By Margaret Smyka
Contributing Writer 

Project aims for wow factor in lighting the 18th Street steps to the S.S. Slopes


There is a simple way to gauge the effectiveness of the pending new lighting of the 18th Street steps, architect Peter Kreuthmeier said.

"If we did it right, people will slow down and take notice of it," he said.

The year-long project is expected to be completed in another week or less.

It was designed by Loysen + Kreuthmeier Architects. The lighting designer is Stephen Iski of studio i architectural lighting.

Mr. Iski also was lighting designer of the new Mt. Lebanon Veterans Memorial, for which Mr. Kreuthmeier was the architect.

The scope of the 18th Street steps project is two-fold: to provide safety lighting to convey a sense of security at night as the current lighting levels on the steps is not sufficient; and to celebrate the unique infrastructure of the neighborhoods, which is the steps.

The project involved repairing and painting many of the 140 steps; installing white LED lights under every step; and the erection of three poles with three fixtures apiece, each of which will project beams of deep blue colored and patterned light onto the stairs.

"It should be a beautiful thing so that people will appreciate the steps a little more," Mr. Kreuthmeier said of the latter.

The project is the third of three projects which reinforce one another as gateways to the neighborhood, with the other two being the pylon at the Triangle Garden at 18th and Josephine streets, and the scrim at Brosville and Monastery streets.

The 18th Street steps rise a total of 85 vertical feet, or seven stories.

On June 26, a 200-ton crane blocked 18th Street for a few hours as it hoisted the new poles into position for the new lights.

The poles are I-beams, or steel beams made of cor-ten, corrosion-resistant steel that takes on a rust-colored appearance over time.

Mr. Iski said the material was chosen for an aesthetic look as the rusted brown fits in with the trees that dot the hillside.

The new fixtures will replace the steps' old and rusted singular light fixture which will remain standing until the new lights are functioning.

It is the weather that is delaying completion as concrete cannot be installed in 95-degree temperatures.

The project represents a total investment of about $250,000, including engineering, step and structural repairs, painting, and $105,388 funded by a Duquesne Light grant for lighting.

Countless volunteer hours and pro bono professional services are not included in those figures.

"The challenge was to provide enough light for safe passage while also creating a compelling reason for pedestrians to take the stairway," Mr. Iski said of the project.

The ongoing electric charges will be minimized as the fixtures are primarily LED. The City of Pittsburgh will continue to cover these costs as part of their street lighting program.

The maintenance costs will be funded by the South Side Slopes Neighborhood Association (SSSNA).

Since 2007, the SSSNA and the former South Side Local Development Company (SSLDC) have shepherded the project.

The involvement of the non-profit, all volunteer SSNA is not surprising, said Mr. Kreuthmeier, a board member, in light of the association's annual StepTrek, a self-guided walking tour of the Slopes.

"StepTrek is all about the steps.

"These are the single highest visible steps in the neighborhood, right at the start of the neighborhood," he said.

Mr. Kreuthmeier said support of the organization is a way "to keep these lights burning brightly for a very long time."


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