pop Pittsburgh up

the goal

We’ve designed a series of temporary pop ups to be staged in other cities. With them we will share Pittsburgh’s secrets – the authentic, gritty, charming city that we know. By popping up we hope to influence potential future residents to move to Pittsburgh and show them the opportunity to be found here.

The phenomenon of pop up stores is a recent one. Pop ups are places that open their doors for just a few days or a few weeks at a time. By condensing their life to a short-lived three to seven days, they intensify the buzz around them. People will flock to a pop up because if they don’t they will miss it.

There is an opportunity here. If businesses can use pop up stores to create a buzz, why can’t cities? This experiment looks at ways that Pittsburgh might pop up in other cities to attract attention to the city. The theme for these pop ups will highlight Pittsburgh’s best assets and those most likely to positively influence the audience we seek. Authentic, funky, real Pittsburgh will be portrayed, whether it’s the interior of an inexpensive Victorian Pittsburgh house or a Waffle Shop show, with waffles to go.

focus group

We pulled together a focus group to determine the positive things that might draw people to Pittsburgh and the negative things that keep them away. Participants (a mixture of lifetime Pittsburghers, long term residents and newcomers) included Heather Estes, Gillian Goldberg, Jonathan Greene, Ryan Hopkins, Sandhya Krishnan, Liza Langer, Mykia Long, Dutch MacDonald, Maxine Markfield, Adam Nelson, Kathy Oliver, Todd R. Owens, Hilary Robinson & Zach Morris.

Here’s what we wanted to understand: what is it about Pittsburgh that will attract people to move here? Which aspects of our city should we aim to “Pop-Up” around the nation? The bridges, or perhaps the beer? Here’s what our group told us.

The good:

…and the bad:

the charette

With our focus group information in hand, and with the help of CMU’s School of Architecture, we gathered a host of creative people and set them to work designing the pop ups.

Over six hours and thanks to the efforts of over 90 participants, a series of ideas for how Pittsburgh should pop-up in the designated cities were developed.

pop up street

You’re walking down a shopping street in your familiar old city when suddenly you realize that EVERYTHING HAS CHANGED! The facades (fake scrim facades),and store signs are different, and the merchandise being sold is not the merchandise familiar to you! You venture inside and what do you find? The finest of Pittsburgh’s retail outlets, with friendly Pittsburgh vendors. You can buy the things you would be able to buy if you lived in Pittsburgh. How better to understand a potential new city than by shopping in its stores?

Or: the same Pittsburgh street “set” (made from scrim-façades again) would be transported, along with the full cast of Pittsburgh characters, on a tour of different cities around the world. A sit-com about Pittsburgh would be filmed against this backdrop with the inhabitants of each city as the special guest stars. This would be a chance to take Pittsburgh everywhere, creating a brand new documentary form and proposing an internationally populated Pittsburgh. (Team: Jon Rubin, Jonathan Greene, Issac Kwon, Arthur Azoulai, Constance Vale and Angelina Gonzalez)

mystery box


An anonymous box will be installed in all of our target cities. On the outside an illuminated display counts down to an unknown event. Curious viewers will use their cell phones to access a website and vote on a series of keywords which have been chosen to reflect the identity of Pittsburgh. Based on viewer voting the words will randomly combine to create the inspiration for the next event. For example: Mr. Rogers + Zombies + Rivers = Actors spill out of the Mystery Box, shuffling toward spectators. “Won’t you be my neighbor?” asks a Mr. Rogers Zombie, handing out bottles of Three Rivers water. (Team: Spike Wolf, Mickey McManus, Gary Carlough, Zack Cohen, Liza Langer & Franklin Krouse)

commuter interception


A series of regular commuter buses in our target cities will be commandeered by a group of Pittsburgh bandits. Each bus will be Pittsburgh-pimped – the vehicle’s sides will act as projected screens for Pittsburgh scenes, while headphones hanging from the ceiling (like respirators from an airplane) will enchant the bored commuters with tales of Pittsburgh. Surreptitiously placed riders will casually spread the Pittsburgh word. The bus will move between established commuter routes, targeting determined demographics. Or perhaps the bus could simply “Shanghai” commuters and drive them back to Pittsburgh instead of to work. (Team: Anne Chen, Josh Welsh, Rob Pffafman, Allen Hahn, Noelle White, Craig Rosman & Nikko Triulzi)

embedded troops


A troop of 50 – 100 outgoing, good-looking creative people from Pittsburgh travel to events/festivals/adjacent neighborhoods in the target cities once a month. Imagine you’re living in a city that’s fine but not perfect. You’ve got an itch to move but don’t know where. At a festival you happen to meet a group of people from Pittsburgh. They’re excited about the city, buying old buildings, starting co-ops,  galleries and businesses. They’ve got an infectious renegade spirit and they inspire you. Then the next morning in a Café you meet another Pittsburgher, then another. Slowly, through repeated conversations, the idea of Pittsburgh as a place to live becomes implanted in the minds of people scattered across the city, provoking a mass exodus. (This idea is compiled from the input of from two teams: Dee Briggs, Dana Bishop Root, Sara Blumenstein, Kaitlin Miciunas, Joy Kang, Michael Jeffers & Jon Rubin, Jonathan Greene, Issac Kwon, Arthur Azoulai, Constance Vale & Angelina Gonzalez)

the p-van


The P-Van (Pimped-out Performance Promoter and Production Platform) is a fancy bus decked out as a state-of-the-art music & video production facility with tour bus amenities. It will tour other cities and surrounding areas collecting musicians, rappers and beat makers and bringing them back to Pittsburgh. During the trip the musicians will record a CD, with the on-board Pittsburgh producer. In Pittsburgh they will be led on a tour of the abundant cheap rehearsal spaces, studios and venues. On the way home they will make a music video on the bus. P Van‘s escapades will be documented on a website and regular compilation DVD’s. (Team: Jon Rubin, Jonathan Greene, Issac Kwon, Arthur Azoulai, Constance Vale & Angelina Gonzalez)