Along with its yellow steel bridges, Pittsburgh is known for the three rivers that run through the city. Creating a fork-like shape, these rivers allowed for easy transportation that helped build Pittsburgh into the city that it is today. Although the rivers contributed to the early advancement of the city, they were neglected during the Industrial Revolution for newer modes of transportation such as railroads. Thus, the rivers became a dumping ground for the overwhelming amount of sewage that could not be contained by the sewers and pipes. Similarly, Delta Urbanism notes that the Dutch also experienced water pollution around the time that the steam engine and railroads were introduced.
In response to this issue, W.N. Rose created a new belt of canals that offered “a public promenade and a new residential environment for the urban upper class” (87). Creating riverfront architecture rather than canals, Pittsburgh experienced a similar revival by attracting recreational boaters and creating a leisurely atmosphere. Today, land near the rivers is prime real estate as important attractions like Heinz Field and PNC Park border the water. Interestingly enough, large companies have seemed to move further inland leaving the land near the water for more recreational purposes.
While rivers may not serve as functional a role as they did in the past, there is something primitive in humans that draws us to the water. As cities continue to grow, it is essential that planners highlight natural features of the land in an environmentally conscious way. We should not think about how we can exploit the river’s resources but rather how to integrate them into the city.