riazzi substation architectural façade : pittsburgh, pa

dynamic skin elevates resilient infrastructure

Client: Public Utility

The project elevates the presence of a new electrical substation serving Oakland, one of Pittsburgh’s most vibrant neighborhoods, as it continues to grow. Located along an urban trail popular with pedestrians, cyclists, and cars, the site is adjacent to world class universities, hospitals and cultural institutions, expansive parks, and a dense, dynamic residential community. The client engaged PWWG to design the façade, challenging the typical typology of utilitarian infrastructure, and embodying their mission to energize the community.

Collaboration With Stakeholders Created Agency & Refined Design

  • PWWG facilitated engagement with five stakeholder groups to gather ideas, nurture support for the process, and refine the design incrementally. 3D models and walkthroughs illustrated options.
  • Final concept expresses “motion” with 600 twisted aluminum fins secured vertically at different angles to the entire precast concrete façade. The play of shadow, light, and color on the fins as they twist creates depth and the illusion of undulating waves. The fins seem to move as a person travels along the façade at different speeds, with a unique experience on foot, by bike, or by car.
  • Materials and detailing achieved the client’s safety and operational needs, and their goals for constructability, durability and cost. Muted greens and blues of the fins blend with the greenery of the adjacent hillside. Density and precise placement of the fins conceals the concrete substation and its scattered mechanical penetrations behind a cohesive, dynamic façade. Panelizing the fins allowed for modular, efficient installation.
  • The project invests in the neighborhood with an eye-catching, instantly iconic new civic element that reflects the unique character of the community.

15,800 sf (2 stories)

Firm Responsibility

Community Engagement
Architectural Design
Contract Documents
Contract Administration

Completion Date

June 2021


ESWP 2021 Energy Project of the Year Award

ENR Magazine MidAtlantic 2022 Best Project Energy/Industrial Award

ENR Magazine 2022 Best of the Best Energy/Industrial Award

Back to the Top
Like us on Facebook Follow us on Instagram Follow us on LinkedIn