Last Tuesday, a panel of New York state and local officials announced the winning design of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s “Aim for the Sky” competition to reimagine the Buffalo Skyway Corridor. Out of over 100 entries, nine finalists were asked to pitch their ideas to a live audience and panel of judges. The $100,000 top prize was awarded shortly after the presentations to Rochester-based firm SWBR Architects for their submission titled “City of Lights: Re-View our Waterfront”, a collaboration with Fisher Associates and MRB Group. The competition’s aim was to define “a clear vision for the City of Buffalo’s waterfront, helping inform the direction for investment in placemaking and economic development opportunities.” The Skyway, a four-mile-long, four-lane expressway that follows the Lake Erie waterfront was completed in 1955 and originally designed to connect truck traffic to and from factory complexes along the Port of Buffalo. Since the closure of the area’s steel plants in the 1980s, the corridor has transformed largely into a commuter highway system carrying up to 400,000 trips per day. SWRB’s $300 million dollar proposal involves a portion of the Skyway north of the Buffalo River to be torn down. “This is going to let people view the skyline of Buffalo in a way that they have never been able to see it before... and we were able to break down the barriers that separate the waterfront from the community and the individual neighborhoods around it,” said Bill Price, a landscape architect with SWRB, according to local Buffalo news network WGRZ. The remaining portion of the skyway would be turned into a High Line-Esque elevated park for both pedestrians and bicyclists. The proposal aspires to strengthen connections between downtown and the Outer Harbor. In fact, all of the proposals promoted connectivity to Buffalo’s Outer Harbor, which currently has no direct bike or pedestrian route to downtown. The second and third place finalists included the “Skyway River Loop” by Marvel Architects and “Queen City Harbor: Bringing Buffalo to the Water’s Edge” by Christian Calleri, Jeannine Muller, Min Soo Kang, and Andrea De Carlo, and the teams were awarded $50,000 and $25,000 respectively. “Queen City Harbor” also calls for portions of the Skyway's removal but focuses on how to open up that land for mixed-use infill development. Marvel’s proposal emphasizes the opposite form of action—keeping the skyway completely—but adding a street-level greenway and local bridge connections. Whether or not the grand winning scheme could be a reality is yet to be determined especially considering that New York State just spent close to $30 million to repair the Skyway and the estimated cost for its removal could be up to $600 million. But Cuomo is hopeful that this is the right move for this rust belt city. “The Buffalo waterfront has always been one of our state’s great assets, and by removing the existing Skyway we will lay the foundation for further transformation and growth in this community,” he said during the announcement. If all goes as planned, by utilizing an expedited Environmental Impact Statement, project construction could possibly be completed in five years.
Posts tagged with "Buffalo New York":
Brought to you with support fromNow in its fourth consecutive year, the Architectural Ceramic Assemblies Workshop (ACAW) has reached a new level of maturity. The annual conference, hosted in Buffalo, New York, counted a total of nine teams hailing from leading architectural and engineering firms across the country. For attendees, the gathering is an opportunity to part the veil behind the architectural terra-cotta manufacturing process, experiment with new concepts, and physically transform them into full-scale prototypes. The collaborative project is the product of an ongoing partnership between manufacturer Boston Valley Terra Cotta (BVTC) and the University at Buffalo School of Architecture and Planning (UB/a+p); engineering firm Walter P Moore served as an additional sponsor for the event. Buffalo, New York is home to a broad range of 20th-century architectural heritage. It should then come, perhaps, as no surprise that BVTC made its bones in the field of architectural preservation. The company, originally founded in 1889 as Boston Valley Pottery, was purchased by the Krouse family in 1981 who converted the operation into a manufacturer of architectural components. Beginning with local restoration projects such as Louis Sullivan's Guaranty Building, BVTC has since partnered with UB/a+p in the use of digital documentation to mass-produce historic architectural pieces. The use of digital design has facilitated BVTC's ascent in the field of custom terra-cotta assemblies; current projects range from Kohn Pedersen Fox's (KPF) supertall One Vanderbilt to Morphosis's Orange County Museum of Art. The teams were made up of new