Dennis Astorino
UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh

Louis D. Astorino, who is chairman of the company, founded L.D. Astorino Cos. in 1972. Its second employee was Dennis Astorino, his brother and the company’s chief executive. ENR Correspondent Jonathan Barnes recently spoke with them.

ENR: How was Astorino started?

L.A.: I was always blessed with the ability to sketch. I rented a space and did renderings of buildings for other architects. That really helped me.

ENR: How would you characterize the growth of the company?

D.A.: It’s been a very slow, methodical growth. My employee number is number two. The company’s growth was more about the kind of projects that interested us. Our size is a product of our doing the projects that we always wanted to do.

ENR: Astorino Architects has a long work relationship with the Pittsburgh Catholic Diocese, having done its first job on a historic Pittsburgh church. Astorino’s most famous work is likely the chapel that the company designed recently for the Vatican. How’d you get that job?

L.A.: The company landed the highly prestigious Chapel of the Holy Spirit job in the Vatican through a connection with Pittsburgh businessman John E. Connelly. He introduced us to the top officials and that allowed us to present our credentials. We did some early work as a consultant to Vatican architects on Domus Santa Marta, which is a Residence hotel where the Cardinals are housed during a Conclave… As a result of that, we were asked to do the Chapel of the Holy Spirit as the sole architects.

ENR: Does Astorino have a signature design?

L.A.: We really don’t believe in a signature style. Each project is influenced by so many factors—site, program, client, context, etc. We believe in keeping an open mind and letting those factors influence our design.

ENR: How did your company become a health care facility design expert?

L.A.: Twelve years ago we bought a firm that did mostly health care related work. Health care work now comprises 60% of our work. We’re dedicating ourselves to creating buildings that create a healing environment.

ENR: Astorino is known for its use of the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Green Building Rating System. How has LEED been important to Astorino’s approach to design?

D.A.: When we first got into LEED, we were 70% through with the design of PNC’s operations center, and it became the first LEED certified project in the country when it was built in 2001. When we looked at the [current] project, [LEED techniques] were things that we were doing anyway. That made using LEED a no-brainer.

(Photos and rendering by Astorino)

storino Architects recently opened new offices in West Palm Beach and Naples, Fla., but the firm takes most of its identity from its base city, Pittsburgh. Astoriino is the second largest architectural practice in town with $26 million in annual revenue and 191 employees. This year promises to be especially busy. Astorino is teaming up with San Francisco-based Gensler on PNC Financial’s $170 million, 30-story skyscraper in downtown Pittsburgh. And officials of Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh and UPMC Hospital, who are building a $575 million medical complex, have tapped Astorino for the job. “They tend to focus on not only the function, but the design of the project,” says Roger Oxendale, president of Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. Astorino is also expanding its services. The company says it is exploring what it calls the Deep Design Process and describes itself as the first architectural team in the world to use, through a sister company, groundbreaking research techniques that elicit subconscious thoughts and feelings and translate them into design criteria.