14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on November 23, 2009
Franklin Toker has written a series of books about the architecture of Pittsburgh and western Pennsylvania, and each is clearly a labor of love. About 3/4ths of this book is about the city proper, and about a hundred pages cover outlying communities - not nearly enough to even scratch the surface of the outlying municipalities and suburbs.
For each neighborhood of the City of Pittsburgh, Toker describes a bit of its history and what makes it special, with an emphasis on specific historic structures of note. I found it was helpful to have the Google Streetview feature open on my computer while reading the book, so I could see the building in question. An 11-page appendix lists the significant buildings, with addresses, dates, and architects' names.
Quite apart from the textual element of the book, this book is visually beautiful. Nearly every two-page spread has a color photograph, and the numerous maps are of a higher caliber than one would expect in a book of this nature.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on December 10, 2009
I was a fan of Toker's original "Portrait" published in 1986. His "New Portrait" differs in two ways. The more technical, architectural parts have been removed to a second publication, his (also excellent) "Buildings of Pittsburgh", and the illustrations and general layout of the "New Portrait" are much improved with numerous color plates. But some things, thankfully, have stayed the same. One is the topographical arrangement which allows the reader to see Pittsburgh's architecture within the context of the city's overall development. The other is Toker's enthusiasm for his subject. Sometimes while reading I had to ask myself: "Can it really be that good?" Since Toker's professional credentials as an architectural historian are beyond reproach, his judgments always command respect even when they seem to border on boosterism. And he displays his opinions so openly that he always provokes the reader (at least, he did me) to reflect and react. That makes reading this book a very lively and stimulating exercise. This is no ordinary glossy guidebook or civic celebration. Toker's discussion raises important issues about the future of Pittsburgh and its buildings. First, a recurring theme is how hard Pittsburghers have been on their past. A local documentary producer labeled one of his programs "Things that aren't there anymore", and that's certainly true of Pittsburgh. Even now, with better preservation efforts, it's evident that much excellent architecture is still in imminent danger. Second, the first "Portrait" was published as Pittsburgh was just beginning its post-industrial transition. Now, 23 years on, we can see some results, remarkably most clearly in the once heavily industrialized Mon Valley. Two large real-estate developments there now occupy two former steelmill sites in Homestead and the South Side. They are what Paul Goldberger calls "para-urbanism": complete communities (neighborhoods?) with residences, stores, restaurants, theaters, and hotels (but not churches). Toker likes the South Side Works which is well integrated (architecturally) into the older, blue collar community, but he hates the Waterfront at Homestead which is clearly suburban. Another, smaller development is now underway within the city itself, Bakery Square in East Liberty. Perhaps, this is the new way forward for post-industrial Pittsburgh? It'll be interesting to read Toker's "take" in 20 years in his "Newer Portrait"!
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on December 26, 2010
I read this book twice since I bought it, and learned as much about local history as I did the buildings and neighborhoods the book describes. This book has appeal for new Pittsburghers, established Pittsburghers, or Pittsburgher wanna-bes!
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on December 2, 2010
Franklin Toker has provided us with an amazing resource for anyone's effort in furthering their knowledge of Pittsburgh and its surrounding region. As someone who has lived in Pittsburgh their entire life, Pittsburgh: A New Portrait provides a new clear vision as they walk around the many neighborhoods of the region.
With Pittsburgh obtaining its greatest growth during the late 1800s/early 1900s, the architectural progression of that age is represented beautifully in the Pittsburgh region. Toker highlights these varying stylings that are prevalent in the area in a easy to read and concise manner that is relevant to people from any background. Also the back-stories are entertaining and informative and it really gives you a sense of history as you walk around the wildly unique neighborhoods that Pittsburgh has.
The book itself is also high quality and the pictures are stunning. It is a book that you can just pick up and open up at any point. It makes a great gift to anyone who has just moved to the area to help them acquaint themselves with the area the the stories behind it. It is also great for people who live/have lived in the city because it allows you to see and realize things that have always been there but you just haven't realized or appreciated. It will definitely get you to look up as you walk around the downtown area to really see some of the beautiful architecture: Park, Union Trust, Koppers, Arrott, Frick, Gulf, PPG, Buhl Buildings among many others, Market Square, Gateway Center, the two Renaissance's, North Side, South Side, Oakland...there is really so much that is covered.
You definitely won't regret getting this book, and you are sure to reference it for years to come.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on September 7, 2010
I pre-ordered this book, with the intention of learning more about my hometown. I must say, I have no regrets. This book is packed with plenty of interesting history, with emphasis architecturally of all the neighborhoods and then some! The author, Frank Toker, who also wrote, "Fallingwater Rising" is exceptional. I loved that book, and thought, I'd give this one a try. Now I want to take this book with me and actually go into these little nooks and crannies of neighborhoods -- the very fabric of our fine city and explore it further. It's well worth the read for someone from here, others who may live somewhere else and are "homesick" and others interested in Pittsburgh.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on March 4, 2010
I was afraid that this book would be dry and full of uninteresting facts. It isn't. It is beautifully written. It has wonderful photos. The book is beautifully published. Total 5 stars. Someone wrote that it would make a Pittsburgher fall in love with Pittsburgh all over again. True. And non-Pittsburghers will understand why we love Pittsburgh so much.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on December 30, 2012
Good descriptions, interesting stories about specific sites and excellent photographs. A good invitation to visit much of Pittsburgh , both familiar and should be familiar.
7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on October 23, 2009
Read a very impressive review of PITTSBURGH: A NEW PORTARAIT in the WALL STREET JOURNAL and decided this was the book for my daughter-in-law born and bred in Pittsburgh. She now lives with her husband in Montana but remains a great fan of Pittsburgh. It's for Christmas so "sh-h-h-h" don't tell her!
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on September 19, 2013
Great in-depth look at the new Pittsburgh and it's history! Wonderful pictures and a look back into the changes that Pittsburgh has made.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on June 4, 2011
From my research, this is the best book currently in print on this city because Toker discusses each neighborhood allthrough Pittsburgh, many of its buildings, architecture and streets. Much history is included. Very few photos of people though andlittle on the population itself. He does not get into many of the problems of the city. This is a very positive upbeat book with hardly any criticism of the city. I do not know if Pittsburgh is as fine as this book suggests because I do not live there.
I enjoy recollecting my memories here and he includes many street maps. This is far far better than his first book Pittsburgh Urban Portrait with black and white photos. The Oakland area is covered the most, not much on Duquesne University or the area east of it.
The binding is very strong and the pages are glossy. The book will last a long time.
(No I am not connected to this book in any way.)