Allegheny Riverfront Park

Allegheny Riverfront Park

Allegheny Riverfront Park transforms the relationships among downtown Pittsburgh, its cultural district, and the river. The landscape was designed to reconnect the Allegheny to downtown Pittsburgh’s civic realm. Completed in two phases between 1998 and 2001, Allegheny Riverfront Park was one of MVVA’s first urban projects.

The park occupies two ribbons of land parallel to the Allegheny River, one at the water’s edge and the other 25 feet higher. Connected by gently sloping, 300-foot ramps, the park gives the public direct visual and physical access to the river.

The Upper Level is a three-block-long promenade that links the iconic 1920s Three Sisters Bridges across the Allegheny. The promenade was transformed from a narrow sidewalk to a plaza by the relocation of a 50-foot-wide traffic median. Refined bluestone pavement, long arcing benches, and stately bands of London plane trees reinforce its civic character. Known for their urban hardiness, the London planes do double duty as street trees for the adjacent boulevard while providing shade for the promenade.

Both levels of the park have become popular everyday places for strolling, relaxing, and contemplating, and have also hosted a variety of civic events. Throughout the year, people fill the Upper Level on their way to watch the Pittsburgh Pirates or attend public events at PNC Park across the river. The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, which was MVVA’s client for the project, uses the Upper Level for festivals and other occasions.

In warm months boaters gather at the Lower Level to watch races or to pause for shade. The Lower Level also connects to the Three River Heritage Trail, making it a popular part of many long-distance walks and runs.

In contrast to the urbane Upper Level, the Lower Level is deliberately wild, with native vegetation that regenerates after being damaged by floods or ice floes and boulders that protect the plantings. The face of the concrete ramps are a canvas for an installation by the artist Ann Hamilton, and the ramps’ curving railings echo the vines that climb up mesh screens, shielding the ramps from the adjacent highway.

Michael, Laura, and Matthew with Michael Mercil, Ann Hamilton, and Carol Brown, circa 1994