Posts tagged with "Buffalo":

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In Buffalo, Davidson Rafailidis tackles big challenges with unique sensibility

The Architectural League of New York’s Emerging Voices award and lecture series highlights individuals and firms with distinct design “voices,” singling out those with the potential to go on to even greater heights. 2018 saw two rounds of judging; first by a panel of past Emerging Voices winners, and a second to pick the winners. The first-round jury included Virginia San Fratello, Sebastian Schmaling, Wonne Ickx, Lola Sheppard, Marcelo Spina, Carlos Jimenez, and Marlon Blackwell, as well as members of the second-round jury, Sunil Bald, Lisa Gray, Stella Betts, Jing Liu, Paul Makovsky, Tom Phifer, Chris Reed, and Billie Tsien. AN profiled all of the emerging voices firms in our February print issue. Davidson Rafailidis founders Stephanie Davidson and Georg Rafailidis will deliver their lecture on March 15, 2018, at the SVA Theatre in Manhattan. Spatial planning is king at Davidson Rafailidis. It has to be, because the small husband-and wife-run studio is focused on designing tight projects with equally tight budgets that can be adapted for long-term use. Both founding partners, Stephanie Davidson and Georg Rafailidis, teach in the nearby State University of New York at Buffalo’s architecture department and frequently integrate more academic theory into their built projects than a traditional studio. It’s a natural progression, as the couple originally met while they were students at the Architectural Association School of Architecture, in London. “In the end, the realized projects are very similar to essays,” explained Davidson. “When the project is inhabited and really comes alive, we always try to keep tabs, even on private projects, to see how they’re used and what changes and what needs to be adapted. We see that as ongoing research, to see how people respond to our ongoing spatial interventions.” Nowhere is this approach more evident than in the studio’s 2015 transformation of a formerly vacant corner store in Buffalo into the vibrant Cafe Fargo (now under the name, Tipico Coffee). The coffee shop strips the monolithic brick building back to its raw materials and introduces colored tiles throughout to delineate the new space from the old. Working under serious budget constraints, Davidson Rafailidis was forced to “make machinery itself the architecture,” according to Rafailidis. Instead of using a bulky HVAC system, the studio installed large operable windows and a skylight, for passive cooling, and a wood-burning "kachelofen" hearth, clad in tile, that provides ambient heat. Most tellingly, Rafailidis said that guests often don’t realize that the heater is a new addition to the space. The cafe has grown to host pop-up events and public gatherings, reinforcing the building’s continually evolving relationship with its users. The 2016 project He, She & It, a tripartite studio space in Buffalo for a creative couple, unifies a painter’s studio (He), ceramic and silver-working area (She), and greenhouse (It) under one umbrella. While each space has a vastly different use, all of them use a mono-pitched roof with a long overhang to funnel rainwater into a garden at the building’s base. Each space relies on passive heating and cooling, as well as natural overhead lighting, and the greenhouse can be opened up to share its solar gain with the working spaces in colder months. He, She & It has won its fair share of acclaim in the last year—though if this recognition has made Davidson and Rafailidis’s lives more hectic, they can’t tell. “It’s really a challenge with our small size. Even to go to see a building someone wants to show us can take half of our workday,” said Davidson. “Both of us are on AutoCAD, and on Rhino, and making models, and also going to meetings; it’s a big challenge. It doesn’t feel like it’s more work, because we’ve become accustomed to this crazy schedule.”
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Demolition of Paul Rudolph’s Shoreline Apartments stalled by single tenant