attendees and familiar faces who had developed their prototype concepts in the months leading up to the conference. The prototypes largely followed the ACAW statement of intent, which encouraged an exploration of the intersection between ceramic furniture and cladding. Projects ranged from SHoP Architects' self-supporting structure formed of interlocking terra-cotta units to KPF's manipulation of geometry and glaze embedded atop a concrete panel. There was also a significant alteration to the overall procedure of the conference. Andy Brayman, founder of the Kansas City ceramics collaborative Matter Factory and past ACAW attendee, recently partnered with BVTC to develop the company's first off-site Research & Development Lab within his own facility. "This strategy is helpful when taking on the ACAW projects which by their very nature contain at least one element (and often several) that could be considered experimental," said Brayman. "The bulk of the technical know-how comes from BVTC and it is augmented by research that has been done at the Matter Factory. Taking the projects out of the main factory that is focused on the production of existing jobs allows a different dynamic to take place." The conditions present at the BVTC are effectively replicated at the Kansas City collaborative as the gas-fired kilns are produced and calibrated by the same Italian manufacturer. Keynote speakers, many of them also workshop attendees, included Andy Brayman; Dr. William M. Carty, a ceramics professor at Alfred University; Billie Faircloth, partner at KieranTimberlake; Sara Lopergolo, partner at Selldorf Architects; Sameer Kumar, director of enclosure design at SHoP Architects; Jason Vollen, vice president High Performance Buildings AECOM. What is the overarching goal of this annual earthenware gathering? According to UB/a+p associate professor and conference organizer Omar Khan, "ACAW’s ambition is to make Western New York a recognized center for architectural ceramic research. It is the only one of its kind and we feel that it will influence design and innovation in terracotta usage. From this year’s success, we are already receiving many inquiries to participate next year but our intention will be to internationalize the participants to some extent. This will put other issues and traditions in the mix, which we feel will help us better address more global concerns." Let's see what the future has in store for this corner of the Empire State.
On July 22, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that a two-decade, $50 million restoration of a significant Frank Lloyd Wright urban estate in Buffalo is finally complete, including the Martin House. Wright completed the complex for Darwin D. Martin, the head of the Larkin Soap Company, in 1905. The buildings on-site include the Martin House, which is connected to a glass conservancy via a 100-foot-long glass pergola, as well as the Barton House, a residence for Martin's sister and her family. A carriage house and a gardener's house (added in 1908) are integrated into the estate via formal English gardens that merge with more naturalistic landscape elements. While work on the homes wrapped last year, the restoration of the one-and-a-half–acre grounds was completed just this month. Bayer Landscape Architecture, a firm based in Honeoye Falls, near Rochester, led the project. Its most significant undertaking was the remake of the floricycle, an intricate scheme of 20,000 plantings that radiated out from the Martin House in a series of nesting hyperbolas. Originally, the bulbs, trees, and shrubs were spaced to provide visual interest from March through November as they grew and bloomed in a rhythm. The firm also redid the formal decorative border around the pergola and beefed up the grounds' plantings to revive the outdoor "rooms" and the wild-by-design clumps of shrubs and trees that had faded over the years. Bayer worked with the City of Buffalo to coordinate street tree planting along Jewett Parkway and Summit Avenue, the two roads that abut the property. Wayfinding, lighting, and a new cafe area rounded out the landscape improvements. The project is part of New York State's Buffalo Billion, an economic development initiative that targets the metro area. "The Darwin Martin House is one of Western New York's most iconic attractions," Cuomo said in a press release. "The restoration of the historic landscape is an outstanding addition to this important piece of Buffalo's growing architectural tourism industry." In the same release, Kevin R. Malchoff, president of the Martin House board, noted that the property is the first work of 20th-century architecture among the state's 36 historic sites. Overall, the preservation effort was funded by the National Historic Landmark Program and New York State Historic Site, with New York State kicking in $29 million, a little over half of the total project cost.
