Carrie Furnace Public Park

Carrie Furnace in Real life

Problem Statement

I, as well as five classmates, presented to the non-profit Rivers of Steel, a plan for transforming what is currently a closed, tour-only, inactive iron furnace into a public park with a historical presence. Our overarching thesis for operating within Carrie was that of respect and restraint; my area of focus was the museum and entrance.

Questions I Addressed:

  • How to maximize the positive experience a person can have in an environment?

  • What are techniques for influencing peoples' actions through the design of the space?

  • How to implement designs informed by a guiding theme?

  • How to use wayfinding to guide people through an environment?

 

WHAT IS CARRIE FURNACE?

Carrie Furnace, which produced pig-iron (an essential material for creating steel), is significant as it is the only pre-World War II era iron furnace left in the Pittsburgh region. For a region which is synonymous with the American Steel Industry, the importance of keeping Carrie relevant to Pittsburgh shouldn't be understated.

The massive furnace triggers a sense of the mathematical sublime similar to that which one experiences in response to the expansiveness of nature. 

Solution Methodology

Research

I focused on the historical context that surrounded Carrie Furnace during the steel industry’s rise and fall and the unions which defined the workforce in that era. The more I learned about the furnace and the almost incomprehensible scale which it produced at, the more reverence I felt. 

Why make a museum?

A museum establishes a clear experience threshold, separating the modern world from Carrie. Secondly, the museum will serve as an important hub connecting bike trails that end at either side of the furnace.  Finally, educating visitors about Carrie and the Steel Industry is crucial to increasing the appreciation for the furnace.

Iteration 1: Museum Light

My first museum iteration was intended to feel small, light, and modern, thus not competing with the size and materiality of Carrie. The bend in the bike path forces bikers to slow down, leaving more time for them to consider entering the museum; I also placed bike racks right at the bend in the bike path to encourage bikers to stop.

Iteration 2: Museum Earth

An earth berm form was easier to integrate into the current landscape surrounding Carrie and while inside the park, the reduced presence of the museum allows visitors to appreciate Carrie without distraction. Instead of a curve to slow bikers down, a steep bike path leading over the museum itself encourages bikers to stop.

Frame Theory

As I designed how visitors moved through the museum and around the park, I focused on framing views of Carrie in order to maximize the awe one will feel when experiencing the furnace. In order to create "framed views" of Carrie, I intentionally concealed the view or provided competing experiences in order to encourage certain behaviors.

Iteration 3: Earth

My final model in Sketchup incorporated my decision to split the bike path and allow bikers to enter and travel through Carrie itself. By immersing bikers into the furnace grounds while keeping them apart from the majority of foot traffic, more transit bikers will be intrigued with Carrie and be more likely to spend time in the park.

 

Final Museum

Exterior

An earth berm easily blends into the nature surrounding the park and acts as the subordinate object to Carrie Furnace. Also, juxtaposing an earth berm next to a historically environmentally harmful furnace helps prime visitors for the educational content inside which illustrates pollution and it's negative effects.

I nestled the museum next to the retaining wall which already exists in Carrie in order to decrease the presence of the berm. The artificiality of the fence next to the museum would be reduced by growing out the fence with vines and other greenery, matching the earth berm’s ratio of natural and artificial elements.

Interior

The interior museum experience was based around four different maps at four different scales which told the story of Pittsburgh steel with an interactive timeline and animated projections.

  • Resource and immigrant flow in the US are shown on a map of the United States

  • Growth of factories, population fluctuation, and pollution are shown on a map of Pittsburgh

  • Social inequality and union activity are addressed on a map of Braddock (a quintessential steel community)

  • The process of creating pig-iron is shown on a map of Carrie itself

There is also a small exhibit showing the work of a local filmmaker, Tony Buba, who documented Braddock, a nearby steel town which supplied workers for Carrie Furnace. The museum also functions as a community hub with current events and offered classes at Carrie Furnace being posted on the bulletin board.

Fly-Throughs

Showing the intended interaction with the space I designed provides a more accurate view of what a typical experience would be.

Entrance by bike

Those biking towards the museum know Carrie is in the distance, as trees aren't large enough to hide the view without being too imposing. Still, the closer bikers are to Carrie, the more obscured their sight-line is; when bikers reach the fork in the road, the beauty of the furnace is revealed. The natural curve of the path more easily affords turning right, and the widening of the path affords slowing down and stopping for a better view of the furnace. 

Entrance by car

As the entrance for cars to Carrie is at elevation, hiding the view of Carrie is unrealistic, although the Cowper stoves (six cylinders) are partially hidden by the two warehouses. I intentionally only designated 33 parking spots, all of them in single file in order to reduce the visual weight and imposition of the parked cars.

Parking Lot to Museum

I intentionally forced visitors to walk 270 feet, roughly a one minute walk, in order to emphasize the separation of the modern world from Carrie. Trees deprive visitors of the view of Carrie as they walk to the museum and the curvature of the fence guides visitors and hides their cars from sight once in front of the museum.

Second entrance by bike

Bikers visiting or passing through Carrie will be able to experience a raised, unobstructed view of the furnaces, encouraging cycling traffic through the park instead of around it.

Museum Exit

Within the museum, I separated the educational experience of the exhibits and the sensory experience of viewing Carrie in order to maximize the framing effect upon exiting the museum. Due to the curvature of the museum, it's impossible to experience both at the same time; the benches help guide visitors towards the museum exit.

 

References