Demolition of the Paul Rudolph-designed Shoreline Apartments in Buffalo, New York, has accelerated, and the full destruction of the housing complex is being stalled by a single tenant. John Schmidt has refused to leave his unit in what remains of the brutalist buildings, despite having received an eviction notice, over what he feels are strong-arm tactics from developer Norstar Development Corporation. Finished in 1974, the waterfront development held 426 affordable units and was part of Paul Rudolph’s unrealized master plan for a revitalized Buffalo waterfront. Featuring sharp angles made of concrete and mono-pitched roofs made of heavy, serrated metal, the complex’s design was unmistakably Rudolph’s. Norstar, a private company, purchased the site with the intention of demolishing the state-built homes and overhauling the complex. The first phase of demolition and redevelopment began in 2015, and has already replaced five of Rudolph’s cascading buildings with seven townhouses and a short apartment block, for a total of 48 new affordable housing units. While the final phase of the project was slated to begin this spring, Schmidt’s unwillingness to leave has held up the rest of the process. His defiance is understandable, as Norstar had previously promised Shoreline residents that they would have time to relocate, before advancing the demolition timetable without warning. While Schmidt is now the last resident in what remains of his 300-unit complex, his reason for staying isn’t driven entirely by preservation. Schmidt is demanding an apology from Norstar for displacing the 222 families who have been forced to relocate, as they were told that the buildings had fallen into an unlivable condition. The local community has disagreed, and argues that the apartments are still structurally sound. Norstar has dismissed these claims, and reiterated that no one has been forced to move under false pretenses. “We are pleased that we can bring people very nice, new affordable housing in the downtown business corridor. We do have to relocate these people to rebuild housing, people will be able to come back, but they do have to qualify under that state's section 42 low income housing regulations. But at this point, all of our residents are income qualified,” Norstar representatives said in a statement. Many of Rudolph’s buildings have met ignoble ends in recent years, despite outcry from preservationists and architects. Earlier last year, one third of Rudolph’s Orange County Government Center was partially demolished and replaced with a more modern-styled annex. Judging from the type of buildings that have emerged from the first phase of the Shoreline’s replacement, the same process is repeating itself in Buffalo.

Reimagine the Canals: Competition

The New York Power Authority and the New York State Canal Corporation launched a competition seeking ideas to shape the future of the New York State Canal System, a 524-mile network composed of the Erie Canal, the Oswego Canal, the Cayuga-Seneca Canal, and the Champlain Canal. Selected ideas will be awarded a total of $2.5 million toward their implementation. The New York State Canal System is one of the most transformative public works projects in American history. The entire system was listed as a National Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places in 2014 and designated as a National Historic Landmark in 2017 for its role in shaping the American economy and urban development. Despite its past success, vessel traffic on the Canal System has steadily declined over the last century. Deindustrialization and competition from rail, pipelines, roadways and the St. Lawrence Seaway, put the Canals at a disadvantage in transporting freight. Pleasure boating activity levels have likewise fallen and are today only half what they once were. In contrast to the decreasing maritime activity on the Canal System, recreational uses along it – from hiking and bicycling in spring, summer, and fall to cross-country skiing and ice fishing in winter – have grown in popularity. The 750-mile Empire State Trail, which will run from New York City to Canada and from Albany to Buffalo, is expected to be completed in 2020. It will further enhance opportunities for recreation along portions of the Canal System. To date, however, much of the Canal System’s potential to stimulate tourism and economic activity in the communities along its corridor remains untapped. To address the challenges and opportunities facing the Canal System, the Competition seeks visionary ideas for physical infrastructure projects as well as programming initiatives that promote:
  • the Canal System as a tourist destination and recreational asset
  • sustainable economic development along the canals and beyond
  • the heritage and historic values of the Canal System
  • the long-term financial sustainability of the Canal System
The two-stage Competition is open to individuals, businesses, non-profits and municipalities. Respondents are encouraged to form multidisciplinary teams. These could include, for example, urban designers and architects, planning and community specialists, hydrologists, infrastructure engineers, artists and curators, development economists, real estate developers, local officials and financing partners. Submissions from both domestic and international teams are welcome. Submission deadline is January 5, 2018. More details about the Competition structure, timeline, and submission guidelines can be found on the website.
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Deborah Berke Partners transforms Buffalo asylum into resort and conference center

For a psychiatric hospital built in the late 19th century, the Buffalo State Asylum for the Insane in Buffalo, New York, was remarkably ahead of its time. At the request of physician Thomas Story Kirkbride, who helmed the hospital’s design, emphasis was placed on access to natural light, fresh air, and pastoral views to benefit patient well-being. It was originally completed in 1880, combining Victorian and Romanesque elements.

