Local architecture and design firm Point Line Projects pens a "love letter to Pittsburgh" with new publication, En Pointe | Features | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Local architecture and design firm Point Line Projects pens a "love letter to Pittsburgh" with new publication, En Pointe

Local architecture and design firm Point Line Projects pens a "love letter to Pittsburgh" with new publication, En Pointe
CP photo: Jared Wickerham
Ilana Curtis and Sarah Rafson

In April 2016, Pittsburgh native Sarah Rafson opened Point Line Projects. Architects connect points to make lines, while authors write lines to make points. How better to convey the intersection of architecture and associated arts? Those parallel passions run deep in Rafson's work and are now converging with Point Line Projects' new publication, En Pointe Vol. 1: Pittsburgh. The publication is a collection of twelve interviews, produced as a foldable broadsheet.

Rafson earned a master’s at Columbia University’s School of Architecture in its program for Critical Curatorial and Conceptual Practices. Her thesis on the Chicago feminist architecture collective CARYATIDS won a prize for oral history. Meanwhile, in her editorial practice, she worked for authors Kenneth Frampton, Bernard Tschumi, and Victoria Newhouse. She has also collaborated on exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art, Centre Pompidou, Center for Architecture, and Parsons School of Design. 

Point Line Projects (PLP) recently produced editorial content for the Pittsburgh AIA celebrating Women’s History Month. With editorial and marketing manager Ilana Curtis as lead, PLP has served as production manager for an internationally traveling exhibition, Now What: Advocacy, Activism and Alliances in American Architecture since 1968. The agency is helping a number of local authors produce books, while Rafson and Curtis, together and separately, have been publishing articles in national magazines such as Architect and Metropolis.

Now, Point Line Projects is celebrating the release of En Pointe Vol. 1: Pittsburgh at GBBN Architects' EDGE Gallery during Unblurred on April 5. 

“En Pointe originated as an in-house project where we were encountering so many fabulous and fascinating people through our daily projects and work that we decided to systematize those conversations,” says Rafson. En Pointe interviewed collaborators and clients from a variety of projects, as well as “people … I just admire through a series of interviews that dive into their creative process behind some of their most impactful projects,” Rafson explains.

While subjects include local architecture favorites such as Gerard Damiani and Debbie Battistone of studio d’ARC and Raymund Ryan from the Heinz Architectural Center, the publication also has independent curators including Kilolo Luckett and Casey Droege.  

Rafson sees En Pointe as making connections within Pittsburgh’s architecture and visual arts communities and beyond. “A lot of [local] conversations happen in silos, and I would love to see an even more connected arts ecosystem where architecture and design are really considered one of the primary modes of cultural production and thought here.” But she also sees these conversations having relevance further afield. In traveling the country talking about her work, she finds “The secret of Pittsburgh is that people [elsewhere] don't realize how much rich cultural work is happening here. In a way that we hope that this first volume will be an enlightening other people about how awesome the discourse is here.”

The current publication was always a goal, because PLP has seen itself as an ambassador. 

"We always knew that at some point we wanted to begin producing original content that was self-initiated,” says Rafson. Then an opportunity to participate in the Los Angeles Book Fair arose unexpectedly. Point Line Projects submitted En Pointe. “We were surprised to get accepted,” Rafson comments. “But now we’re going there on April 11."

The first publication is an unconventional one. 

“This is definitely not your standard looking publication," says Curtis. "We wanted to create something that is interesting to read but also dynamic in format — [it] can be used as a poster, or [be] read section by section, or put on a wall. It kind of takes on a non-traditional format which I think really goes along with Point Line Projects ethos and all that we do.”

The opening perpetuates those values. “It’s going to be a family friendly event. It will be an introduction to new audiences and a way to thank the people we have already been working with.” 

Whether on Penn Avenue, in Los Angeles, or further afield, En Pointe will be making connections. 

“It’s our love letter to Pittsburgh.”