A competition to revitalize a 1.5-mile-long elevated railway in Buffalo, New York, has ended with five winners, and all five proposals will be combined to shape an RFP aimed at breathing new life into the abandoned rail corridor. The Western New York Land Conservancy launched the Reimagining the DL&W Corridor: International Design Ideas Competition in November of 2018 to revive an abandoned stretch of the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western (DL&W) railway that runs from Canalside to the Solar City plant. Much like the High Line or the proposed QueensWay in the southern half of the state, the DL&W railway will be turned into an elevated park that will unite formerly-industrial neighborhoods with a continuous rewilded landscape. “Reclaiming Hill & Del” from the New York City–based Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architects (MNLA) took first prize. Their ambitious proposal turns the corridor into an all-season multimodal path to the Buffalo River, using the varied topography of the ridge to add excitement to the routes. Native plants would be used to return the path to a state of nature. “The Dell, The Link & The Wanderer (DLW),” a collaboration between Marvel Architects, BuroHappold, horticulturalist and landscape architect Patrick Cullina, and graphic and placemaking studio NOWHERE Office took second place. The DLW would divide the railway into several distinct ecologies while threading through the neighborhoods. The Dell portion would bring secluded, wooded areas to the former rail line; the Link is where the new park would integrate with existing streets at grade; and visitors can Wander through meandering paths along the water’s edge. Third place was split between two proposals, “The Loop Line” and “Railn.” The Loop Line comes courtesy of the Brooklyn-based OSA, which wanted to turn the railway from a “barrier” to a “linear urban organizer” that capitalizes on investment along the Buffalo River. Unlike the other projects, The Loop Line was conceived as “seasonally inverted,” showcasing the majesty of Buffalo’s winters (even if they are buried in snow). Railn was conceived of by a team of six graduate landscape architecture students from Beijing Forestry University. The project would overlay different axes, including transportation, quality of life, and economic improvements over the railway to create an inclusive, multimodal park. Finally, the community choice award went to Matt Renkas, a SUNY Environmental Science and Forestry grad and Buffalo resident, for his “The Del” proposal. The Del would integrate the industrial remnants along the new park into the landscape and include scrap steel sculptures of animals representing Haudenosaunee clans would dot the DL&W Corridor. The Del would also include several earthwork theaters and staging areas for performances and art shows. With the ideas competition complete, the Land Conservancy will launch a Request For Proposals for conceptual and schematic designs later this summer, integrating ideas from all of the submissions they received, not just the winners.
Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates (MVVA) is slated to transform Buffalo, New York’s old yet beloved waterfront park into a sweeping linear landscape and cultural destination along Lake Erie’s edge. The design team will reimagine the city’s 77-acre LaSalle Park as the new Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Centennial Park, named after the late owner of the Buffalo Bills. The redesign is part of the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation’s big push to improve parks and trails in Western New York and Detroit. In October, the Foundation announced a $200 million investment it would split between the two locales, which includes the build-out of a new 22-acre waterfront park in Detroit also designed by MVVA. Though the New York–based landscape architecture firm had already unveiled renderings of the Motor City’s proposed park earlier this year, no firm had been chosen for the Buffalo project. To Bob Shibley, dean of the University of Buffalo (UB) Regional Institute in the School of Architecture and Planning, who’s helping to spearhead the project, MVVA was a natural fit. The university helped form the Imagine LaSalle Focus Group, a team of 22 community stakeholders who toured successful park projects in Cincinnati, New York, and Chicago to gain inspiration for their hometown’s goals. “People were overwhelmingly enthusiastic about those projects,” said Shibley. “When the announcement was made that Micahel Van Valkenburgh would do Detroit and that both of our parks would be named after Wilson, it was obvious the parallel between the two cities was important.” This “paired park” idea isn’t an explicit design decision, said Shibley, but a nice nod to the Wilson Foundation and its commitment to improving the well-being of people living in