Saturday, February 18, 2012

"Hanging Out There" On The South Side!

2300 Josephine St,  South Side
To say the Zielinski's home on the South Side is one of a kind ..... Well, that's quite an understatement.  Many houses cluster together on the South Side Slopes. Others perch like lone eagles. But only one -- a modern, five-story home -- is cantilevered over a glass manufacturing company at 2300 Josephine St. From sketch to reality, the project took three years. The homeowners, Bob and Kim Zielinski, supervised construction and moved in Jan. 1, 2011. From their bed, the couple watch lights twinkling on Mount Washington. From an outdoor deck, they stargaze when the Seven Sisters and Orion the Hunter appear.

The most striking aspect of the home, which sits atop their Emerald Art Glass business, is the framing of the living room view, visible through a 42-foot-wide wall of heated glass panels at the end of the cantilevered section of the house. The panorama stretches from Downtown's U.S. Steel Tower to the Cathedral of Learning in Oakland. Just below a strip of blue dotted with fluffy clouds, there's the city skyline, the green arch of the Birmingham Bridge and a foreground filled with rooftops of the densely populated South Side Flats. If Mr. Zielinski, a former Marine, wanted to feel as if he's king of the world, this space certainly achieves that goal.

A carpeted staircase leads from the living room to a kitchen trimmed in tan glass. Hugging the hillside, the kitchen has the feel of a cozy nest, while the living room extends over the steep slope like a long, slightly dangerous tree branch. The architect, Eric Fisher, designed a 65-foot-long cantilever. By comparison, Frank Lloyd Wright's cantilever for Fallingwater is a mere 141/2 feet. And where Fallingwater has a gushing waterfall rushing beneath, this house has only a set of railroad tracks.

The 6,900-square-foot home rests on a concrete block base that's about 40 feet tall. Anchoring it required sinking caissons 35 feet deep into two, 7-foot-wide holes, then reinforcing them with concrete, rebar and tubular steel. Sinking the caissons into the bedrock took about four weeks.

Many builders who saw the plans rejected the job. One insisted the Zielinskis hire a bridge engineer. John Schneider, vice president of Atlantic Engineering Services, Downtown, took on the task.  The biggest challenge was keeping the home from bouncing, to limit the vibration in the structure so that when people are out there on the deck or gathering in the living room, it doesn't feel uncomfortable from any movement.  Glass is a brittle material and it could break from too much movement. So steel trusses were used to provide stiffness and strength and there will be no bouncing even during a dance party.

The home's ground floor is a spacious garage with room for a Jeep Wrangler and an Arctic Cat used to plow the 200-foot- long driveway that connects with Greeley Street.  An elevator, accented in colorful floor tile, leads to the living quarters.

The Zielinskis envisioned a home above their business and photographed many mills along the Monongahela River. The couple poured plenty of their own labor into the house, plastering walls, building a staircase and placing the pavers for a spacious outdoor deck with a natural gas fire pit. At one end, they plan to install a 6-foot-wide, 20-foot-long vanishing-edge pool trimmed in 5-inch thick glass.  The architect's design includes plans for a green roof similar to one on his own house in Shadyside. Once the sedum and succulents grow tall on the roof, the greenery will match the slopes. 

At that point, the house will truly become almost one with its surroundings.

Metro Pittsburgh Real Estate
South Side