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National Robotics Engineering Consortium
Situated on five acres beside the Allegheny River, the Consortium is a joint venture undertaken by NASA, Carnegie Mellon University's Field Robotics Center, and private corporations to develop robotic technology applicable to industries ranging from mining to space exploration. The Consortium occupies 100,000 square feet in a rehabilitated steel-framed brick basilica that civil engineer Samuel Diescher (1839–1915) built in 1898 for the Epping-Carpenter Company. In 1925, the Pittsburgh Piping and Equipment Company added a four-bay pipe shop and shipping area facing the river.
When Pittsburgh's Urban Redevelopment Authority purchased the facility in 1993, it was structurally sound but its interior unsuitable for high-tech endeavors. The interior was gutted, mechanical systems were overhauled, and half of the addition of 1925 was demolished for parking and outdoor testing grounds. Diescher's original brick walls were fitted with thick, semiopaque windows for maximum heat retention and the original wooden roof was cleaned and reinsulated, giving the interior a striking rusticity for so futuristic an environment. The principal facade, facing the bridge on the west, was replaced with a glass curtain wall. Diescher's east facade on 43rd Street now has large plate glass windows illusorily fitted with small panes and set tightly in the wall plane.
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