Alphabet Reading Garden

City of Asylum



The Alphabet Reading Garden is an artist-designed garden that is a project of City of Asylum. It is paved with custom-made bricks inscribed with hand-written alphabet letters from numerous alphabets. The original handwritten letters were contributed by neighbors and visitors to City of Asylum. The Reading Garden anchors the residential end of City of Asylum’s “Garden to Garden Art Trail” that ends at Alphabet City (adjacent to the former Garden Theater). This construction of this community space was made possible with generous support from ArtPlace America.

Whether you just want a quiet place to read or a tranquil place to take a stroll, the Alphabet Reading Garden promises to provide a gentle haven for our neighbors and supporters.

Text the number inscribed on the gate, and we will provide you with a PIN to permanently access the garden and enjoy our free Wi-Fi and streaming features.  

Dawn – Dusk, Mon. – Sun.

1406 Monterey Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15212



The Artists

The garden features the work of architect Joel Le Gall, artist Laura Jean McLaughlin, and artist Diane Samuels.


LJMLaura Jean McLaughlin received an MFA in ceramics from West Virginia University. Laura Jean’s work has been exhibited in over one hundred galleries and museums, including the Ogden Museum of Southern Art, the Mobile Museum of Art, the Montgomery Museum of Art, the Ohio Craft Museum, the Carnegie Museum of Art, the Delf Norona Museum, the San Angelo Museum of Fine Art, the Baltimore Institute of Art and The State Museum of Pennsylvania. She is a recipient of the Maggie Milono Memorial Award from the Carnegie Museum of Art and three prestigious residencies from Kohler Company in Wisconsin.  Laura Jean’s ceramic work has been featured in various periodicals, including:  Germany’s New Ceramics, Korean Ceramic Art Monthly, Ceramics Monthly, Clay Times, American Style, American Craft Magazine.  Her work is featured in the following books:  Confrontational Ceramics, 500 Figures, 500 Teapots, 500 Bowls, 500 Cups, Poetic Expressions of Mortality. She received an NEA Grant to conduct a workshop at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center, a Mid-Atlantic grant for a large mosaic installation in Baltimore, as well as a Mid-Atlantic Fellowship at WVU.  Her work is in the collection of the City of Pittsburgh, The Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, Carlow College, Whole Foods Market, the Porter~Price Collection, Kohler Art Center, Kohler Company, and HBO in New York.


JLGJoel le Gall was born in the Breton town of Saint Malo and grew up in Marseille.  He came to the US for the first time as a boy in 1961, and the family would travel back and forth between France and the US, his father teaching biochemistry at several universities, eventually settling in Athens, GA.  Joel graduated from Oberlin College in 1973 where he was an art student.  Highlights of his undergraduate years include apprenticeships with American abstract expressionist Gary Bower in New York and Mexican muralist David Alfaro Siqueiros in Mexico City.  A course in landscape architecture proved a turning point and Joel went on to graduate studies in landscape architecture at the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana.

His professional life began in the Department of Planning and Development, Cook County, IL, but he would soon move to Pittsburgh, where, in 1980, Joel would work for Oxford Development Company, as head of the landscape architecture department, responsible for the maintenance of all properties, including the Monroeville Mall and South Hills Village, and where he oversaw the landscape installations of Oxford’s new properties, including One Oxford Centre.  In 1986, Joel worked briefly for Environmental Planning and Design on projects including botanical gardens across the country, such as the Chicago and Missouri Botanical Gardens.

An independent designer since 1988, Joel has worked with a diversity of clients in the private and public sectors, among which are the Soffer Organization, where he designed the waterfall at Penn Center West, Allegheny County public housing projects, the Frick Art & Historical Center, and the Carnegie Museums.  His work is represented by many private residences, frequently in collaboration with architects Sarah Drake, Seigle, Sollow & Horne, Lami-Grubb, and Perfido Weiskopf Wagstaff + Goettel.  Joel’s current work includes the Alphabet Garden for Cities of Asylum in the Mexican War Streets, to be completed in 2015.


DianeDiane Samuels is a visual artist, with studio and public art practices. She is also co-founder of City of Asylum Pittsburgh, which provides sanctuary to writers in exile. Her public art commissions include Luminous Manuscript (Center for Jewish History in New York) and Lines of Sight (Brown University) and The Alphabet Garden (Grafeneck, Germany, site “A” of the so-called euthanasia experiments in 1940).

Her exhibitions include the Andy Warhol Museum, the Carnegie Museum of Art, the Mattress Factory Museum, the Leo Baeck Institute, Center for Book Arts, the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, the Contemporary Arts Center of Cincinnati, the Municipal Museum of Art (Gyor, Hungary), the Synagogue Center (Trnava, Slovakia), the Bernheimer Realschule (Buttenhausen, Germany), and the Czech Museum of Fine Arts.

Her work is in public and private collections including the Carnegie Museum of Art, Bank of New York Mellon, Reed College, Municipal Museum of Art (Gyor, Hungary), the Ruth and Marvin Sackner Archive of Concrete and Visual Poetry, Yeshiva University Museum, Center for Book Arts.

In 2013 she was recipient of a Rockefeller Bellagio Residency in Italy and an American Academy in Jerusalem Fellowship. Samuels holds both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in fine arts from Carnegie Mellon University, a diploma from the Institute in Arts Administration at Harvard University and has received honorary doctorates from Seton Hill University and Chatham University. She is an Honorary Board member of the ACLU-PA Greater Pittsburgh Chapter.


Exiled Writers-in-Residence

House Publications

Book Publications

Sign up for City of Asylum Newsletter

* = required field

Building hope in a hopeless place. The musician sits down to talk about her fight for democratic ref [...]

"I hope to encourage others to find ways to weave their own blankets, to tell their own stories [...]


Loading posts...