Firstside Park

Designers: Astorino (Gillespie and Rachelle Wolf) | City: Pittsburgh, PA | Project Type: private park, recycled materials, sustainable infrastructure
Date Visited: 09.12.12
Location: 500 First Ave.
Size: 1.5 acres
Official Opening Date: 2007

PNC Financial Service Group, the corporation behind Pittsburgh’s six-story green wall, also funded the development of Firstside Park, an eco-friendly, privately-owned public open space. With its sustainable and recycled materials palette, 1.5-acre Firstside Park is yet another example of how Pittsburgh is moving towards a greener, environmentally-friendly standard.

Firstside Park is sited near an entrance to the city, making it one of the first landmarks that Pittsburgh commuters would pass by daily. So it was important for the architecture and engineering firm Astorino to design a park that doubled as an inviting gateway and symbol of sustainability. By focusing on on-site recycling, Astorino diverted almost 98% waste from landfill disposal; 2,500 tons of concrete was recycled from the site’s deconstructed Public Safety Building.

A Hellen Keller quote etched in granite greets you at the entrance:

Life is either a grand adventure or nothing.

The defining elements of this park are the chipped limestone labyrinth-like walkways that spiral and wind their way from the open path to private seating areas that feature various sculptures and raised earth mounds. Surrounded by a tall spiral of planting, these small spaces offer respite from the busy streets.

Grasses were used liberally throughout the site and planted very close to the walkways, frequently brushing up against people walking past. I liked that a lot of plants had an extra sensory dimension, from added layers of texture to scents. The crunch of the gravel on the winding paths helped me focus my thoughts on the park and off of the noise of traffic.

In addition to a great diversity of grasses and perennials, one hundred-and-one trees were carefully selected for fragrance and four-season interest.

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