The building has an impressive appearance that blends surprisingly well into the landscape of the three sister bridges.
The visual integration was certainly the idea behind Rafael Vinoly's choice of curvy roof lines and cantilevered column supports. The convention center was like an artistic memorial to all the bridges that connect Pittsburgh's neighborhoods.
The original idea was even more far-out: to let water run down the roof and into the Allegheny river. It was supposed to cool down the building. Too bad the wacky plan never got approved. It could have been performance art every night! But why watch this show when you could watch a pigskin being thrown around in the air?
On closer inspection the convention center has the functionality of a giant ferry ship. The lower levels contain the parking garage while the 'passengers' are channeled into the building via narrow doors.
And this has to be the strangest defect for such an imposing center. The entrances have about as much visual impact as a suburban office park, and about as inviting as a generic strip mall.
The sidewalks on the river side are a kind of stepchild in the urban design, overlooked, under-landscaped and stripped of the goofy sculptures one would expect from places with more artistic aspirations.
But all is not lost. Reclaim the building with outdoor LED lighting shows! Why not turn the center red when there are conventions inside. Or flash Steelers colors when the home team plays...
There is a lot of promise to this location but civic leaders can always leave it like it is, like a ferry ship that goes nowhere.
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