Deborah Berke Partners (DBP) recently completed the asylum’s metamorphosis into the Hotel Henry Urban Resort and Conference Center. “The intentions for this building were about it being a welcoming and safe space,” said Stephen Brockman, senior principal of DBP. “The graciousness of the space is what’s fascinating. You open these doors, and it’s breathtaking,”

That said, converting the former asylum – located in the central portion of the sprawling National Historic Landmark Richardson Olmsted Campus – into a 191,000-square-foot luxury boutique hotel and conference center without losing its character was not without its challenges.

During early presentations of the project to the local community, conversations with the relatives of people who had spent time at the hospital and felt a close relationship with it created a desire “to make it feel like it was still theirs,” Brockman said. “Our interventions were subtle.”

The hotel and conference center houses 88 guest rooms, multiple conference facilities, a fine dining restaurant, a bar, and a cafe. Of the campus’s original 11 buildings, the hotel comprises three central buildings that were the asylum’s administrative hub and patient housing.

Along with the exterior, original interior elements, including windows, interior shutters, plasterwork, stairs, and tile and wood floors were preserved, while the grand staircase was restored. The spacious hallways, 200 feet long and 15 feet wide, were also kept intact. These corridors, which were originally called “day rooms” and functioned as the asylum’s social spaces, were flooded with ventilation and light to aid patient recovery.

“The grandeur of the building simply cried out to be a destination, so this is a perfect fit,” said Jean Carroon, principal at Goody Clancy, preservation architects for the project. “The exterior is rugged and beautiful. The interior has the high ceilings, natural daylight, and views, which were part of its first life.”

To transform the building into a modern hotel welcoming the 21st-century traveler, a flagstone-and-granite entry plaza was added. A new, second entrance, in glass and steel, glows at night, as do newly illuminated towers, lit internally to serve as beacons. A staircase created within the second entrance features an illuminated glass handrail and leads to the second-floor lobby. An attic was converted into large, loft-like guest suites with partially exposed beams and high, sloped ceilings. Guest rooms were updated in neutral tones and will feature works by local artists.

Landscape architecture and planning firm Andropogon Associates updated and restored the grounds, originally designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, adding a new roadway in Olmsted’s aesthetic, as well as guest parking. Andropogon also planted 125 new trees, interspersed with rain gardens of switchgrass, as well as grapevines and hawthorns.

It was important to pay homage to the hotel’s history as an asylum more prominently as well. To that end, Carroon noted, several patient rooms have been completely restored and will be part of the campus’s historic tours when the Lipsey Buffalo Architecture Center opens in late 2017 as a co-tenant with Hotel Henry. Celebrating Buffalo’s rich architectural history and honoring the site’s legacy, the center will feature a 400-square-foot interactive exhibit about the asylum and the history of mental health treatment in the U.S. 

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The future of ceramics is being developed in Buffalo, New York

