Pittsburgh architect Art Lubetz admires the work of Frank Lloyd Wright, the 20th-century visionary who designed Fallingwater in Fayette County and other masterpieces inspiring to generations of architects.
differs with the master, though, on one professional observation.
"Frank Lloyd Wright used to say he didn't draw a line until he had the whole building in his mind," says Lubetz
, 67, of Oakland.
Lubetz is a visionary thinker in his own right, a gifted architect whose designs have added flare, vigor and rare dimensions to many buildings and abodes throughout his native Western Pennsylvania and other locales across the nation, say his peers, associates and a former student.
speaks out to preserve worthy old structures, loves cats, collects vivid Czechoslovakian vases, reads vociferously, draws insight from 17th century philosopher Baruch Spinoza and admits that years ago, he
once pushed his
Alfa Romeo to 118 mph late at night on the Parkway West.
recently received an American Institute of Architects Honor Award at the Design Pittsburgh Awards
He was recognized for "extremely well done" work in the expansion and renovation of the Squirrel Hill branch of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.
He is founder and president of Lubetz Architects, an Oakland-based firm celebrating its 40th anniversary this fall.
"It's notable that Art brings that kind of passionate approach to all the work he does, whether it's residential, commercial or a public building, like a library," said Anne-Marie Lubenau, an architect and executive director of the Community Design Center of Pittsburgh, a nonprofit that supports quality architecture.
"Our buildings generally are noticeable," says Lubetz, petting a pair of calico cats - Za and Ha - that paw at the architect for a share of his attention.
Light activates the life within architecture," Lubetz
The panel of architects that bestowed the award said the library's design "makes people re-think any preconceptions" about urban public libraries.
"We bet this place just hops because it really strikes us as a place the community can own," the panel said.
Among previous awards, Lubetz
received honors for his
Lincoln Towers housing complex near New York City and his
design of the Hartford, Conn., City Hall.
He has taught architectural studio courses at Carnegie Mellon University since 1988.
As president of Preservation Pittsburgh in 2000, Lubetz was one of the leaders of a successful effort to block an attempt to demolish six square blocks of buildings in Downtown - the core of then-Mayor Tom Murphy's development plan in the Fifth and Forbes corridor.
has battled through some tough challenges - physical and professional - over the course of his
As a 19-year-old architecture student at then-Carnegie Institute of Technology, Lubetz was diagnosed with cornea disease that was leading to blindness.
The prognosis threatened his
career, but cornea transplants saved his
early 40s, he
suffered a bout of multiple sclerosis that debilitated his
A rigorous therapy regiment restored his
use of it.
We would fight each other to put the next line on the paper," Lubetz
said at the time.
At a 40th anniversary celebration for his
business, a guest asked Lubetz
How did you do it?"
"Sometimes I can't figure it out," says Lubetz