazelwood is an industrial neighborhood. Once home to steel mills and boat building, recently the area has experienced great social and economic strife. With a historically low population, the neighborhood lacks the proper resources and has become a food desert. The site sits directly across the street from an empty brownfield, once home to the neighborhood's steel mill. A looming development is scheduled for the land, bringing a new life to the area. However, with large tech companies anchoring the project, there is concern that the neighborhood will gentrify like so many of the city's other neighborhoods. This project positions itself as a reflection of the changing landscape, calling attention to and providing specific views of the changing adjacencies. 

VIEWS | Old/New

The camera obscura provides for six views of the landscape. (1) One looking down the Second Avenue Corridor, historically the business district of the neighborhood; (2) A second looking out towards the riverfront where trade used to take place; (3) A view towards downtown, catching the ALMONO development in the foreground; (4) A view down the future center of the ALMONO development; (5) A view looking at one of the original Carnegie Libraries in Pittsburgh, and the closed Gladstone Middle School, a sign of the low population; (6) A view of the sky, obscured and projected on to the floor of the space, a reminder to always look up.

FORM | Bisecting Wings

The form of the pavilion, both in plan and section, is directly derived from the path of the light as it enters the obscura. The two wings emphasize and prioritize the juxtaposing views of the new development and the closed library and school. The two views cross paths at the center, leveraging this juncture as a place for discussion and teaching. One wing of the space is utilized as the door as well. Both sides swinging open to allow for continuous movement through the space.

THE DETAILS | Metal Deck

The grooves that give the metal deck its strength were also used as paths for sliding scrims. Adding this kinetic element to the panels allowed them to both craft space and disrupt and juxtapose views, adding conversation to the space.  The sliding panels were affixed in their various positions with cables and specially designed anchor plates, embedded in the floor of the structure.

A reflective chrome finish was chosen for the decking to twist and confuse light on the interior, while reflecting the surrounding landscape on the exterior, continuing the metaphor of being a mirror or lens through which to view the neighborhood.

FLEXIBILITY | Interior and Exterior

The pavilion was designed to exist in many different states, proving to be just as flexible as the activities of those using it. Allowing the user to dictate the program, but also suggesting ways in which the space can be utilized best. The opening and closing of the wings, and moving of the floating scrims, open and close the internal space, at times crafting nooks, and other times completely removing the line between in and out.

ASSEMBLY SEQUENCE | Built For Disassembly

The pavilion was designed to be easy to put together, take apart and transport, and salvage for materials if the needs of the community change.


This project was in collaboration with Sophie Nahrmann as a part of the Epic Metals Design Competition. The project was awarded first prize.