PITTSBURGH — When Fort Duquesne was situated at the confluence of the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers by the French, this area was obviously strategic. It protected the gateway to the Ohio Valley and was fought over during the French and Indian War. But as cities go, the spot where modern Pittsburgh would eventually take shape wasn’t necessarily an easy place for future growth.
Most cities thrive on level ground, something that is a scarce commodity here. Constrained by its rivers and hemmed in by mountains, Pittsburgh had no such level-ground luxury.
San Francisco faced similar issues with its hilly terrain, but instead of growing organically with its setting, its street grid system brazenly defied it, creating the often steep streets that have become one of San Francisco’s signature urban elements.
While San Francisco conquered its topography with a uniform street plan, Pittsburgh conquered its difficult terrain with its infrastructure, allowing the city to expand into its higher elevations, across its rivers and other areas where the terrain would normally limit any ordinary city.
Pittsburgh functions because of its bridges. They’re everywhere.