U S Steel Tower Helipad Cited in CTBUH Journal

David Bear’s comment to a item in the Journal of The Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitats (CTBUH) on the world’s highest helipads appeared in the publication’s most recent issue.

Comments TBIN: Highest Helipads
This comes as a footnote to the Tall Buildings in Numbers feature on “Highest Helipads” in the CTBUH Journal 2014 Issue II.
Your readers may be interested to learn that the entire rooftop of the 64-story U.S. Steel Tower in Pittsburgh was originally conceived and constructed as a heliport for the company’s helicopters, which in the mid- 1960s ranked among the world’s largest private fleets.
In fact, according to former CTBUH Chair Les Robertson, the building’s structural engineer, the rooftop facility was built to serve vertical take-off jets!
To provide the necessary stability and strength for the building and its rooftop airport, the structural design included a hat-truss system, as well as a heavily reinforced concrete roof deck. HVAC systems were sited on a lower floor so as to not interfere with flight operations. These features, along with its system of exterior CorTen steel columns, are among the reasons why the building remains unique 44 years after it opened.
While the tide of subsequent events and safety concerns have rendered its heliport unused and unusable as such for over two decades, at 256 meters (841 feet) above street level, it otherwise would rank high on this list.
And covering nearly an acre (0.4 hectares) in area, it’s likely also the world’s largest, highest aviation aerie.

David Bear, Frank-Ratchye STUDIO for Creative Inquiry, Carnegie Mellon University/High Point Pittsburgh Project

Editor’s Note: According to our records, the U.S. Steel Tower helipad, even if in use, would not have made the list of “Ten Highest” Helipads, but it would have come close – the lowest of the ten highest is the Bitexco Financial Center, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, at 263 meters. However, that does not diminish U.S. Steel Tower’s significance as a tall steel building or a site of great potential for public space at height!

Barnestormin – Nov 1.2013

A visitor’s center/entertainment complex imagined for the rooftop of the U.S. Steel Tower will be higher than the “Top of the Rock” crowning Rockefeller Center, but quite different. At a full acre, it will be the highest, largest space atop any building in the world.
The Big Apple has the Empire State Building and Rockefeller Center observation decks just 15 blocks apart, illustrating the appeal of such sites. And thinking of those world-famous spots could be the best way to describe the experience that will be available in High Point Pittsburgh; a 2-story, glass-enclosed structure planned for the U.S. Steel Tower.
Led by Carnegie Mellon’s Studio for Creative Inquiry fellow David Bear, with the help of CMU students and faculty and other volunteers, the concept has been years in development. Now it’s moving forward with the creation of Friends of High Point Pittsburgh, an organization working towards a public-private partnership for the concept.

As envisioned, the spot would house a large presentation space, a restaurant, café, bar, art gallery/gift shop, two theaters and three “Viewseums,” capped by a rooftop observation deck. Green and sustainable, the site will honor the history and dreams of Western Pennsylvanians.
It could cost $70 million to create, but supporters say it will pay for itself and add value to an iconic landmark, bringing in millions in admissions each year, as does the Empire State Building’s observatory deck. The impact HPP will have on visitors able to see for many miles in any direction from high above the heart of Pittsburgh will be of incalculable value: they’ll catch their breath at the Steel Cityscape.
When built, High Point Pittsburgh will be an attraction bringing tourists onto Downtown’s sidewalks, as well as high above them to admire views as far out as Laurel Ridge.
Louise King Sturgess, Executive Director of Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation, wrote recently in Pittsburgh Quarterly that she’d like to see High Point Pittsburgh built and explained her reeasons. “Perhaps [ visitors] would be able to listen to a recording of David McCullough saying: ‘To understand the American experience, to understand American history and how American history changed the world, there is no better place to put a spotlight on than Pittsburgh.'”
The tallest building between New York and Chicago when it was built, U.S. Steel Tower remains one of the best addresses for Class A office Downtown. HPP volunteers say adding the attraction to its sturdy rooftop—built to accommodate helicopters and vertical takeoff jets—would be a fitting tribute to the industrial might that built the region and the workers who created our local economy.
HPP supporters must convince players like the building’s owners of the concept, but they’re undaunted.

High Point Pittsburgh is a way of changing people’s perceptions, Bear said. “It would be a place where we all can interact and find enjoyment, pleasure and culture, while learning about Pittsburgh. We see it as the area’s highest common denominator,” he said.
The building’s designer, world-famous engineer Leslie Robertson, likes the idea of adding a public top to the building. He’s reviewed the feasibility study and other High Point Pittsburgh materials and said further evaluations of the concept are needed, but it seems structurally possible and economically practical. “It should generate significant attention from visitors and citizens alike,” he said.
Those in the tourism business agree. Craig Davis, executive director of Visit Pittsburgh, likes the idea because it fits with his group’s goals. “We sell unique experiences… This would be a first day attraction, very unique, and a signature piece of Pittsburgh tourism,” he said.
To learn more about High Point Pittsburgh, visit www.highpointpittsburgh.org.
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Glass mosaic sculpture at Phipps

Daviea and HPP

Glass-mosaic artist Daviea Davis has created her vision of High Point Pittsburgh as one of 13 Pillars of Light she created for her exhibition, which will be on display at the Phipps Conservatory Summer Flower Show through September 2013.

Here are two short videos of the 4-foot-high, 3-dimensional piece and two short videos which show it in rotation by day and night.

High Point Pittsburgh by Daviea Davis 

High Point Pittsburgh at night at night video II



Opinion from the Building’s Structural Engineer

Leslie E. Robertson, the structural engineer who designed the U. S. Steel Building (as well as dozens of other landmark buildings around the world) contacted us several months ago (unsolicited) to find out more about our proposal for High Point Pittsburgh.

Having examined the proposed architectural design and the building’s construction documents, Mr. Robertson has deemed the entire project entirely doable, both physically and financially. You can read his letter of endorsement here.


Virtually There: The Viewseum at High Point Pittsburgh

In the spring 2012, a project team from the Entertainment Technology Center assisted by students from the School of Architecture transformed the building design ideas into The Viewseum at High Point Pittsburgh – Virtually There, a fully interactive, Web accessible virtual destination. Construction updates were posted weekly at the VT Online project Web site. The Beta version of Virtually There has been completed and is open to visit at www.highpointpittsburgh.com.

Virtually There is truly a “destination in the sky” with lots to do and much to see.

Along with accessing the virtual simulation’s dozen interactive kiosks and exploring its media gallery and video theaters, site visitors can check out the Top of the Triangle restaurant, the Pie in the Sky Café, and the High Bar. There are performances on Stage HP in the central atrium and numerous panoramic viewpoints, including glass floors corners. Visitors can ride elevators or climb stairs to the rooftop promenade and enjoy a virtual fireworks extravaganza. There’s even a helicopter perspective overview!

If you lack the time or electronics or are uncomfortable downloading the Unity Game Player, watch this 90-second video overview of the project. While nothing like actually being There, it does show what There is like.