2017 City As Text

City as Text™ refers to structured explorations of environments and ecosystems. Designed as on-going laboratories through which small teams investigate contested areas and issues in urban environments, or competing forces in natural ones, these exercises foster critical inquiry and integrative learning across disciplines. Please note that these are NOT guided tours. Students will be given inductions, maps, and reflection questions to consider when exploring different areas of Pittsburgh.

  • On Friday April 7, we will gather for the City as Text Orientation, divide into destination groups, receive assignments, maps, and suggestions for where to eat. The larger cohorts will be grouped into teams of 4-5.  Please note that some of these destinations (denoted by *) involve entrance fees, depending on what you choose to do in each of the neighborhoods.  You will need to purchase your lunch on your excursion.
  • You should come to the CAT Orientation Session promptly at 9:00 am, wearing good walking shoes, dressed appropriately for the weather, and armed with exact change for public transportation if needed. Depending on distance of route, fees can vary in price from $2.75-$3.75 each way.  All will return to the hotel by 3:45 pm  to prepare summary comments for a 4:00 pm wrap-up discussion in which participants will share their discoveries of Pittsburgh as Text.

CAT Exploration Questions

As your group explores the neighborhood, take notes on the following questions in preparation for your group report.  Record the evidence that would inform your discussion so that you can share what you noticed with your larger group.  As you know, combined research will make for a more complete perspective and informed response.  Share your investigative tools and your evidence.

  • What evidence of disparities and/or differences did you find on your exploration?
  • What “bridging influences” or physical bridges did you encounter?
  • What evidence of commonalities did you find on your exploration?
  • What sense do you get of a Pittsburgh identity? Bring record of the evidence.
  • Who did you encounter on your exploration – native Pittsburghers, transplanted Pittsburghers, or tourists? What did they say about the city?  Do you notice any trends in response?
  • Based on your discoveries, what insights are beginning to form about Pittsburgh’s efforts to bridge the divide?

City As Text Schedule Friday, April 7th in the Presidential Ballroom:

  • 9:00am: City as Text Orientation and keynote Address
  • 10am-3:00pm: City as Text Excursions
  • 3:30pm-4:30pm: Wrap-Up and Reflection

CAT General Articles about Pittsburgh:

Travel information:

  • Cash or Connect cards ($5.00 fee) can be used to pay for incline, bus, and train fares.
  • If paying with cash, fares are $2.75 and no transfers are provided. Exact change is needed.
  • Connect cards can be bought at the Station Square metro station, about a 5 minute walk from the hotel. There is a $1 activation fee and trips are $2.50 each way with $1 transfers.
  • The T, Pittsburgh’s light rail system, is free between the Allegheny and First Avenue stations.
  • Up-to-date transportation information can be found at http://www.portauthority.org/

Map of Downtown:   


City As Text Options:

Funk on the Mon/South Side: Little remains of the steel, iron and glass industries on the South Side; however, the attempts to preserve the Victorian homes and businesses and ethnic charm of the neighborhood have been successful.  East Carson Street is one of the longest business districts in Pittsburgh and features unique, funky retail shops, galleries and restaurants.  The lower end of East Carson Street is renowned for its 15 blocks of historic Victorian era architecture.  Walk the streets to see row houses that dominate the Southside flats.  At the upper end of East Carson St, the South Side Works is a new urban open-air development with unique stores and restaurants.

Travel Directions:

Walking – If you’re facing the river, head right until you hit the Smithfield St. Bridge. Make a right (away from the river) and walk down Smithfield St to the next intersection, where you’ll make a left on East Carson. The walk is 2.5 miles to SouthSide Works, the other end of the neighborhood.

Bus – Take the 48 Outbound from the E Carson St at Station Square Station and ride it to the S 26th St. at E Carson stop. SouthSide Works is one block further and a block closer to the river – the intersection of S 27th and Sidney.

