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Tucked away off Woodland Drive near Chatham University, sits a wonderfully eclectic residence. The Abrams House, as it is affectionately called, remains one of Pittsburgh’s crown jewels of unorthodox architecture. The house oozes of postmodern style and is a testament to the curated, quirky style of late owner Betty Abrams. This is the work of Pritzker Architecture Prize-Winner Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown. While this beloved home has become an icon for local architecture, the residency’s new owner has decided to demolish the Abrams house. This possible destruction has caused quite a stir in the art community.
Eclectic and Quirky
The now deteriorating Abrams house features a sweeping crescent roof that eventually converges with its flat profile. The top of the crescent morphs into a windowed wall overlooking the flat half of the roof. This fantastically crafted clerestory window provides light to the living space 20 feet below.
The now-gutted interior, was once furnished with mod and minimalist furniture of all different hues. The house was a canvas for bright greens, blues, reds, and yellows. Many viewed the home as a living, breathing, work of art. Interestingly enough, the living room was lucky enough to house a genuine Lichtenstein painting that served as a huge inspiration for the style of the house.
Preserving the Abrams House?
It seems that the desire to preserve this house (or lack thereof) is the direct result of monetary dispute. Before her death, Mrs. Abrams planned for the house to be given over to the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation with the intent of securing its preservation and providing annuity to her two daughters. Unfortunately, a deal could not be made that would secure enough of a return. Therefore, the daughters sold the house without the promise of its preservation to William and Patricia Snyder. The Snyder’s decision to demolish the house was soon met with outrage from the artistic community.
The Pittsburgh History and Landmark Foundation appealed to the History Review Commission to work towards preserving the home for generations to come. The With its roots to Venturi and Scott Brown, and its postmodern history, Abrams House meets many criteria to be considered of historic value. Unfortunately, Pittsburgh City Council decided against historic designation in early 2019.
By Leah Segal