US Steel Tower: Pittsburgh’s Tallest Building

Constructed in 1970, the U.S. Steel Tower has come to signify the transformation of Pittsburgh from the Steel City to a bustling metropolis filled with art, technology, and innovation. The 64-story skyscraper is home to numerous building tenants, including it’s largest, U.S. Steel (occupying over 500,000 square feet of commercial office space.

Located in the heart of downtown Pittsburgh, PA, the U.S. Steel Tower is architecturally noted for its triangular shape with indented corners. The steel building also made history for being the first to use liquid-filled fireproofed columns. Fire protection of the U.S. Steel Tower is provided by 18 hollowed columns filled with a mixture of water, antifreeze, and rust inhibitor.


The tower’s architects and building contractors deliberately placed the massive steel columns on the exterior to showcase a new product of the time called Cor-ten steel. Cor-ten was resistant to the corrosive effects of rain, snow, ice, fog, and other weather conditions by forming a coating of dark brown oxidation over the metal. The Cor-ten steel was manufactured in the former U.S. Steel Homestead Works plant. This treatment saved the building managers money over time by cutting the cost of painting or rust-prevention maintenance over the life of the building.


One of the more interesting fact about the U.S. Steel Tower is it’s connection to the Vatican. Each year, a creche (or nativity scene) is on display in the courtyard of the building. Unveiled in 1999, the U.S. Steel Tower creche was conceived by Louis D. Astorino, chairman of the Pittsburgh architectural firm, L.D. Astorino Companies and is said to be the only nativity scene in the United States to be authorized directly from the Vatican. The larger-than-life representation of the Biblical nativity scene is the world’s only replica of the Vatican’s St. Peter’s Square display in Rome, Italy. The Pittsburgh Creche is sponsored by the ecumenical Christian Leaders Fellowship and represents ten bishops and denominations throughout the greater Pittsburgh area including Roman and Byzantine Catholics, Presbyterians, Episcopalians, Baptists, Lutherans, Greek Orthodox, United Methodist, The Salvation Army, and the United Church of Christ.

Pittsburgh Nativity Scene - US Steel Building

Photo: Wikipedia


The roof of the U.S. Steel building is said to be the “largest roof in the world at its height or above” given its flat design and huge size of almost an acre of roof space. An organization known as the High Point Park Investigation, a group based out of Carnegie Mellon University’s STUDIO for Creative Inquiry, was formed to explore the possibility of converting the rooftop into an attraction for public use. The group has been endorsed by the Pittsburgh Parks Conservatory, and others, but the building managers of the U.S. Steel Tower expressed no interest in developing the rooftop into a vantage point fit with a natural park, gallery, etc. (despite mass public interest).

US Steel Tower - High Point Park Investigation

Photo: High Point Park Investigation

Click here for a view of Pittsburgh from the top of the U.S. Steel Tower.

In March of 2013, it had been reported that a group of Pittsburgh architects and designers proposed a detailed plan for a glass covered 2-floor atrium at the top of the building, but management has not yet responded to requests for potential construction. Currently the best view of the city of Pittsburgh remains underutilized.


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