In the countryside outside of Buffalo, New York, Boston Valley Terra Cotta (BVTC) has an impressive industrial terra-cotta operation—a potter’s studio on steroids, with dust and clay scattered around a relatively calm factory. Since 1996 “Rusty” Raymond Conners has spent his days by the window and among his plants, carving intricate designs in the capitals of columns and the faces of tiles. BVTC started in 1889 as a flower pot business, and has since morphed into one of the leading-edge facade manufacturers in the world, producing a range of baked-clay cladding products that are being used by everyone from Machado Silvetti to Morris Adjmi to Annabelle Selldorf. How did this transformation take place? In the last five years, something remarkable has happened. In 2011, Omar Khan, associate professor and chair of the Department of Architecture at the University at Buffalo School of Architecture and Planning (UB/a+p), and Mitchell Bring, a researcher and adjunct professor, realized the potential in Boston Valley’s operation. Bring has been working with some former students of UB/a+p to incorporate the latest in digital documentation, design, and fabrication technologies to help BVTC remain at the forefront of the terra cotta industry. What started as a couple of interns is now a whole team of digital designers and fabricators. The digital documentation team uses 3D scan data to enhance more traditional techniques of reproducing historic buildings in preservation projects, such as Louis Sullivan’s Guaranty Building, or New York’s Woolworth Building, which the company is working to restore at the moment. In order to make the process the most efficient, designers use CAD to rationalize the component parts that make up any large ceramic assembly. In a small corner of the factory stands a digital fabrication shop, now led by UB/a+p alum Peter Schmidt. They work with mesh editing software, a 5-axis CNC router, and a 5-axis CNC hot wire cutter to make models that are then translated into molds for the traditional methods such as hand pressing, ram pressing, or slip casting. Some worried that these new tools would cut into the work of the skilled craftspeople, such as the sculptors who hand-finish many of the more intricate pieces. However, once implemented, these artists found that they actually had more time to focus on the part that they really enjoy—sculpture—because many of the mundane tasks were cut out of the process. John Ruskin would be proud. In addition to making traditional techniques more efficient, BVTC and UB are working together to think about how digital technology can allow more experimentation with clay-based building systems. This was the basis for Architectural Ceramic Assemblies Workshop, a week-long conference at UB/a+p, where architects, engineers, artists, and other leaders in the industry came together to share ideas and discuss what might be the future of clay and terra-cotta. The conference was a collaboration of Alfred State University, Albright-Knox Art Gallery, UB/a+p, and Data Clay, an art collective that is pushing the boundaries of digital craft and ceramics. Keynote speakers were Jason Oliver Vollen, architect and principal of High-Performance Buildings at AECOM in New York; Willam M. McCarthy, ceramics professor at Alfred State University; and Neil Forrest, ceramic artist and educator at Nova Scotia College of Art and Design in Canada. “While many architects design with industrially-produced ceramic components, they may have limited material understanding of clay, and most artists and designers trained in ceramics may have few opportunities to explore the medium at a scale beyond the object,” says Bill Pottle, international sales and marketing manager at Boston Valley Terra Cotta, who helped organize the gathering. “By attending this workshop, they will have the opportunity to collaborate and deepen their understanding of and experience with the potential for terra-cotta in the architectural setting.” Experiments in Clay What does clay have to offer? What characteristics are unique of clay, and what can it offer that other materials cannot? To explore these questions, the group of nearly 20 broke off into three groups, each with a balance of engineers, architects, artists, and researchers. Throughout the week in the top floor of UB/a+p, they combined their broad collective knowledge with computers, 3D printers, clay, and a range of drawing tools to experiment with clay. On the final day, the four groups presented the findings of their charettes and pin-ups. The first group, led by Adjmi, developed BIO CLAD, a panelized system that used the thermal capacities of terra-cotta to enhance the energy performance in residential applications. Terra-cotta panels—TerraClad by BVTC—would collect heat on the outside and run it through a heat exchanger, which would expel it on the inside via a series of radiant heating tubes. Group two presented “Bundled Baguette,” a set of experiments using the baguette, a basic, ceramic tube that is often used as a louver, could be aggregated in several arrangements including a parallel tumbleweed-like cluster. The third group set out to try new hybridized methods and constructions. They showed an idea that might use raw and fired clay at the same time, with the raw clay acting as a possible medium for humidity control. In another experiment from the week’s workshop, a classic, two-dimensional extrusion is made, with a 3D-printed form grafted on. This would not only be a new technique that hybridizes these tools, but it also would be the first time that a 3D printer would be used for an actual building component, and not just for prototypes or formwork. The last group was the most experimental, and they displayed a range of technical and artistic experiments, including a “mono-clay assembly,” or a complete, easy-to-produce wall module that relies only on clay bodies for performance. Another experiment used three different colors of clay to create a psychedelic extrusion. While these experiments were certainly fruitful, for the most part, they were simply conceptual ideas and the prototypes were almost entirely representational. The research—even when rooted in long-running experiments—is still a ways off. That is probably what makes this workshop so important, however. There were no expectations of the week other than to generated ideas, share research, and introduce these practitioners to the Boston Valley enterprise. The caliber of people was matched by the torrent of ideas, and it is only a positive for the future of ceramics in architecture. Future of Ceramics What is next for Buffalo? What are Boston Valley and University of Buffalo School of Architecture cooking up? To understand what is happening at the nexus of Buffalo’s industrial history, university research, state-of-the-art industry partnerships, and the specified knowledge of ceramics, it is important to start with Governor Cuomo and the Division of Science, Technology, and Innovation (NYSTAR) Centers of Excellence. They have set up eleven of these centers around the state to foster collaboration between the academic research community and the business sector. As part of a larger initiative to make Buffalo a center for manufacturing again, they have established the Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics and Life Sciences (CBLS) at the University at Buffalo. There is an ongoing collaboration as part of the Buffalo Center for Excellence called SMART, or the Sustainable Manufacturing and Advanced Robotic Technologies, which will join forces with the Department of Architecture and the Department of Engineering. There will be a second workshop—supported by Boston Valley—in the late summer of 2017, which will focus less on experimentation and more on advanced manufacturing. Thus the increased number of engineers in the second round, as well as a partnership with a company called BuiltWorld a leader in advanced manufacturing. “The ceramics world is not yet as advanced as far as the digital fabrication world, but that is where we are trying to push it. And Boston Valley is very supportive of this. They are probably the most important manufacturer in the US working with architectural ceramics.” Khan told AN.
"Last year's workshop was an open forum with all the participants owning their intellectual property. BVTC has the right to use that material for publications and advertisement. Moving forward to this year, intellectual property will be more focused as the teams are more deliberately constructed," Khan explained. "Hence the teams will own the intellectual property with Boston Valley and UB having the rights to publish the work unless otherwise requested by the teams. The University is much more formal. This is why industry collaboration normally happens around sponsored research grants, which have clear intellectual property rules with the University as the major beneficiary."
These partnerships are certainly going to push both the school and the industry to the edges of knowledge, and there will be plenty of money to accomplish whatever they can dream up. As with any intra-disciplinary partnership, it is important to remember what the goals are: to push the boundaries of the profession—in this case, ceramics—and to provide the students and faculty with opportunities for learning. If at any time it becomes too proprietary, it could jeopardize the integrity of the research and the value added for the students, the taxpayer, and the university. So far, so good.
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Buffalo, New York gears up for denser urban development

