Pittsburgh’s twelve-story Century Building was constructed in 1907 by the Century Land Company, hence, its name. Located in the city’s central business and cultural districts, it served as an office building for the vast majority of its life. At the time, the Beaux Arts building was one of the taller structures in the city, but as the age of steel dawned, it would soon be dwarfed by buildings around it. Today, the building houses a first-floor restaurant, two floors of office space and 61 affordable residential lofts. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2008.
Backstory and Context
As Pittsburgh progressed and expanded into the 20th century its business district began to transform from a manufacturing and warehouse center to that of the headquarters and office space for the various companies than called the city home. To that end, office buildings became the structure de jour for the times and the Century Building was no different. The Century Land Company was headquartered there and opened up the rest of the 68,000 square feet within their building to other tenants.
The architects decided upon a Beaux Arts design that was quite popular in the U.S. at the turn of the century. Derived from the École des Beaux-Arts school in Paris, the design of the Century Building includes many of the style’s mainstays, to include ornate cornices, a flat roof, pilasters, arched windows, and classical details. The narrow building also features a Pompeian brick and terra-cotta façade and floors four through ten are sandwiched between its two deep and rich cornices and its numerous windows are separated by four tall, thin, external pilasters.
Over the past 100 years the Century Building saw the cultural district spring up around it and it eventually became an almost totally free-standing structure with only a theater complex at its rear. Unfortunately, the building also fell into a state of disrepair as the 20th century turned into the 21st. Help arrived in the form of the collaboration of over 30 corporations, foundations and individuals who reimaged the venerable building into residential, commercial and office space. Headed by the Trek Development Group with designs from Julie Eizenberg and Hank Koning, the Century Building underwent an $18 million renovation in 2009 which included a total restoration of the façade and floor-to-ceiling windows with unique copper window bays.
The primary goal of the new Century Building was to provide mixed-income housing for Pittsburgh’s working classes and the 61 affordable and workforce units included in the renovations do just that. The building now features an open-loop geothermal heating and cooling system, a 2,000 square-foot green roof deck, a fitness facility, community center, and a bright green bike commuter center created from recycled shipping containers that affords the building’s residents year-round bicycle storage. The renovated building has also won numerous awards to include the American Institute of Architects Pittsburgh Award of Excellence for Historical Preservation in 2010, the Jack Kemp Workforce Housing Model of Excellence Award in 2012 and LEED Gold accreditation.
"Historic Building, Modern Amenities." Trek Development Group. Accessed May 3, 2017. http://www.centuryon7th.com/history/
"The Century Building: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania." Urban Land Institute. Accessed May 3, 2017. http://uli.org/wp-content/uploads/ULI-Documents/Century-Building_in-layout_FINAL.pdf
"Century Building." Green Building Alliance. Accessed May 3, 2017. https://www.go-gba.org/projects/century-building/
Semmes, Ben. "Century Building upper floors to be converted into apartments." Pittsburgh Business Times. February 28, 2007. Accessed May 3, 2017. http://www.bizjournals.com/pittsburgh/stories/2007/02/26/daily27.html