The World on Penn Avenue/Strip District: Locally known as the Strip, this district is a one-half square mile area northeast of Downtown Pittsburgh.  Originally the Strip was an industrial area where Andrew Carnegie and George Westinghouse began their careers, and it was the original home of the Pittsburgh Reduction Company, now known as ALCOA.  People from all economic classes and ethnicities flock to the Strip for fresh produce, pasta, cheese, meat, fish, and spices and to shops that sell unusual gifts, art, Pittsburgh souvenirs  and knick-knacks.  The Strip District provides a one-stop look at the cultural and ethnic diversity that characterizes Pittsburgh.  It’s the best place to get the “flavor” of the city.  The Strip comes alive at night with clubs, dancing and diverse restaurants.

Travel Directions:

Take any train inbound to the Wood St Station. To save fare, walk (15 minutes) across the Smithfield St Bridge to the First Ave T Station on the Three Rivers Heritage Trail. At the Liberty Ave at 7th St stop, take the 88 Outbound to the Liberty Ave at 21st St.

You Call That Contemporary Art?: Pittsburgh is home to two renowned institutions of contemporary art.  The Andy Warhol Museum and the Mattress Factory are located with walking distance of one another in Pittsburgh’s historic North Shore area and represent the “Renaissance” of the arts in Pittsburgh in recent years.  Opened in 1994, the Andy Warhol Museum invites interaction with the life and art of Andy Warhol.  The Mattress Factory museum, located in the historical Mexican War Streets district, is housed in a former industrial building.  The museum combines private working studios with public exhibit space and works to revitalize local structures and the local community.

Admission Charges: Warhol Museum: $20, $10 with student ID

Mattress Factory: $20, $15 with student ID

Travel Directions:

Take any train inbound to the North Side Station. To save fare, walk (15 minutes) across the Smithfield St Bridge to the First Ave T Station on the Three Rivers Heritage Trail. The Andy Warhol Museum is a 10 minute walk down W General Robinson St and the Mattress Factory is a 15 minute walk down Merchant St. through Allegheny Commons Park.

View from the Mount: Station Square is made up of two renovated freight buildings formerly owned by the Pittsburgh & Lake Erie Railroad, which now host over 40 retail shops, restaurants, and businesses.  The Gateway Clipper fleet, a riverboat cruise line, docks along this re-created train station and offers sightseeing tours of Pittsburgh and its rivers.  After touring Station Square, ride the Duquesne or Monongahela Incline, in operation since 1877 with the original incline cars, up the 400 foot rise to the top of Mt. Washington.  The scenic overlooks along Grandview Avenue offer a spectacular panorama of Pittsburgh and the three rivers.  At the far south end of Mt. Washington, you will find Chatham Village, a National Historic Landmark and one of the most famous examples of the Garden City Movement of the early 20th century.    

Travel Directions:

Walk 15 minutes along the river towards the Duquesne Incline. To use the inclines, the fare is $2.50 each way with a ConnectCard (must be purchased before) or $2.75 each way with cash (must be exact change). Take the Duquesne Incline up the mountain. To return to the hotel, walk along Grandview Ave and take the Monongahela Incline down.

City of Neighborhoods—Squirrel Hill: As early as the 1760s, this region of Pittsburgh was a pioneer farming community, taking its name from the abundance of gray squirrels found there.  A century later, Squirrel Hill became an affluent suburb of the industrializing and growing city of Pittsburgh. Squirrel Hill was annexed by Pittsburgh in 1868 and offers its residents and visitors ethnic restaurants, delis, bakeries, and old-fashioned corner markets right next door to chic new eateries, boutiques, movie theaters, and upscale shops of all kinds.

Travel Directions:

Walk across the Smithfield St Bridge to the intersection of Smithfield St and Fifth Ave. Take the 61A, B, C, or D Outbound to the Murray Ave at Forbes Ave stop.


Old Allegheny City: This neighborhood was designated a city historic district by Pittsburgh City Council in 1990.  As you walk the streets of the old city, observe the Victorian and Edwardian era architectural styles, especially on what has been coined as Millionaires Row.  Other highlights of the neighborhood are Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood exhibit at the Pittsburgh Children’s Museum, the Tiffany stained-glass windows in the Calvary United Methodist Church, the National Aviary which houses 600 exotic and endangered birds, and historic Byers Hall on the Community College of Allegheny County campus.

