MARCH 30, 2011

Oakland's Syria Mosque is only a phone call away
By Deb Smit, Pop City, March 30, 2011

Sam LaveryOne of Oakland's beloved landmarks, home of the Shriners and a venue for some of the country's greatest artists, is being quietly resurrected by smartphone technology.

As part of an independent study in historic preservation and recreation, Sam Lavery, a Carnegie Mellon student, is bringing the Syria Mosque back to life. Smartphone users walking the street and parking lot along Bigelow Boulevard and Lytton Avenue, where the Syria Mosque once stood, may scan the QR codes found on street poles and signs and find a digital trove of memorabilia--vintage photos, live concert clips, posters, ticket stubs and more.

It's the quintessential paved over paradise and put up a parking lot, but it will not be forgotten, says Lavery, who never actually experienced the Mosque himself, but has heard stories from his mother who worked as an usher there in the 1970s.

Lavery's project is a case study on significant structures in Pittsburgh that have been destroyed yet have left a lasting impression. The location of the images are matched to the points where the codes are placed, he says.

"I'm intentionally focused on attracting the attention of young people who never saw the building. They wouldn't know the parking lot they are passing was once home to an eclectic piece of architecture and a spectacular center of culture."

The lavish auditorium, home to the Pittsburgh Symphony, was a spotlight for Buddy Holly, Nat King Cole, Vladmir Horowitz, The Who, The Ramones and Bruce Springsteen. Lavery hopes to populate the site with more material and audio clips; He would love to hear from anyone interested in sharing recordings or souvenirs.

Next up? Possibly the Three Rivers Stadium or the Homestead Steel Works.