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Top 8 Fabulous Facts about PPG Place

When an American Fortune 500 company wanted to build a new building in Pittsburgh to serve as its headquarters, it wanted something special.

Today, this Gothic Revival building is one of the most stunning examples of Postmodern architecture in the world.

In this article, you’ll discover some of the most interesting facts about PPG Place, an incredible landmark in the second-most populous city in Pennsylvania.

1. It’s located in the heart of Downtown Pittsburgh

PPG Place is an amazing building complex located on Third Avenue in the western part of downtown Pittsburgh.

Fort Pitt was constructed just walking distance to the west, the place that marks the historical heart of this amazing city in Pennsylvania.

The location of the complex, which is dominated by an amazing skyscraper, was historically referred to as Kings Garden and Kings Orchard.

Many artifacts dating back to the 18th century were found when excavations took place to prepare the in the early 1980s.

For most of the 20th century, this spot was the location of the Guskey’s Department Store, a 4-story building that was demolished.

Downtown Pittsburgh PPG Place
The shiny building in Downtown Pittsburgh / EEJCC / Wiki Commons

2. PPG Industries had been headquartered in the city since 1895

The complex was commissioned by PPG Industries, a company that currently supplies paint, coatings, and related materials worldwide.

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The company didn’t start as such, though, because it was founded as the Pittsburgh Plate Glass Company way back in 1883.

That’s a hint as to why the company decided to incorporate copious amounts of glass into the buildings that were intended to serve as their headquarters.

It was originally based in Creighton, Pennsylvania, a town about 32 kilometers (20 miles) north of Pittsburgh.

The company moved its headquarters to Downtown Pittsburgh in 1895 and has been located here ever since. It was renamed PPG INdustries in 1968.

PPG Industries Plaque in Pittsburgh
PPG Industries Plaque in Pittsburgh / Wiki Commons

3. It was designed by 2 Postmodern architects and completed in the early 1980s

The building was designed by Philipp Johnson and his partner John Burgee of the architectural firm Johnson/Burgee Architects.

Both men have played a major role in the development of Postmodern architecture, a style that emerged in the early 1960s but which only really flourished in the 1980s and 1990s.

The main difference between Modern and Postmodern architecture is that the latter takes the location of the project into account. That’s why the headquarters of a former glass plate manufacturer consists mainly of glass.

The duo integrated an abundance of Gothic Revival elements in the form of spires. It was also influenced by the Cathedral of Learning, one of the most famous buildings in Pittsburgh.

PPG Place Pittsburgh
A complete view of the buildings / Derek Jensen / Wiki Commons

4. The building’s design was based on that of a famous tower in London

The main building of the University of Pittsburgh wasn’t the only inspiration for the building. The 40-floor skyscraper that serves as the centerpiece of the complex also resembles several other famous buildings.

The most notable example of the Victoria Tower in London. This fascinating square tower stands on the opposite end of the Palace of Westminster as Big Ben, the iconic clock tower.

Another structure that served as inspiration was the Allegheny County Courthouse, another famous landmark designed by Henri Hobson Richardson (1838-1886). He was the man after who Richardsonian Romanesque architecture was named.

facts about the Victoria Tower
The Victoria Tower in London / Wiki Commons

5. The complex consists of 6 buildings that take up 6 city blocks

The entire complex features 6 different buildings that take up an area of 22,000 square meters (5.5 acres) in Downtown Pittsburgh. That’s the equivalent of 6 city blocks.

The largest structure is the skyscraper One PPG Place which stands 193.55 meters (635.0 feet) tall.

Buildings 2 to 5 feature 6 stories and Six PPG Place is another massive building that features 14 stories and has a height of 68 meters (223 feet).

The northern part of the complex is bounded by Market Square, a popular square in Pittsburgh that was redeveloped and originally founded in 1764.

PPG Place Pittsburgh Buildings
A closer view of the buildings / Dllu / Wiki Commons

6. The building complex’s most amazing features are 231 glass spires

The main reason why PPG Place can be described as a Gothic Revival building is that it features the same pointy spires that dominate Gothic Cathedrals.

The 6 buildings feature combined 231 glass spires of which the tallest reaches a height of 25 meters (82 feet).

The entire façade of all buildings features 19,750 pieces of Solarban 550 Window panels which the company developed.

That’s a pretty great way to advertise your product, right?

One PPG Place features a floor area of 139,353 square meters (1,499,983 square feet) and the entire project cost $200 million. That’s the equivalent of well over $561 million today!

PPG Place Spires
Detail of some of the spires / Allie Caulfield / Wiki Commons

7. PPG Place was instantly admired by critics upon completion

Many superlatives have been used to describe this amazing complex of buildings in Downtown Pittsburgh. These range from “The crown jewel in Pittsburgh’s skyline” to “the towering success of downtown Pittsburgh.”

The building has been compared to Rockefeller Center in New York City and was once referred to as:

One of the most ambitious, sensitive, and public-spirited urban developments since Rockefeller Center.

One PPG Place downtown Pittsburgh
The amazing skyscraper in Pittsburgh / Wiki Commons

8. The nearby PPG Plaza is a popular attraction during the winter months

The readers of the leading newspaper in the city, the Pittsburgh City Paper, voted PPG Place as the most popular building in the city in the early 20th century.

The magnificent architecture of the building was one reason, another is the fact that it’s bounded by PPG Plaza, another popular square in this part of the city.

It covers about 4,000 square meters (1 acre) and is transformed into a huge ice rink during the Winter months.

This ice rink features a large Christmas tree in the center and covers an area of 1,250.1 square meters (13,456 square feet) which is well over double the size of the popular ice rink of Rockefeller Center.

PPG Plaza Ice Rink Pittsburgh
PPG Plaza Ice Rink / Nick Amoscato / Wiki Commons