both Buffalo and Detroit. MVVA will now take on the challenge of bringing those two separate community visions to life. Even though the parks will be sharing the same name and touch the same body of water, both are inherently different landscapes to Michael Van Valkenburgh. “The two assignments have quite different challenges about them, more contextual differences,” he said. “In some fundamental ways, they mirror each other, but topographically, they’re totally different. LaSalle is twice the size and literally grades right into Lake Erie, while the Detroit side is perched up with a sea wall. The aspirations are similar, but we’ll have to input quite different interventions on each site.” The UB Regional Institute released a comprehensive report detailing the community’s expectations for the project, which MVVA will use as a guide during the initial design phase. MVVA will have to consider how to integrate the history of the near-90-year-old parkland, its connection to the Olmsted & Vaux–designed Front Park, as well as its role as a sports and recreational space. One of the biggest challenges, according to Shibley, will be buffering noise from the adjacent I-90 highway that runs north toward Canada, as well as creating better access, points of transition, and more localized design details for the five diverse districts that surround LaSalle. While the end result will likely resemble a signature MVVA-designed parkland complete with terrain changes, innovative playscapes, and stunning vistas, Van Valkenburgh said it will retain its most important charm. “The flatness of LaSalle is very defining,” he said, “and it’s also a little relentless to me. I think we don’t want to lose that flatness because there’s a kind of wonderful, almost magical concept of playing at the edge of a lake. At the same time, we’ll likely want to add some topography the landscape to allow people to get to a higher level over the water to see Buffalo’s famous sunsets.” Renderings for the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Centennial Park in Buffalo have not yet been released, but a conceptual design and physical model will be presented to the public in May 2019.
With Minneapolis, San Francisco, San Diego, and Los Angeles moving forward with progressive land-use and transportation reforms last week, much of the conventional thinking behind how American cities work could soon be upended. As the converging threats of climate change, housing unaffordability, and pollution continue to hamstring the country’s urban areas, cities across the country are taking matters into their own hands by enacting bold but common-sense reforms in the face of federal and state inaction. For one, a groundbreaking comprehensive plan update in Minneapolis that would eliminate the city’s single-family zones took a step forward last week after two years of public debate and negotiations. The so-called 2040 Minneapolis Plan would make the city the first in the country to upzone all of its single-family residential neighborhoods to allow up to three dwelling units per lot. Under the 2040 initiative, the city will be able to re-establish a tradition of building what’s known as “missing middle” housing, the types of naturally affordable small- to medium-scale neighborhoods that make up the backbones of most American cities built before the 1950s. The plan is designed to break down racial and income disparities between neighborhoods in the city while allowing Minneapolis to absorb expected job and population growth over coming decades. Housing activists across the country are now looking to Minneapolis to see how the experiment plays out as efforts to enact similar policies pick up across the country, especially in Seattle, where a similar effort is gaining steam. In Oregon, a plan to eradicate single-family zoning in cities with 10,000 or more residents took a step forward this week. Aside from taking on exclusionary zoning, other cities, including Buffalo, San Francisco, and San Diego, are looking to eliminate off-street parking requirements to varying extents as they work to reclaim the enormous amount of space taken up by parked cars. In 2017, Buffalo became the first municipality in the country to totally eliminate parking requirements city-wide. The effort comes as part of a new zoning initiative that will bring what is known as a “form-based code” (FBC) to the city. As the name implies, FBCs typically regulate the overall geometries of urban areas by setting particular height limits, setbacks, and other design guidelines that can be followed regardless of use. The approach runs counter to more common use-based codes that carve cities up into monofunctional areas with residential, industrial, and commercial districts. FBCs are seen both as a way of re-establishing mixed-use neighborhoods while also creating contextual and preservation-friendly zones. With the update, Buffalo