Pittsburgh: Redesigning Market Square

Over the years, urban planning in North America has disregarded traditional patterns of urbanism and built cities around the needs of the private automobile rather than people. The result has been the production of an undifferentiated urban landscape of non-places and socially polarised geographies of nowhereness. The segregation of land use into isolated mono-functional districts connected by an extensive network of high-speed motorways has meant reduced dependence on and subsequent neglect of the mass transit system, and the elimination of pedestrian circulation. Moreover, prioritising accessibility over propinquity contributed to the ubiquitous and standardised pattern of lifeless downtowns and endless suburban sprawl, prevented the formation of place-based communities, and inflicted severe damage upon the vitality, social purpose and quality of the public realm.

Like most other North American cities, the city of Pittsburgh, located in Pennsylvania, suffered from spatially segregated functional zones, extended daily commutes, worsening traffic congestion, poor pedestrian infrastructure, and a desolate downtown on weekday evenings and weekends. However, unlike some of the equivalent Rust Belt cities, Pittsburgh devised an integrative urban design strategy employing the long-established principles of traditional place-making to create a more sustainable, more liveable, more walkable and less automobile-dependent urban environment. This paper explores the successful transformation of Market Square, an important public space in downtown Pittsburgh.