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Thread: NY Times Article: Saving Buffalo’s Untold Beauty

  1. #1
    Cyburbian Plus
    Jun 2003

    NY Times Article: Saving Buffalo’s Untold Beauty


    ONE of the most cynical clichés in architecture is that poverty is good for preservation.

    Buffalo was founded on a rich tradition of architectural experimentation.

    Preservationists raised an outcry this year when Mayor Brown unveiled his plan to demolish 5,000 houses over the next five years as part of an effort to clean up some of the city’s poorest neighborhoods. The National Trust for Historic Preservation and the mayor’s office are now trying to hammer out a compromise.

    Buffalo is an ideal testing ground for rethinking that depressing model. Its architectural heritage embodies an America that thought boldly about the future, but believed deeply in the city as a democratic forum. What’s needed now is to revive that experimental tradition.

    What do you think about this article Dan ?

  2. #2
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
    Mar 1996
    Upstate New York
    Blog entries
    Too early in the morning to wrote too much. I've read it, though, and t seems to play into a fallacy of the homers: that every building in Buffalo is an architectural treasure that is worthy of saving. The buildings proposed for removal are mostly workers cottages (also called "telescoping houses" for the additions on the rear giving the houses a telescope-liike footprint) on the East Side, which are cursed by obsolete and awkward floorplans (berooms directly off the kitchen, etc), decades of insensitive "improvements" (Insulbrick and aluminum and vinyl siding, window opennings reduced to accommodate standard-sized aftermarket windows, interesting architectural details removed, etc), and a lack of economic purpose, with their location in distressed neighborhoods that will never see gentrification.

    Buffalo has more than its share of architectural treasures, but the vernacular architecture thhat comprises the vast majority of the city's building stock, with its frame construction and insensitive modification through the years, really isn't much to write home about.

    IMHO, there needs to be a preservation plan, with an emphasis on truly preservation-worthy structures, and well-maintained elements of the urban frabic more so than individual structures.
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

  3. #3
    Cyburbian wahday's avatar
    May 2005
    New Town
    I liked your response, Dan. I read that article yesterday and had much the same reaction. Buffalo is a city with a shrinking population and limited tax revenue. I can easily see how long range planning strategies may involve condensing parts of the city which may mean taking down some older structures. I would have been interested to hear what the perspective of those promoting these redevelopment plans have to say about all. From the article, you might think they just don't care, but I doubt that is the case. My impression is that Buffalo as a city is very proud of its architectural heritage and would not carelessly send it all to the trash heap.

    If I recall, none of the restored (or restoring) properties profiled in the article are slated for demolition, but it left the impression that Frank Lloyd Wright was going to be run out of town on a rail, when in fact his structures are safe and being restored.

    I think this is an interesting challenge for a lot of cities whose early growth was before and during the turn of the century (Pittsburgh comes to mind as well). Much of that growth was close-in to the downtown areas and as a result EVERYTHING in that area is historic. But times change and the needs of downtowns change and sometimes one has to make some room for new uses. I'm not saying we should just mow stuff down indiscriminately, but there is a long range vision that needs to be considered when planning for the future of an ailing town to position itself for renewal. And in the process, some compromises will have to be made. I think Buffalo is certainly rich enough in architectural excellence to not be easily done in by new developments.

    For the record, that article did make me want to visit...
    The purpose of life is a life of purpose

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