Pittsburgh: UPMC Tower, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from David Watson’s photostream

Imagine a park nearly one acre in size and situated 841 feet in the air — at the highest point in downtown Pittsburgh — and you’ve imagined High Point Park. The U.S. Steel Tower is Pittsburgh’s tallest building. While it’s only ranked as the 121st tallest building in the world, its roof is “the largest, highest flat space on top of any building on earth” (mostly because unlike many buildings of similar height, it doesn’t taper in width from its lowest floors to its highest). The U.S. Steel Tower not only dominates Pittsburgh’s skyline, its roof also mimics Pittsburgh’s Golden Triangle. The building is triangular in shape and two of its sides align with the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers which form “The Point.” The top of it affords a breathtaking view of our region. The High Point Investigation is exploring the possibilities of transforming this underutilized asset — which was once used as a heliport, but has now sat dormant for 19 years — into a cutting edge green design, four-season, self-sustaining public space. The idea is the brainchild of David Bear (former Pittsburgh Post-Gazette travel editor and current Fellow at Carnegie Mellon University’s STUDIO for Creative Inquiry).

Here’s a satellite image by Google to give you a better idea of the footprint of the U.S. Steel Tower:

A feasibility study of the project was conducted by twelve 2nd-year graduate students at Carnegie Mellon University’s H. John Heinz III College. They found that comparable Pittsburgh attractions receive an average of 268,000 visitors per year and that if High Point Park were to reach the iconic status of similar attractions like the Empire State Building and the Space Needle, it has the potential to garner 675,500 visitors per year. Furthermore, a survey found that over 40% of respondents would pay between $11 and $20 for admission to a destination like High Point — which could make it operationally profitable within 4 to 6 years.

But more than just providing another rooftop attraction — albeit one with a truly magnificent view — High Point is meant to be sustainable in keeping with Pittsburgh’s new green image. The study estimates that by harvesting wind and solar energy, High Point could generate between 50%-70% of the electricity it needs on an annual basis. It could be a model of sustainability and serve to educate the public about cutting edge alternative technologies.

You can view architectural renderings of a design concept for High Point here and enjoy the first Pittsburgh Gigapanorama (an interactive, 360-degree view of the region as seen from the roof of the U. S. Steel Tower) here. Also, following is an independently-produced documentary by Len Caric of a January 2010 Sketch Design/Case Competition conducted at CMU as part of the High Point Park Investigation.