On Tuesday, December 27, New York’s Buffalo Common Council unanimously passed the United Development Ordinance, also known as the Buffalo Green Code. The code aims to shift the city's transportation focus from cars to walkability. It eliminates minimum parking standards and aesthetic standards for parking lots, as well as making provisions for broadening sidewalks, and adding green spaces, all with the aim of creating a more enjoyable experience. The Buffalo Green Code website states it was “designed to reinforce the City’s walkable, mixed-use neighborhoods and strengthen its economic centers.” Brendan Mehaffy, executive director of the Office of Strategic Planning, told The Buffalo News "There was little appreciation of our historic neighborhoods and even buildings. This code adjusts to the city's historic form." Buffalo hopes to move from a suburban model of development to a progressively urban model. “Sprawl is, in fact, the legally required outcome under our current zoning code, and under the new code, mixed-use, walkable neighborhoods will be the default development option,” said Chris Hawley, a city planner in Mayor Byron Brown’s Office of Strategic Planning, to the Sustainable City Network. In addition to reducing light pollution, bringing older structures back into code, and protecting old trees, the code makes a wide range of new elements permissible, including chalkboard signs on sidewalks, residential wind turbines, open-air markets, artisan industrial programming, and rooftop-mounted PV panels.
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OMA to design expansion of Buffalo’s Albright-Knox Art Gallery