Admission Charges: Pittsburgh Children’s Museum: $16

National Aviary: $14+

Travel Directions:

Take any train inbound to the North Side Station. To save fare, walk (15 minutes) across the Smithfield St Bridge to the First Ave T Station on the Three Rivers Heritage Trail. The aviary is a 10 minute walk up Merchant Street within Allegheny Commons Park.

Golden Triangle and Downtown: Pittsburgh’s Golden Triangle occupies a condensed 50 acre area with parks and plazas between office towers and stores.  While you explore downtown, visit the Fort Pitt Museum, Point State Park and fountain, Market Square, and the Theatre District.  Mellon Square includes prominent commercial and institutional buildings from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in Pittsburgh’s central business district: the U.S. Post Office, Union Trust Building, Frick Building, William Penn Hotel, Trinity Cathedral, Heinz Hall, the Allegheny Courthouse, and old jail.

Admission Charges:  Fort Pitt Museum: $8 adult, $4.50 with student ID

Travel Directions:

Walk across the Smithfield St Bridge. To reach Point State Park, the fountain, and the Fort Pitt Museum, make a left on Boulevard of the Allies and a right on Commonwealth Place – the park will be on your left. To reach Market Square, follow Smithfield St to Forbes Ave and make a left. The Cultural District is on the other end of Smithfield St, where it intersects with Liberty, and to the left.  

August Wilson’s Hill: A Neighborhood in Transition: Hill District native and Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright August Wilson shines a light on the aspirations, energy, and rhythm of this neighborhood through his ten-play cycle, including Fences.  The Hill District drew waves of immigrants to Pittsburgh, and the lasting influence of twenty-five different nationalities is etched in the landscape, the architecture, and street names.  Jazz is in the DNA of the neighborhood and is reflected in landmarks like the Crawford Grill.  Highlights of the Hill include Hill House, August Wilson’s home, Freedom Corner, the Carnegie Library, and the revitalization of new businesses along Centre Avenue, including a Shop n’ Save grocery store, ending a thirty-year food desert in the neighborhood.  The Hill is one of the greenest places in the city with five miles of hillsides surrounding the neighborhood and seven hills providing breathtaking views of the city.  

Travel Directions:

Take any train inbound to the Wood St Station. To save fare, walk (15 minutes) across the Smithfield St Bridge to the First Ave T Station on the Three Rivers Heritage Trail. Take the 81 Outbound from the Liberty Ave at Sixth Ave stop to the Roberts St and Bedford Ave stop. Across the street is the August Wilson House.

Pitt, CMU and a Whole Lot More in Oakland: Two renowned universities make Oakland a center of education, research and technology.  The University of Pittsburgh occupies a 132-acre campus in Oakland.  Close by is Carnegie Mellon University, one of the country’s leading scientific and technological schools of higher education.  Another site to visit in Oakland is the Carnegie Institute, a combination of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, the Carnegie Museum of Art and the Carnegie Public Library.  Just down the street for the Carnegie, you will find The Phipps Conservatory.  As with most university neighborhoods, Fifth and Forbes Avenues teem with shops, restaurants and clubs.

Admission Charges: Phipps Conservatory: $17.95, $16.95 with student ID

Carnegie Museum: $19.95, $11.95 with student ID

Travel Directions:

Walk across the Smithfield St Bridge to the intersection of Smithfield St and Fifth Ave. Take the 61A, B, C, or D Outbound to the Forbes Ave at Bigelow Blvd stop.  

City of Champions: Your introduction to the City of Champions begins at the Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum in the Heinz History Center of the Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania.  After viewing the Sports Museum, walk across the Roberto Clemente Bridge to Heinz Field and PNC Park, the current homes of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Pittsburgh Pirates along the North Shore.  PNC Park is one of the new “retro” baseball venues offering a dramatic view of downtown Pittsburgh.

Admission Charges: Heinz History Center: $16; $6.50 with student ID

Travel Directions:

Take any train inbound to the Steel Plaza Station. To save fare, walk (15 minutes) across the Smithfield St Bridge to the First Ave T Station on the Three Rivers Heritage Trail. Walk 10 minutes down Grant Street, make a left onto 7th, and a right onto Smallman St. The Heinz History Center will be on your right.

*Admission charges apply.   Bring documentation of student/senior status. All destinations will have specific assignments, distributed in the opening session of City as Text.