joins Denver, Las Vegas, and Miami, which have also recently enacted FBCs. Over in California, as the state’s new legislature takes up a series of bold housing reforms, San Diego Mayor Kevin Falconer is one step ahead with a proposal to scrap parking requirements for transit-adjacent areas. A new proposal would eliminate required parking for housing located within 1/2-mile from a transit stop, a change similar to a state-wide effort that was derailed last year. The latest effort, according to the mayor, will be geared toward lowering the cost of building housing—a single parking stall adds between $35,000 and $90,000 in costs per unit of housing in the state—while also resulting in shorter and less bulky buildings. San Francisco has taken the proposal one step further by moving to become the largest city in the country to scrap parking requirements outright. City Supervisor Jane Kim put forward a measure this month to totally eliminate the requirement city-wide in an effort to bolster the city’s climate bona fides and help reign in housing costs. But don’t call it a “parking ban,” developers will instead be allowed to build parking up to a maximum threshold if they deem it necessary. The yet-to-be-approved initiative could go into effect next year. Nearby, Sacramento is working to enact a city-wide transit-oriented development plan that would limit drive-through restaurants and gas stations and lower parking requirements within 1/2-mile from transit stops in the city. Change is afoot even in car-loving Los Angeles, where an ambitious but currently under-funded plan to build 28 large scale transit projects by the 2028 Olympic games has prompted local officials to consider so-called “congestion pricing.” No official plan has been unveiled, but the Los Angeles Metro CEO Phil Washington last week presented several ideas that could potentially fill the funding gap, including requiring drivers to pay for traveling in some of the city’s most congested areas. To boot, Curbed reported that during a presentation to the Metro Board of Directors, Washington even proposed using the fees generated from congestion pricing to make Los Angeles the first city in the United States to offer free public transportation every day of the year.
Across the country, cities are reimagining old industrial landscapes as innovative parklands and restorative ecologies as a way to connect urban dwellers with nature and protect the environment. A new design ideas competition in Buffalo, New York, aims to revitalize the city’s 1.5-mile elevated DL&W rail corridor as a multiuse urban nature trail and greenway. The project is set not only to spur economic development for Buffalo but to reshape the city, becoming a local attraction much like the Toronto’s Bentway or Atlanta’s Beltline. Organized by the Western New York Land Conservancy (WNYLC), the competition invites architects, designers, landscape architect, urban planners, and artists to submit visionary concepts of the corridor as a nature-filled connector for downtown Buffalo, its waterfront, and the surrounding historic neighborhoods. The project is backed by several major sponsors, including M&T Bank and the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr., Legacy Funds, a group that’s part of the late Buffalo Bills owner’s namesake foundation which, just last month, pledged to invest $200 million in both Buffalo and Detroit’s parks and trails systems. The corridor is owned by Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority and has long been a focal point of potential redevelopment for residents and city officials alike. Last year, the WNYLC published a community vision for the site that will guide its future design. “After listening to the community’s hopes for the DL&W corridor, we are excited to give designers from Western New York and around the world a chance to show us how they would bring those hopes to life,” said Nancy Smith, executive director of the WNYLC in a statement. “This spring we will share the designs with the community and ask the community what they think of the ideas, what they like, and what they would do differently.” The competition will be judged by a jury of architects, educators, planners, and consultants including representatives from the University of Buffalo, Stoss Landscape Urbanism, and Friends of the High Line. The proposals will be unveiled online next spring and will also be featured in several public exhibitions in Buffalo. Three winners, including the jury’s favorite as well as the community’s pick, will receive monetary awards ranging from $1,000 to $7,500. To enter the competition, participants must register for free by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information on submission guidelines and the competition brief, see here. An optional site visit for applicants will be held on January 4, 2019, and submissions are due February 15.
