TO: Pittsburgh City Council
FROM: Wayne Edward Gondella
DATE: 11 July 2005
RE: Historic Designation of Buhl Planetarium
Dear Pittsburgh City Council,
On this day of July 13, 2005, I would ask that you hear and consider my
appeal to approve the historic designation of the Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science.
I will not take up your valuable time listing the many very special facts and historical considerations
which are all allied closely with this very unique, special, and rare building; I am sure you have
already heard them and know them all very well.
But architecturally and pragmatically, the Buhl Planetarium Building is fundamentally irreplaceable,
due not only to the massiveness and scope of its adamantine construction, and the resultant exorbitant
costs involved which could never be duplicated again today in modern budgets, but also due ethereally
to its many special architectural features which give it an unparalleled exudation of the very core of
the physical sciences which are at the very heart of our culture and society today, and which has
served to inspire countless people. The building stands as the very statement of, and as a testament to,
both our collective technical and societal achievements as a western civilization. Few buildings can
boast so grand an impact and heritage upon its own community and the world at large.
As a personal symbol to myself, my childhood was replete with many fond memories of entering this building;
its very presence struck great awe and fascination in me as a child to learn all that I could of the wonders
of the universe and physical sciences, and also that of the history of the many great minds before us such as
Hevelius, Copernicus, Galileo and Newton.
I attribute this impact on my growing up to eventually spend the rest of my life pursuing the physical and
technical sciences, both professionally and personally. As a result, a few years ago I subsequently pioneered
and directed a fledgling project to help create a public facility south of the city which will also help others
learn more of, and be better exposed to the many wonders of science around them---in a sense, my own way of
trying to give back a very small part of what I so greatly valued and cherished as a youth in my many visits
to the Buhl.
I can only imagine the countless other people who have either lived in Pittsburgh or who have merely passed
through here, but whose lives were greatly impacted and inspired by their visits to this building; people
who often went on to then contribute many great things to science, society and this city, as a result.
As a regional symbol for the citizens of this city, I believe the Buhl Planetarium has a tremendous,
if not fully realized impact on the identity, roots and traditions of our great city.
As a symbol for yourself as a Councilperson charged with directing the affairs and interests of Pittsburgh
and to those who look upon our city, I would submit that the Buhl Planetarium Institute Building is forever
inextricably tied to our image, heritage and impressions as our being a major pioneer, center, and leader
in the physical sciences, worthy of being preserved and protected for all yet to come. It represents
WHO WE ARE as a city. The building was built to effectively last forever and will always be useful to
whatever practical ends we choose, but if we were to lose it, we would be losing an all-too-vital part of
ourselves as well. Officially designated as the historic landmark that it deserves to be, the Buhl can stand
as a cultural symbol to serve and inspire countless more for many, many years to come.
But when a city loses too many of its vital symbols and key cultural Points to short-sightedness, it also begins
to slowly wither--- not only just outwardly, but also inwardly as well.
Go over and stand before the building and tell me that you yourself do Not feel this; if we were to ever lose
this building, it could never, ever be replaced. The unfortunate nature of things is that we often do not
fully appreciate or understand the ineffable worth and value of things---that is until we lose them. And then
it is often too late. And this is often true whether these things are something as close as our parents or
something as impersonal and taken for granted as the large, granite building on the city's North Side.
We take them for granted until they are gone and only then when it is too late do we realize what we have
lost forever and can never get back. With your vision and forward thinking, we can hopefully prevent that
from ever happening.
And so, I respectfully ask you to consider these words and think about what the Buhl Planetarium has meant
to you, to myself, and to the many other peoples of the City of Pittsburgh, both during its long active
history since the thirties and for the great value, symbolism and inspiration it has yet to share and hold
for us through the many wondrous days yet to come for this very special City of Pittsburgh.
Wayne Gondella, President
AFA Telescope and Machine Engineering Services, Inc.