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, West Virginia
March 26, 2005
Nineteen rooms were completed between 1938 and 1957, but building continues. The latest one to open was the Austrian Classroom in 1996, and there are plans for more.
Every room is decorated with motifs representative of its respective culture prior to 1787, the year of Pitt’s founding and of our Constitution. Each room has a cross-cultural story to tell of its funding and building. For instance, the French raised money for their room with Mardi Gras balls, and many other projects were interrupted by invasions in
Europe and Asia. John Tavlos, architect for the Greek Classroom, finished his columns and loaded them onto a boat only days before his country was invaded in 1940.
To tour the rooms ($3), we stopped at the shop off the main hallway on first floor. The attendant gave us a master key, map, and audio tape. We proceeded to the Hungarian
Room and found stained glass windows representing composer Liszt and other artists, plus folk motifs in Hungarian paprika color.
The Czechoslovakian Room was designed by prominent Prague architect Bohumil Slama with a ceiling painted with botanically-correct flowers and paintings of the country’s national heroes, such as King Wenceslas and Jan Hus.
This room also contains a letter from President Masaryk to Pitt students, who helped him gather support for the formation of Czechoslovakia.
Most Central and Eastern European rooms are decorated in folk motifs and natural woods. The Ukrainian Room features this ceramic stove.
In contrast to the folk rooms, some are quite refined, such as the Syrian-Lebanese room, so elegant with its myriad of gold overlay and ivory that nobody is allowed in it.
One can only peek through the glass.
Another elaborate room is the Chinese. The building of this room was delayed a decade because of political unrest and finished in 1939.
My favorite is the Austrian Room, representing the period of the Hapsburg rulers. Czech crystal chandeliers and a copy of a ceiling by Italian Carpoforo Tencalla by Pittsburgh artist Celeste Parrendo are beautiful.
Three baroque murals are scaled-down copies of those in Esterhazy Castle, Eisenstadt,
Austria, specifically the hall where Joseph Haydn composed and performed.
The rooms are testimony to the unity of Pittsburgh’s diverse ethnic groups and to the city’s ties to various cultures. They continue to fire ethnic study and heritage presentations in the city’s neighborhoods and remind us that in the 1920s, the University of Pittsburgh resembled "a European branch."
From journal A Case of the Guide Leading the Guide
March 25, 2005
Across the green from Heinz Memorial Chapel and across Forbes Avenue from the
Carnegie museum complex and Phipps Conservatory, the stately structure is on every visitor’s walk through Oakland and a must-see to complete the tour of the museum/university neighborhood. (Use it as a landmark, and park nearby.)
Stretching above Oakland’s leafy sky, the tower is the tallest structure around and has been the pride of the university since 1937. Nations, as well as school children, around the world helped to finance its building during the Great Depression because they were inspired by the concept: Cathedral of Learning.
Inside, the three-story Commons Room impresses everyone with its Old World, vaulted brick ceiling and quiet serenity.
Conceived by Chancellor John Bowman in 1926, the "Cathedral" melds reverence, knowledge, and tradition into an architecture that was meant to welcome immigrants to study here in Pittsburgh. Bowman was determined that the building would instill respect for learning and for one of the oldest universities in the country. The symbolism continued with the creation of 27 authentic Nationality Classrooms representative of the ethnic groups that populated the city. Touring them is what brings most visitors to the
Cathedral of Learning, just as painters, folk artists, and architects from each respective culture came before them to create them. (See separate entry.)
In addition to Nationality Rooms, Commons Room, and a nice little gift shop, visitors want to see the lookout bays on 36th floor. In one direction, the view reveals the extent of Schenley Park, the third largest in the east after New York’s Central Park and Philadelphia’s Fairmount Park. In the foreground are the Carnegie museums and Phipp’s
On the other side of the bay is a view of more rolling hills surrounding the
When I was here on a high-school trip many decades ago, students could see Forbes Field just behind the cathedral, where the Pittsburgh Pirates played in the days of Roberto Clemente.
A restaurant in the basement is handy for folks touring the Nationality Rooms, which can take a few hours depending on how thoroughly they listen to the audio. Kay and I enjoyed this monument to Pittsburgh’s "unity in diversity" and then hurried to Henry Clay Frick’s estate, a remnant of its Golden Era.
Edgewater, New Jersey
December 2, 2000
On the University of Pittsburgh campus & only 5 or 10 minutes from Downtown Pittsburgh, you will find the "Cathedral of Learning". This is the language building for the college & it is very interesting to walk through. The building is actually a tower. The first and third floors include approximately 20 "nationality" classrooms decorated in styles ranging from Romanesque to Tudor-- all under one roof!
(Note: Saturday & Sunday are the best times to visit. Also, the Cathedral is especially nice to see in mid-to late-December when the rooms are decorated in the holiday tradition of the nation being represented.)
This is an interesting (and common) stop on the way to the Carnegie Museum (about 3 blocks away @ 4400 Forbes Avenue).
From journal PITTSBURGH RETREAT