You are here

David L. Lawrence Convention Center

-A A +A
2000–2003, Rafael Viñoly, with Burt Hill Kosar Rittelmann Associates. 1000 Fort Duquesne Blvd.
  • David L. Lawrence Convention Center (HABS/Traub)

Pittsburgh was no more sensitive in its treatment of its riverfront than were most American cities: the rivers of interest were rivers of commerce, and the only banks Pittsburghers cared about were made of marble and housed vaults. That was true for an earlier Lawrence Convention Center from the 1980s, a forbidding box that entirely turned its back on the Allegheny River. Since then, Pittsburgh created several new buildings that embrace and accentuate their riverside sites. The most intriguing of these is Rafael Viñoly's glazed catenary curve, which echoes three neighboring suspension bridges and eagerly thrusts its way toward the Allegheny River. The roof held by fifteen cables allows for unimpeded space inside and draws in cooler river air at third-floor level, which is circulated through natural convection. Hot air rises and exits through a clerestory. Flag-topped masts externally express the building's structural tensions. The building earned a gold rating from the U.S. Green Council for site selection and use of nontoxic and recycled building materials.

Approximately half this complex is a parking garage, separated from the exhibition space by 10th Street, which still carries traffic through an arcade in the building. The upper part of the 10th Street arcade becomes a festive observation deck overlooking the river; the lower part is a ramp leading down to the water itself. The complex seems to reflect an awareness of its role as a historic nexus in American transportation history: here John A. Roebling's suspended aqueduct carried the barges of the old Pennsylvania Canal into the city 150 years before, and the main rail line between New York and Chicago still snakes around the 11th Street end of the new building.

Writing Credits

Lu Donnelly et al.



  • 2000


What's Nearby


Lu Donnelly et al., "David L. Lawrence Convention Center", [Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

Print Source

Cover: Buildings of PA vol 1

Buildings of Pennsylvania: Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania, Lu Donnelly, H. David Brumble IV, and Franklin Toker. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2010, 51-53.

If SAH Archipedia has been useful to you, please consider supporting it.

SAH Archipedia tells the story of the United States through its buildings, landscapes, and cities. This freely available resource empowers the public with authoritative knowledge that deepens their understanding and appreciation of the built environment. But the Society of Architectural Historians, which created SAH Archipedia with University of Virginia Press, needs your support to maintain the high-caliber research, writing, photography, cartography, editing, design, and programming that make SAH Archipedia a trusted online resource available to all who value the history of place, heritage tourism, and learning.