Meet A Penn State Alumnus: Architect Louis D. Astorino
With more than 645,000 living alumni, Penn State boasts one of the most talented, largest alumni networks in the world. While there are a number of these Penn State graduates that go on to be athletes, Hollywood stars, and the like, there are many who lead incredible lives, thanks in part to their education at Dear Old State.
In our Meet A Penn State Alumnus series, we’re out to highlight some of the Penn State alums that you may have never heard of, though they are widely successful, renowned, and respected. This week, we had the privilege to talk with Louis D. Astorino, an architect who has had a hand or led the way in designing a number of globally-recognized buildings.
Astorino was born and raised in Pittsburgh. His mother was a waitress, and his father was a factory worker. Despite humble beginnings, Astorino knew he wanted to be an architect from early on.
“Growing up, they were building some homes next to us, and I was so interested in architecture and construction that I talked my mom into making coffee for the workers so I could go down and give it to them and they’d let me look around,” Astorino fondly recalled.
The budding architect decided to come to Penn State because of the schools proximity to Pittsburgh, as well as a wonderful reputation and good architecture professors. Shortly after his graduation from Penn State in 1969, Astorino hit the ground running. He started his own architecture firm, L.D. Astorino & Associates, just three years out of school. With his wife (now of 45 years!) serving as his first secretary, Astorino did a lot of renderings for other architects before beginning to garner his own clients.
Astorino’s talent in drawing led him to the opportunity to design a number of large-scale projects. His firm worked with HOK Sports (now Populous) to design PNC Park, and Astorino took care to research what makes baseball parks “great,” pointing out the park’s open design. Anyone who’s been inside the PNC Park know that its views of downtown Pittsburgh and the Golden Triangle make Pirate’s games that much more majestic and entertaining.
Perhaps the most amazing feat in Astorino’s career is the honor he garnered in being asked to be design part of the Vatican. When it came time to select Pope John Paul II’s successor, Astorino was originally asked by Pittsburgh entrepenuer John Connelly (who was funding the project) to help with some of the designs for the housing for the Cardinals that were coming to Rome. After some back and forth with the engineer for the project, the President Cardinal asked Astorino if he would be interested in designing the Chapel of the Holy Spirit, where the Cardinals would meet for mass during the election process.
“It’s an absolutely amazing honor,” Astorino said of the opportunity. “I’m humbled by it daily.” Astorino was the first, and remains one of the only American architects to design a building in the Vatican. The chapel is now used daily for mass by Pope Francis.
Astorino’s Penn State connection isn’t limited to his diploma. Working again with HOK Sports, Astorino and his firm designed the Louis E. Lasch Football Building, at the request of Joe Paterno. Astorino also worked with on the designs for the renovations to Rec Hall.
Penn State, as well as Astorino’s firm, have become a family affair for the Astorino’s. Christine and Louis Astorino graduated from the university in 1995 and 1997, respectively. They now are both involved in Astorino’s firm, now called Astorino-CannonDesign after a merger. Though not working the 10 or 12 hour days he once did, Astorino is certainly staying busy and involved.
“I’m trying to lay back over the next year or two, and then we’ll see what happens.”
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“If not, he’s going to wind up back on the street.”
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