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ALCOA Corporate Center

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1994–1998, The Design Alliance, Rusli Associates, architectural design consultant. 201 Isabella St.
  • Seen at the far right (Photograph by Matthew Aungst)

The 1953 downtown home (AL28) of ALCOA (Aluminum Company of America) was an epochal corporate headquarters, but at thirty-two stories and 475,000 square feet, it no longer corresponded to corporate needs of the 1990s. This replacement downsized ALCOA to 340,000 square feet in a radically different configuration of just six stories.

The new ALCOA helps restore to the north bank of the Allegheny River the visual coherence lost after World War II through piecemeal destruction and construction. West of ALCOA stands the North Shore Center office park; east of it rises (rather awkwardly) Lincoln at North Shore, a maze of apartments and town houses from 1997. Behind ALCOA, at 100 Sandusky Street, is the elegant headquarters of SMS Demag (1994, UDA Architects). These are all important parts of the emerging urban fabric of the North Shore, but it is the wavelike ALCOA that best defines the district now.

The architects worked closely with the firm's employees to program the six-story building into three segments. The first is a small entrance and reception area on its north face, away from the river. The second, also on the north side, is a boxy housing of the heating, cooling, elevators, escalators, restrooms, restaurants, and a newsstand. Some of these elements are normally located on the roof, but architect Agus Rusli sought to shield the unattractive mechanics from the view of the downtown high-rises. The third element is the block-long serpentine curve of the headquarters itself. The skeletal frame of cantilevered sunscreens is aluminum, and the curtain wall is untinted glass to maximize both natural illumination and the striking views of the river and cityscape. The sunscreen accentuates the S curve of the building and fractures the base geometry into countless smaller shapes. The Three Rivers Heritage Trail cuts between the river and ALCOA's sandstone floodwall, with path and wall together muting the structure's bend.

Writing Credits

Lu Donnelly et al.



  • 1994


What's Nearby


Lu Donnelly et al., "ALCOA Corporate 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, 88-89.

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