Thousands of Buffalo, New York, residents are calling for an 8-foot-tall bronze bust of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., to be replaced with a more accurate portrayal of the civil rights leader. The Buffalo News reported that activists Samuel A. Herbert and Sylvester Herald have collected over 6,000 signatures since January for a petition to remove the gargantuan sculpture from Martin Luther King, Jr. Park in the Kingsley neighborhood of the upstate city. Created by renowned African-American artist John Woodrow Wilson in 1983, the sculpture hovers over a stone ledge inside the 50-acre park, which was designed by Olmsted and Vaux in the 19th century. Upon installation decades ago, the statue wasn’t widely praised for its likeness, but Wilson reportedly sketched the bust not to entirely resemble Dr. King, but rather, to look like an “everyman” that young black men and others could see themselves in. While the sentiment is still relevant today, locals want to honor Dr. King in the 21st century with a statue the mirrors his face and demeanor.
Herbert and Herald aim to collect 4,000 more signatures before presenting the petition to local and state officials, and word is spreading fast. The pair’s goal is to begin fundraising and install a new bust as early as 2020. The movement to remove and replace Wilson’s sculpture coincides with Boston’s effort to build a memorial dedicated to Dr. King and Coretta Scott King. The top five finalists for that memorial have already been chosen.
An activist wants to change the Martin Luther King Jr. statue in Buffalo's MLK Jr. Park to one that looks more like the civil rights leader. They've collected 6,000 signatures out of a 10,000 goal. pic.twitter.com/nDHCSHaHWe— AJ+ (@ajplus) October 23, 2018
As Detroit and Buffalo get set to take on two transformative park projects along their respective waterfronts, both cities have been generously backed by a philanthropic organization aiming to enhance green space and bolster community engagement. Today, the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation announced its pledge to invest over $1.2 billion in the cities by 2035 in honor of its founder, the Buffalo Bills’ late owner, and his centennial birthday. The Foundation is making a sizable donation to Western New York and Southeast Michigan—the two areas Wilson loved most—by committing a combined $200 million for upgraded parks and 250 miles of trails in the regions. A large chunk of that change will go directly to revitalizing LaSalle Park in Buffalo and West Riverfront Park in Detroit. With a design already envisioned by Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates (MVVA) and David Adjaye, the latter parkland will give Michiganites long-desired, tangible access to the Detroit River. Though the 77-acre LaSalle Park has stretched across Lake Erie’s edge since the 1930s, it’s massive potential for further beautification and elevated programming could increase the quality of life for Buffalo residents and beyond. Dave Enger, president of the Foundation, stressed that community involvement is the key to taking on these monumental landscape goals. “Foundations don’t build parks, communities do,” he said. “Our vision is really to support these wonderful projects and the people that have the vision.” The design process is well underway for West Riverfront Park in downtown Detroit. Situated atop a former industrial piece of land, the 22-acre parkland will be a year-round destination for fishing, skating or swimming, sports, entertainment, and family gatherings. MVVA’s proposal was chosen over 80 other submissions in an international design competition to reimagine the park, which was transferred from private ownership to the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy in 2014. Since their master plan was selected earlier this spring, MVVA has worked alongside the Conservancy and the Detroit Mayor’s office to garner feedback from locals and find out their personal ambitions for the park. The firm’s principal, Michael Van Valkenburgh, said his team especially loved talking to people aged 60 and older about their childhoods in Detroit—the places they loved and why. For many, the secluded Belle Isle was the only locale they could go to enjoy green space and the river at the same time. But that’s about to change thanks to these new ideas for downtown. “Not every place in Detroit has what New York’s Brooklyn Bridge Park offers—a way to touch the water and put your toes in,” said Van Valkenburgh. “Because Detroit is so vast horizontally, we knew needed to add shock and awe to the design to get Detroiters who were far away to come to the water. Michiganders feel defined by and proud that the state is surrounded on three sides by the Great Lakes. We thought giving access to the water, through this cove and beach creation, would be a big draw.” A construction start date hasn’t yet