Pittsburgh is an old, oft-misrepresented, and deeply weird city. With its streets that twist about and dead-end without warning, the city's organizing principle is nonsense. You don't vacation in Pittsburgh unless you have family or friends there, and even then you need every breadcrumb trail at your disposal to navigate in the post-industrial cacophony of ethnicities and aesthetics. There's a reason Wiz Khalifa doesn't dig into the meat of his hometown in "Black and Yellow": there's too much to cover, and unless you're from the 'Burgh, you won't get it. Knowing this, we've written this little guide for director Christopher Nolan as he prepares for The Dark Knight Rises shoot. These are the locations best-suited for marrying Pittsburgh to the Dark Knight.
LOCATION: PPG Place
ADDRESS: 600 PPG Place
WHY: This all glass everything complex in downtown Pittsburgh consists of six buildings covering three city blocks. Its tall spires give it the look of a story-book fortress relocated from some snowy fantasy land. The 19,750 pieces of glass that make up the buildings would provide the perfect mirror for any number of fiery explosions to be reflected in. Then, of course, there's the chaos that could rain down from 40-stories if the magic of movies elects to blow out those panes, shattered glass falling to the sidewalks below as the Caped Crusader and Bane tussle it out in Gotham.
photo by Integrity of Light, Scott Speck (Flickr)
LOCATION: Cathedral of Learning
ADDRESS: 3960 Forbes Ave
WHY: The common utterance from visitors inside the Cathedral of Learning is, "Gee, now I get to go to Hogwarts for college." The tallest education building in the Western hemisphere is a 42-story Late Gothic Cathedral, a behemoth of scrubbed limestone with a Commons Room that could easily serve as a Harry Potter fanatic's wet dream.
The hall spanesples a half-acre and is rndent with high arches that reach heights of 52 feet. The Cathedral houses some of the most unsafe seeming elevators we've ever ridden in (but seriously, they work fine—the danger is smoke'n'mirrors), leading down to a drab basement (drab except for the Chik-Fil-A) or up to heights perfect for staging any number of dramatic fights. Another popular feature of the Cathedral is the 27 Nationality Rooms, meaning Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle can frisk each other on the long table beneath the twin chandeliers in the red and gold Austrian Room.
photo by ottergoose, Nick Benson (Flickr)
LOCATION: Duquesne Incline
ADDRESS: 1197 West Carson St
WHY: So, in all fairness, the cable cars of the normally very slow Duquense incline would have to snap free for any real drama to occur here, but legions of Pittsburghers would lose their shit given the chance tow watch the Dark Knight race against time to free screaming children and adults (all tourists—no Pittsburgher has rode this device more than once, and then only because a school field-trip demanded it) from impending doom.
For a more picturesque alternative, imagine Christian Bale staring sternly into the heart of the city from the tip of the incline, doing his best Batman face, that frozen mask of concentration, occasionally punctuated by grumbly-grumbles of choice dialogue like "Where is she?" or "I'm not wearing hockey pads!"
photo by Ang Sherpa
LOCATION: Allegheny County Courthouse
ADDRESS: 436 Grant St
WHY: The cinematic potential of this ominous structure was proven by The Silence of the Lambs, but as of yet no film has used the most grisly feature of the Courthouse: the Bridge of Sighs. Sering as a pathway from the courthouse to the jail, the bridge contains two small windows that the prisoner, having just heard the verdict, might look out during his last moments of pre-incarceration. Given Nolan's love for all things bleak, the Bridge of Sighs might provide the perfect visual metaphor for whatever themes the filmmaker plans to inflict on his audience.
LOCATION: Junction Hollow
ADDRESS: Area around Joncaire and Boundary Sts, Oakland
WHY: All the forces of creeping dread coalesce in this one small valley in Pittsburgh's Oakland neighborhood. A microcosm of Pittsburgh's past and present, Junction Hollow pits run-down houses against little-used train tracks against Bellefield Boiler Plant, a sign of the city's industrial past, against the ass-end of Carnegie Mellon and the hyper-expensive tech research forever going on behind the closed doors of its labs and classrooms. All of this within a two-and-a-half mile area.
At night, cars seldom pass and the homeless wander under dingy street lamps dropping ghostly light outside the Plant and the sounds of distant bass from South Oakland parties reverberate between the sides of the valley. General rule of thumb for a film character trekking through Junction Hollow: a) you're going to get killed, or b) you're going to kill someone. That work for you, Mr. Nolan?