Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Allegheny County Courthouse

Allegheny County Courthouse is a government building of Allegheny County located in the county seat, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Following the destruction of the second courthouse, Allegheny County Commissioners decided to hold a competition to design a replacement. The winner of the competition was Boston architect Henry Hobson Richardson and construction of the buildings was begun by the Norcross Brothers, Richardson's construction firm of choice, in 1884. The excavation and foundation of the site was contracted to Booth and Flinn. The jail portion of the complex was completed in 1886, the year of Richardson's death and the entire court house was finished in 1886 by Shepley, Rutan and Coolidge, Richardson's successor firm. The total cost of the project up to that time was over two and a quarter million dollars.
The building is built around an interior courtyard, thus allowing natural light and fresh air to reach most of the building. 
A tower rises five stories from the courtyard's open side. The roof is steep.

A prison is connected to the courthouse via the "Bridge of Sighs". The design was based on the Bridge of Sighs in Venice. 
The entire complex was built of large rusticated blocks of granite, with the entrance ways and windows topped with wide arches.
 This gives the building a heavy, stable and dignified appearance.

Having Richardson's education at the École des Beaux-Arts proved fruitful.  This is a highly planned and organized facility, in addition to being pleasing to the eye.  Though lacking the ornamentation of the similar civic buildings abroad, this building achieves stature without excess.  The courtyard is a pleasant feature, while not an innovation, it is consistent with baronial castle architecture in Scotland.  Indeed, Richardson's aim may have been to build a castle in the center of Pittsburgh... 

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