This is OMA week. After unveiling the refurbished Fondaco dei Tedeschi in Venice, the New York- and Rotterdam-based firm announced that they have received the commission to design an $80 million expansion to the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo, NY. This will be the firm's first art museum project in the United States: OMA beat out four other offices—Snøhetta, BIG, Allied Works, and wHY—for the job, dubbed AK360, which will expand exhibition space for Albright-Knox's modern and contemporary art collection. Firm principal Shohei Shigematsu will be leading the design team. The board of directors approved a development and expansion plan two years ago to accommodate a collection that's quadrupled in size since 1962, the year of the museum's last major (SOM–designed) expansion. Currently, Albright-Knox can only display 200 to 300 of the 8,000 works in its permanent collection. The expansion will double exhibition space, as well as add space for education facilities, dining, and events space while better integrating the museum with the Olmsted–designed park around it. The commission comes fresh off of the completion of the Pierre Lassonde Pavilion at the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec, another project that knits a city's landscape to a museum. It's fitting that OMA will be working in Buffalo, a city that capitalizes on its rich architectural heritage to spur tourism and investment. The museum, which is situated adjacent a local cultural district, hopes that the OMA project will have a spillover (uh, Guggenheim) effect on the ailing postindustrial city that's nevertheless experiencing a modest uptick in economic fortunes compared to neighboring cities. Shohei Shigematsu, along with artist Mark Bradford and Albright-Knox's director Janne Sirén, will give a talk at Art Basel next week on the role of art museums in social change. There's no date for construction as of yet, although the next phase of the "envisioning process" will begin this September.
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Paul Rudolph’s Buffalo Shoreline Apartments to be demolished

172 families currently reside in American architect Paul Rudolph's brutalist Shoreline Apartments housing complex in Buffalo, New York. Now, however, owners Norstar Development U.S.A., LLC have told tenants that they must leave by November 1 so demolition can continue. This is despite past promises that demolition would be phased over several years. Plans for the demolition and the site's redevelopment are still to be approved by the Buffalo Planning Board, which could give the go ahead as early as June at the next Planning Board's meeting. Completed in 1974, the complex was bought by Norstar Development who planned a $14 million overhaul of the site, replacing the former 426 units with eight new buildings, accommodating 48 apartments. According to news agency WIVB, current tenants are now panicking as they scramble to find low-cost housing alternatives. “I think we are being scammed,” said one, “I think we are being railroaded.” Roy Gilbert, who resides in the complex on Niagara Street with his two daughters said, “They are trying to bring the higher people from the outskirts of the City of Buffalo down here, and take the lower income people and move them out.” “I think they are trying to get the fixed income people out—the minorities, the disabled—out of here, and get the people that have those jobs in here,” another tenant added. Meanwhile, Linda Goodman, Vice President of Norstar Development replied saying that “Although we could not give them anything definitive, we are working on a plan to help with assistance financially.” Rudolph's buildings are no stranger to being the subject of scorn. Last year, his Orange County Government Center was in line to be demolished, dubbed an "eyesore and financial drain." That same year however, the late Zaha Hadid came to Rudolph's rescue penning a letter in the New York Times. "Rudolph’s work is pure, but the beauty is in its austerity. There are no additions to make it polite or cute. It is what it is," she said. On the subject of social housing, the Robin Hood Gardens Estate in East London by the Smithson's is currently enduring a similar fate to Rudolph's Shoreline Apartments. Likewise, support for its conservation has come from another esteemed British architect, in this case Richard Rogers who, incidentally was a student of Rudolph's at Yale University. Back in Buffalo, Goodman told WIVB that Norstar will be sending out updates plans to residents.
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Buffalo greens up with new form-based land use and zoning codes