been announced for West Riverfront Park, but officials estimate it will be complete by 2022. Van Valkenburgh is sure the master plan will go through many design iterations before ground is broken and he’s excited about more community input. “I’ve been going to public meetings since 1990,” he said. “These have been the most uplifting public meetings I’ve ever been a part of. People come with a real sense that this park is going to be a big lift for the city. They really want it.” At the other end of Lake Erie is LaSalle Park in Buffalo. Though it’s a long-loved and well-utilized community treasure, city stakeholders agree that it could use significant improvements. In 1998, the city conducted a planning review to overhaul the expansive parkland and identify priorities for a new design and upgraded programming. That vision was never realized until the Regional Institute at the University of Buffalo began researching its history and surveying people through a project called Imagine LaSalle. A focus group even spent this summer exploring the park and visiting other famous green spaces in Chicago, Cincinnati, and New York for inspiration. “The feedback has been tremendous so far,” said Brendan Mehaffey, executive director for the city’s Office of Strategic Planning. “Part of the mayoral administration’s core values is inclusion so we’ve talked to people from all backgrounds including low-income individuals, young professionals, business owners, and more.” Community engagement is at the heart of both efforts in Buffalo and Detroit. Much like Imagine LaSalle, MVVA also transported a busload of teenagers to visit their Maggie Daley Park in Chicago, and other groups went to New York and Philadelphia. Mehaffey sees the connection between the two waterfront park projects, and the two cities in general, as vital to their respective successes. “The Detroit team is much further into the design process than we are, so we’re delving into their research to try and discover best practices for building our own LaSalle Park,” he said. “I think that commonality between us is part of what the Wilson Foundation’s statement is going to make to the country.” Enger also believes the two cities are inextricably important to one another—that’s why his organization has zeroed in on their combined futures. He emphasized that spurring economic development through green space is a key way to democratize the municipalities on a greater level. “Where else in the United States are you going to find world-class parks in post-industrial cities that overlook international border crossings and feature some of the most magnificent sunrises and sunsets?" he said. "We think the total leverage of this project will be far greater than what our investment will bring.”
After a $2-million total restoration, the Frank Lloyd Wright–designed George and Delta Barton House in Buffalo, New York, is once again open for visitors. The Barton House, built in 1903–1905 as one of six interconnected buildings on the Darwin D. Martin House residential compound, was Wright’s first East Coast commission and introduced the Prairie School to the public. The Barton House, a commission by millionaire Darwin D. Martin for his sister Delta Barton and her husband George, was a bit of a test-case for Wright; Martin was so impressed that he tapped Wright to later design the rest of the complex, including the larger Martin House. “The restoration of the Barton House not only invites visitors to enjoy and understand its significance as an icon of Wright’s Prairie style but also provides a window into the role of patronage in architecture,” said Martin House executive director Mary Roberts. “With his offering of the Barton House project, Martin gave Wright an opportunity to explore his strengths and creativity free from financial restraints, and its success sparked a long-lasting patron-artist relationship that resulted in some of Wright’s most important built and unbuilt works.” The Barton House restoration was some twenty years in the making and began with the founding of the Martin House Restoration Corporation (MHRC) in 1992. Renovations on the site began in 1996, and restoration of the Barton House proper began in September 2017 based on the research and plans produced by Buffalo’s HHL Architects. Only three of the six Martin House buildings currently remain standing. The Barton House, while an earlier piece of Wright’s portfolio, exhibits the unmistakable low-slung proportions, large, overhanging roof, and ribbon windows associated with the Prairie School style. The design of the house and use of gold-tinted brick in the fireplace and terracotta roof tiles share similar beats with Wright’s J.J. Walser Jr. House in Chicago, which opened the same year. The Martin House compound is open to public guided tours, but private tours are also available, and the Barton House is available to rent for private events.
