The title of this post is deliberately misleading simply because whenever I go to a city I look down to see what the city offers — whether it be garbage bins, sidewalk etchings, or fire hydrants.
As any long-time Spacing reader will know, I have a bit of an obsession with streetscapes and the elements that are peppered along roads and sidewalks. Whenever I visit another city I tend to spend a day wandering around, looking down and photographing the details. That was no different when I visited Pittsburgh this past weekend.
When I told friends and colleagues I was off to Pittsburgh for four days the most often response was, “Pittsburgh?”
Yes, Pittsburgh. While I’ve been to Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, and Buffalo, Pittsburgh has always been off my radar. The city has always had a reputation as being down-in-the-dumps since it lost hundreds of thousands of jobs from the 1960s into the 1980s when steel mills and factories closed shop. While the population of the city has dwindled from 675,000 in 1950 to 311,000 in 2009, the city has reinvented itself as a bio-medical and education hub (luckily, the city has six universities all within walking distance of each other).
And I found that Pittsburgh shares a few similarities with Toronto, most notably the tile mosaics found at the steps of many stores. In Toronto, you can find similar works of craftsmanship along Queen, King, College, and Bloor streets (Spacing writer Dave LeBlanc wrote about the Toronto designs in our Fall 2007 issue). The designs I highlight from Pittsburgh can be found in the Southside Flats neighbourhood (which reminded very much of Bloor St. W. in the Annex).
. Below are some of the better mosaics I found on my Southside travels (also note that the stores with names embedded in their entrance — such as the “Goldenson’s” photo above — are no longer that store).
I hope to write a few more posts about the city in the coming weeks — including the incline trolley cars, street furniture, and bike racks — as I sort through my photos.