Children's Museum

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Buhl Community Park to Open June 23

Northside Park Gets New Face & New Name

PITTSBURGH (June 19, 2012) - When Buhl Community Park at Allegheny Square is dedicated on June 23, a newly designed woodland landscape and a freshly installed, fog-producing sculpture will greet visitors.

The location, though, is familiar and historic. Formerly Allegheny Public Square, the plaza between the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh and Allegheny Center has been a civic and neighborhood center in some form since the chartering of Allegheny City in 1840.

But a 1960s redesign complete with changing levels of concrete and brick and very little greenery resulted in a barren and lifeless space, particularly as it fell into disrepair over the years

 “We wanted to re-establish this park as a neighborhood center by making it a place that draws everyone to relax, to gather, to enjoy nature, or to participate in a variety of community events,” explains Children’s Museum Executive Director Jane Werner.

Because the Children’s Museum completed a nationally award-winning expansion and renovation in 2004, and they have led other neighborhood redevelopment projects since then, the organization was well-positioned to take on the revitalization of the park. With cornerstone support from The Heinz Endowments, The Buhl Foundation, The Grable Foundation and the partnership of the City of Pittsburgh, the Museum moved forward with the project.

The new design, by Andrea Cochran Landscape Architecture of San Francisco was chosen through a national design competition in November of 2007. Subsequently, a series of community meetings engaged neighborhood residents and organizations to suggest key changes. “With such a strong connection between the Children’s Museum and the community, there was a much deeper level of engagement than you would find elsewhere,” says Cochran. “We took our original scheme and redesigned it as a park that met the community input.”

The new plaza design brings together native trees and grasses, walking paths and gathering spaces, interspersed with low bluestone walls. “We wanted this large green area where people could throw a ball, have a picnic. A green space you could look at,” explains Cochran.

At the edge of the central gathering space, artist Ned Kahn’s “Cloud Arbor” consists of 64 stainless steel poles, each 32 feet tall, forming a 28 foot square grid. Funded by The Charity Randall Foundation, Cloud Arbor’s poles have evenly spaced nozzles to emit mist and form a small cloud of fog when wind conditions permit. The Children’s Museum plans for this to happen every five minutes or so, creating an exciting event for visitors to watch and engage with regularly. “We aim to create a porous environment that merges with the atmosphere in the same way that the “Articulated Cloud” building façade art work [does],” Kahn states.

The Children’s Museum is setting aside funds to operate and maintain the sculpture and special features of the park, in partnership with the city, which will perform more conventional maintenance.

The Buhl name is especially suited to the reconceived space. “The Boggs and Buhl Department Store was located on the corner of this square for decades. Now, The Buhl Foundation has been instrumental in supporting the Children’s Museum and numerous other revitalization projects, including this newly designed park,” comments Werner. “We wanted to recognize the Buhl legacy and commitment to the neighborhood in the history of this space.”

The museum raised more than $6.5 million for the project. Other supporters of the project include the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Diane and Guilford Glazer, UPMC Health Plan and more than 150 other individuals, corporations and foundations.