For the third year in a row, manufacturer Boston Valley Terra Cotta (BVTC) and the University at Buffalo School of Architecture and Planning (UB/a+p) in upstate New York hosted the Architectural Ceramics Assemblies Workshop (ACAW). The weeklong event is a gathering of architects, engineers, and artists and offers a fast-paced opportunity for attendees to get their hands dirty physically testing the capabilities of terra-cotta design. Other sponsors of the gathering include Western New York’s Alfred University, an institution with expertise in glass and ceramics, and Rigidized Metals Corporation, a producer of deep-textured metal for exterior and interior cladding, among other products. “Architects designing with industrially produced ceramic components may have little material understanding of clay for large-scale production, while most artists trained in ceramics may have few opportunities to explore the medium at a scale beyond the individual object,” said Bill Pottle, BVTC’s Director of Business Development and organizer of the gathering. “At ACAW, architects, engineers, and educators collaborate with designers and manufacturers in order to deepen their understanding of designing with architectural terra-cotta.” BVTC was founded in 1889 as Boston Valley Pottery, a brick and clay pot manufacturing facility located on the outskirts of Buffalo, New York. The Krouse family purchased the facility in 1981 and transformed it into a cutting-edge architectural terra-cotta factory with a global footprint. Currently, projects range from the restoration of New York’s Woolworth Building to the cladding of Morris Adjmi Architect’s 363 Broadway and Kohn Peterson Fox’s One Vanderbilt. Keynote speakers, many of them workshop attendees, included Anne Currier, a clay sculptor and professor; Dr. William M. Carty, a ceramics professor at Alfred University; Christine Jetten, a ceramics and glazing consultant; Gerd Hoenicke, Director of Pre-Construction Services at Schüco; Matthew Krissel, partner at KieranTimberlake; Craig Copeland, associate partner at Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects; and Christopher Sharples, principal at SHoP Architects. This year, over 60 attendees participated in the workshop, which emphasized the role of pre-design and research at the early stages of a design project. Both the number of attendees and the overarching objectives of the workshop have evolved since its 2016 inauguration. The first event was largely a sandbox tutorial, featuring 20 attendees learning the basics of terra-cotta production. In its second year, ACAW and its 40 attendees focused on the bioclimatic function of terra-cotta in contemporary design and the retrofitting of structures. This year, building upon their experience at previous workshops, the attendees, divided into six teams, began researching and developing their prototypes in March. Designs were submitted to BVTC prior to the conference for prefabrication. Throughout the week, the teams received technical support from both BVTC and UB/a+p.
Production on Tesla’s highly-anticipated solar roof tiles is currently stalled due to aesthetic quality concerns and assembly-line problems at its Buffalo, New York, factory, according to Reuters. In an article published last week, Reuters interviewed eight former and current employees at Tesla, Inc. and their joint venture partner Panasonic, who revealed that the future of solar tile production is murky at this time. According to Reuters’s unnamed sources, since opening last year, manufacturing at Tesla’s Gigafactory 2 in Buffalo has suffered repeated interruptions with equipment issues and delays in achieving the tile style CEO Elon Musk is seeking. The state-owned, photovoltaic cell factory, leased by Tesla’s subsidiary SolarCity, currently employs around 600 people. After the prototypes of Musk’s sun-powered roof tiles were revealed two years ago, U.S. customers put down $1,000 deposits and production ramped up at the facility. Tesla told Reuters in a statement that though production has slowed, work can be expected to increase later this year. “We are steadily ramping up Solar Roof production in Buffalo and are also continuing to iterate on the product design and production process,” Tesla said. “We plan to ramp production more toward the end of 2018.” Per the subsidy agreement that allowed Tesla to build the $350 million factory and purchase production equipment, the company has to live up to its investment and employment promises in Buffalo and beyond. New York lawmakers are skeptical that the company can achieve the mandates the state and the company have set. At least 1,460 people must be employed by Tesla within the first two years of opening, and the company must spend $5 billion in New York over the next ten years. Panasonic employees told Reuters that their current production on solar products has been delayed as well, but it’s due to pick back up in September. The company has also started selling to outside buyers since Tesla has yet to integrate their designs as promised. According to a source, Tesla is currently working with JA solar to address Musk’s aesthetic concerns with the tiles.