If you were going to design a free, public, outdoor space where you could check in with friends and co-workers or check out from your busy day, what would it look like?
Would there be cafe tables for sitting and chatting? Would there be a bench for napping? Would there be a tree for shade? Artwork to inspire the eye or burbling water to soothe the ear? Free Wi-Fi to help you complete your work or a garden to distract you from it?
These are the sorts of questions the Hot Metal Bridge Faith Community plans to ask its neighbors before tearing down the fence currently separating the church’s patio from the public sidewalk along the 2700 block of Jane Street.
“Right now that space is unused 90 percent of the time,” said Dylan Rooke, the church’s building manager. “But if it was accessible from the sidewalk, we think it could be a much more inviting space.”
He hopes that the redesigned space could function as a “third place” – someplace other than home or the workplace – where neighbors can interact.
The design for this “neighborplace” will be facilitated by Dustin Lee at the South Side architecture firm Peter Margittai Architects, LLC. He was inspired by studying intimate public space in Pittsburgh and abroad and approached the church about a possible partnership.
Mr. Lee’s favorite downtown public space is Richardson’s courtyard in the Allegheny County Courthouse.
“Passing through the beautiful arched entry, you transition from the imposing presence of civic architecture and bustle of downtown into a quiet refuge of calm,” he said. “Any good public space is a form of kindness, and it’s inspiring to see the folks at Hot Metal sharing their own private space with their community.”
The process will begin with a series of public design workshops to be held at the church, where all are welcome to design or observe as members of the community. At each workshop, Mr. Lee will provide participants with instructions and materials and will work to foster creativity about how the space can best serve the neighborhood. Mr. Lee and other architects will be available to create rough sketches of people’s ideas, answer questions, and facilitate discussion.
After Mr. Lee and his team have compiled the community’s input into a collaborative design, the church will begin working to secure funding for the project.
The workshops will be held at the church (on the patio if weather permits) and will be open to the public. The dates are Tuesday, May 7 at 7 p.m. and Wednesday, May 15 at 7 p.m.
The Hot Metal Bridge Faith Community is at the corner of 27th and Jane streets in South Side.