The central focus of the University of Pittsburgh's main campus in the Oakland section of the city, the 545-foot, 42-story Cathedral of Learning is the tallest educational building in the Western Hemisphere. The steel and limestone building was the vision of Chancellor John G. Bowman who had it commissioned in 1921. Construction began in 1926, the first classes took place in 1931 and it was dedicated in 1937. It now houses various classrooms and administrative and academic offices within its over 2,000 rooms and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1975.


  • The Cathedral of Learning.
    The Cathedral of Learning.
  • The Cathedral during construction.
    The Cathedral during construction.
  • The Norwegian Nationality Room.
    The Norwegian Nationality Room.
  • The Cathedral's massive commons room.
    The Cathedral's massive commons room.

Realizing that the university would be in need of space in the future, Chancellor Bowman decided to hire Philadelphia architect, Charles Klauder, to design a building that melded Gothic architecture with a modern skyscraper design.  Bowman then acquired the 14-acre plot of land known as Frick Acres on which to place Klauder's building.

Construction began in earnest in 1926, but was delayed by the onset of the Great Depression in 1929.  When the building was finally dedicated in 1937 it soared over 500 feet above nearby Forbes Field and the rest of the Oakland neighborhood.  Perhaps the Cathedral's most impressive space is its 1/2-acre, four-story commons room that is wholly supported by a series of Gothic arches.

The Cathedral now houses a theater, food court, various study lounges and 30 nationality rooms, 28 of which are working classrooms.  These nationality rooms represent the various cultures that have had a significant influence on the growth and development of Pittsburgh.  Each one was designed as a typical classroom, from a given culture would have looked in 1787, the year the university was founded.  Nationalities represented include Chinese, Turkish, Polish, African Heritage, and Indian among others.

Hillinger, Charles. "Pittsburgh Still Adores Cathedral of Learning." LA Times. October 15, 1989. Accessed October 28, 2016. http://articles.latimes.com/1989-10-15/news/vw-490_1_nationality-rooms Cheney, Jim. "Exploring the Beauty, History and Culture of the Cathedral of Learning." Uncovering PA. June 8, 2012. http://uncoveringpa.com/cathedral-learning-pittsburgh