Some claim that the city of Buffalo, New York, was not named for the large plains mammal but for the beau fleuve, the beautiful Niagara River, that empties into Lake Erie near the city. Regardless of whether this story is true or apocryphal, it's undeniable that Buffalo is reprising its environmental heritage with the Green Code, a comprehensive update to the city's zoning and land use regulations. Approved by the city council on October 22nd, the Green Code follows Denver, Cincinnati, Miami, and others, employing form based codes to cultivate a specific aesthetic and program for Buffalo's 24 neighborhoods and 94,000 parcels. The Green Code marks a shift in the city's development trajectory and self-conception. Ideas for the code began 2006, with the Comprehensive Plan, but its development started in earnest in 2010. It is the first comprehensive update to the city code since 1953, and the first land use overhaul since 1977. Buffalo's Office of Strategic Planning partnered with Chicago-based planning firm Camiros and Goody Clancy, Buffalo's Fisher AssociatesWatts Architecture & Engineering, and the Urban Design Project to formulate the code. The length and complexity of the old code frustrated homeowners, businesses, and developers, city officials claim. The code's deep dives into the minutia of fence height and sidewalk width often stymied major development. Edits, with an emphasis on explanatory graphics, reduce the length of the code from 1,802 pages to 322. The old code encourage rigid land use programs: factories in one area, commercial/retail in another, and housing in a third. The Green Code is more flexible, promoting new urbanist ideals like form based codes, which regulate space primarily on the physical form of a building, not its use. The development the Green Code promotes is decidedly mixed use and urban, incorporating smart growth principles and density metrics. The code places special emphasis on revitalizing the waterfront and rehabilitating brownfield opportunity areas.
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Pittsburgh, Washington, Buffalo lead nation in growth of bicycle commuters

Portland still dominates the American Community Survey ranking the 70 largest cities with the highest share of bike commuters, but the list shakes up some preconceptions when you count which cities had the largest growth in the share of bicycle commuters from 2000 to 2013. The League of American Bicyclists runs the numbers every year, pulling data from the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey. This year's bike culture report card, as it were, has Portland, Washington, San Francisco, Minneapolis, and New Orleans topping its list of bicycle commuters as a percentage of total population. In total 13 cities report more than 2 percent of their population biking to and from work. Growth in that number is more startling. They're small overall numbers, perhaps inflating the percent change figure, but the growth since 1990 for eight cities is over 100 percent. The following cities had the largest growth in the share of bicycle commuters from 2000 to 2013:
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Architects Join the Circus: Crowd-funded “Architectural Circus” tours the Northeast

The Circus for Construction has taken its gallery-meets-event space on the road this fall, bringing a mix of dialogue and exhibitions on contemporary art and architecture practices, via a custom-built truck, to several east coast cities. After winning a competition by Storefront for Art and Architecture last May, this traveling Circus— conceived by Ann Lui, Ashley Mendelsohn, Larisa Ovalles, Craig Reschke and Ben Widger— got its wheels thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign. The design team— involved in every step of the process from conception to build out— transformed a 25-foot-long trailer and pick-up truck into the mobile Circus after six weeks of construction in August. Designed to adapt to different sites and programming needs, the truck is outfitted with exterior panels that serve a dual purpose as peg boards and shading components, while interior aluminum frames can be adjusted to increase the height of the space to allow for large-scale works and also for projecting images in the evening. The Circus began its journey in East Boston, and then headed north, to Buffalo, where it parked on the grounds of the abandoned Silo City, and invited local speakers to discuss “Buffalo’s Radical Re-imagining.” Next up, they’ll make stops in Downtown Boston (where AN's own Bill Menking will speak about the Architecture Lobby), and Ithaca. If this three-ring circus hasn’t rolled up to your city yet, you can stream the workshops, lectures, and live events on Circus TV, available on the project's website.
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Buffalo breaks ground on largest solar panel facility in the Western Hemisphere

Manufacturing is returning to Buffalo, New York in a big way. In late September, SolarCity broke ground on a 1.2-million-square-foot solar panel manufacturing plant that will be the biggest facility of its kind in the Western Hemisphere. The company, which Elon Musk chairs, is investing $5 billion into the project that will rise on the site of a former Republic Steel factory. When fully operational, the panels produced at the factory are expected to generate one gigawatt of energy, that's roughly enough power to power 145,000 homes. New York State has also put forth significant funds for the project. "Under the deal with SolarCity," explained the Buffalo News, "the state will spend $350 million to build the sprawling factory on South Park Avenue and provide $400 million in funding for equipment, with the state following the economic development model that it used to build up the semiconductor industry in the Albany area. Under that model, the state invests in state-of-the-art facilities and equipment that typically are too costly for companies to acquire on their own and then signs agreements with companies, like SolarCity, that want to access it." The facility is expected to open in 2016 and provide 3,000 jobs for the Buffalo region, according to the Cuomo administration.