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    MARCH 16, 2006
 
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Hart takes first prize in architecture contest

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Andrew Hart, a 2005 graduate, used his knowledge of upstate Pennsylvania to design a proposed cultural center built from abandoned mine equipment. Hart’s senior thesis architecture project last year, the idea recently earned him top honors in the “Best and the Brightest” Architectural Student Competition sponsored by the Vitetta architecture firm.

Growing up in upstate Pennsylvania’s coal country, 2005 graduate Andrew Hart was keenly aware of the region’s painful history.

“A lot of my friends didn’t have grandfathers — these were coal mining families, and black lung disease took its toll.”

When it was time for him to plan his senior thesis architecture project last year, Hart returned to his Wyoming Valley roots and sought a way to restore and preserve a structure that stood as an icon of that past.

The result: his proposed design for the Huber Breaker Cultural Center and Historical Archive, which recently took top honors in the “Best and the Brightest” Architectural Student Competition sponsored by the Vitetta firm. The annual juried design competition invites up to three submitted projects from each of the four Philadelphia institutions with architecture programs: Temple, Drexel and Philadelphia universities and the University of Pennsylvania.

Built in 1939 in Ashley, Pa., the Huber Breaker crushed and sized the anthracite coal from three nearby mines until its closing in 1976. The looming structure, 10 industrial stories tall, is the last remaining coal breaker, a “testament to the mining heritage of the region,” according to visitPA.com, which also notes that it “is not open to the public but visitors can view it from Route 81 south.”

That’s what Andrew Hart proposes to change. “This eyesore can become once again a center for this community’s rebirth and a place where its citizens can share their proud history.”

His plans call for creating a large public forum and meeting space; transforming the coal silos into a central archive, a shared repository for old photos, documents, and other artifacts that would otherwise be languishing in people’s attics; and a path with a handrail, giving access to the interior of the breaker. He’s even thinking of moving the Town Hall to the breaker’s power house as “a way for the community to empower itself and take pride in the industrial past of the Pennsylvania rust belt.”

- By Harriet Goodheart

 

 


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