Sign, Sign, Everywhere a Sign

Blocking out the scenery, breaking my mind.
It's not a stretch to say Pittsburgh's skyline, the stuff of postcards, is
starting to look a bit like the Vegas strip. Neon everywhere.

I suspect that I'm one of the few people in the area who likes the proliferation of corporate signage atop Downtown Pittsburgh towers -- aside from the managers of those companies themselves, who are paid to like it. I like the energy, the novelty, and the fact of each sign, the change of signs, the growth of the number of signs. It's different and a bit unsettled and unsettling. I like the fact that the signs make explicit something that is otherwise widely understood but often just implicit, that Downtown Pittsburgh is a fundamentally commercial and corporate community.

I am a fan, in other words, of Brown and Venturi.


7 Responses to "Sign, Sign, Everywhere a Sign"

Sheel said... 3/30/2009 4:02 PM

i like it too! Shows the companies that make Pittsburgh what it is. Plus, I love more light.

Burgher Jon said... 3/30/2009 5:08 PM

I have long said that the signs that exist now are not bad and in fact show that our buildings are not the empty shells that most cities' are.

I hardly think it looks like the Vegas strip out there. However, I suggest that we keep complaining publicly (and by extension demanding high, presumably compensatory fees).

Jerry said... 3/30/2009 9:02 PM

Count me as one who likes the signs, too. I'm not sure why the beauty of a massive steel-and-concrete structure would be wrecked by a comparatively small neon sign. Both are artificial, but both can be quite attractive when done properly.

Bram Reichbaum said... 3/31/2009 12:00 AM

I gotta say I agree with most of them, but not the big one. The U.S. Steel Tower is by far the tallest and in some ways the most meaningful. It would have been tasteful and appropriate to leave the one very tallest building sans signage, looking out with dignity over the rest of the jumble. As it is, it looks like we are UPMCburgh.

Jonathan Potts said... 3/31/2009 11:13 AM

I'm with you, Mike. As for the U.S. Steel Tower, I think it's an ugly monolith that is neither improved nor blemished by the UPMC sign.

Anonymous said... 3/31/2009 11:43 AM

What about the energy costs? The signs aren't solar-powered, ya know.

BTW, UPMC pledged to turn off its sign for Earth Hour. Does anyone know if it did?

Dave Franklin said... 4/01/2009 1:40 PM

I don't mind the signs, but I think the growing # of law firm signs (Reed Smith will be next) is a bad trend. I would rather see more signs for companies that actually DO something (and I'm a lawyer). That would make me feel better about the local economy. After all, the big 3 law firms have all had round after round of layoffs since December.

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Pittsblog 2.0 is written by Mike Madison, a law professor at the University of Pittsburgh. Send email to michael.j.madison[at] Mike also blogs at, on law and technology. Chris Briem of Null Space drops by from time to time.

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