Centre & Aiken

For a large majority of our lives we walk through the world accepting our environment and not bothering to stop and observe. As a class project we chose different areas around Pittsburgh, PA to scope out and ask the hard questions. We are searching for things like whats the vibe? How do I feel in the space? Is it clean or dirty? What is here? Who is here? What is the personality of this place? We are doing this exercise to help train our minds to look closer at the world so that we can give form to ideas.

Field Notes

Here’s what I saw.


Starbucks — Suggests a certain amount of wealth

Courtyard Marriott — Had a decently large parking lot to suggest many out of town visitors possibly going to UPMC

Hyatt House


Two Apartment houses about 7 stories high

  • The Arlington
  • The Coranodo Apartments — Had surveillance cameras and signs saying so along with bar on the windows. Although none of the other buildings were as protected. When I was on the side of the street with these apartments

United Methodist Church

Dean Salon

Looked quite fancy

Panera Bread



Old vs. New

  • If you looked up toward Liberty Ave you could see the newer buildings and establishments in the distance, Hyatt House, Courtyard Marriott, starbucks, and the park. Each entity was encased by small trees that had not been there for long. If you were to look down Aiken street you could see the two apartment buildings, which were encased by larger more established trees. The lawns were freshly cut and the area very well taken care of. The two apartment buildings looked much more old, but after searching for it I could not find a placard for their age.
The Arlington Apartment (left) and the Coranodo Apartment (right). The Old
The meticulously groomed lawn of The Arlington Apartments.
Courtyard Marriott (left) and Park (right). The New

How I felt

Hustle and bustle, in the way

  • I was there between 330 and 430 pm. Many cars were headed out of the city while few were going in. Same was the case with the steady stream of passersby that walked through the intersection. Additionally, a diverse group of people were walking through the area as well. I felt as though I was in the way standing on the narrow sidewalk jotting notes down in my sketchbook. I found that the area was not very friendly to walkers with its small sidewalks and the streets did not have designated signs for pedestrians although there were crosswalks. In fact while waiting to cross the street one woman shouted from her car as the light was red, for she could not turn, “Hey you better get to the otherside fast because I ain’t stopping!!” I took my time crossing that street and she was not kidding she almost ran me over.


  • I felt I was in a very clean part of town the park was nicely groomed streets had new looking benches and well kept trashcans on the street corners.

The best for last.

  • The church didn’t really fit in with the whole area. It is a historical landmark built in 1893, but it was not very well maintained. Although there were a few flowers in front of the church they did not cover up the three boarded up broken stained glass windows, the weeds growing in the front steps, or the dire need for a good cleaning of the church. When standing across the street while looking at the church a mailbox with graffiti on it faces the observer seeming to forshadow the church.
First United Methodist Church with US Postal services.

A Saturday Morning at 9:30am

Field Notes

One of the tasks for the intersection reconstruct its identity by only using simple shapes and cut up paper. To do this I chose to remake the church and mailbox picture. I feel that the church is what makes the area unique therefore it will be how I communicate identity through form.

Project phases
Finished piece.

During the Critique of my first draft of my relief Steve and Stacy thought the graffiti was overpowering. To get the message I am intending is to difficult because someone would have to read into it too much. Also too many elements of the picture were stacked on one another.

I decided to change the story I was telling so I switched pictures and created yet another relief.

The picture is from the church looking over the intersection and Relief

During today’s crit I learned more about how what we chose to add and subtract form the image. This is essential because you have to give your eye a break when looking at something. In my next relief I will work on simplifying the furthest building on the right and the beds and landscaping infront of it. For me when I see the relief my eye gets trapped in the back right part of the image. I want to refocuse on the bus and people more. That said this new picture tells the story of how busy Centre and Aiken really is.

We created another relief, but this time the class utilized tones of brown. I focused on taking out some of the noise which took away from the cars and people on the street. The road is white so that it contrasts the darker colors of the car and bus along with the three different tones of the people. I beleive the buildings are still too loud, which takes away from communicating to the viewer that it is a busy street. In my next relief I am going to simplify the background even more and allow the buildings to blend in.

For our forth relief we were tasked with adding color. The class was given a choice of different blues, greens, yellow, orange, and red. I chose red to accentuate the bus and van because it comunicates a sense of urgency, speed, and danger. The Bus and van are also moved closer to one another to add a feeling of tension between the two vehicles. When I first went to the intersection I was yelled at by one women from her car saying “YOU BETTER CROSS QUICK BECAUSE I’M GOING!!” She was not lying. The women came within a foot from hitting me. I also made the back two buildings very light tones inverted to each other. This feature blends them in and your eye does not get caught up in them. I also reduced the tree even more so the street light could be more pronounced. I am very happy with this relief because it really does tell the viewer “BEWARE THIS IS A BUSY PLACE!!”

I have learened a lot throughout this project, but I think the most important thing is that it is okay to add and subtract something as long as it is done to communicate an idea. At first this was very uncomfortable for me, but I realize now that it is necessary to do. I have also been openned up to the idea that not everything has to make someone feel good. In highschool I did a lot of woodworking, which for me was about achieving beauty and a connection with the natural material. I always loved when someone felt the top and said “wow this is so smooth!” It is moments like that in which I knew I did my job. Ironically, in design we want to guide people to feel a certain way and it is not always good feelings. This is something I will have to work towards in the future.

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