True Green Cities / A Buffalo (New York) State of Mind

Richardson Center

The Richardson Center Corporation welcomes Buffalo Unscripted and 24 photographers.

Buffalo’s been on my mind all week and a lot of other people’s too.  Three of my colleagues from the National Trust were in town to film their documentary “Buffalo Unscripted” in honor of the people of Buffalo, and their love of our places.  In 10 days 516 people participated in interviews and events.  And Kaid Benfield from NRDC wrote an homage to Buffalo on his popular Switchboard blog last Monday.

Too Much To Film

Buffalove at the Elmwood Bidwell Farmers' Market

My sister Joanne shares her Buffalove at the Elmwood Bidwell Farmers’ Market with our friends’ Barbet puppy, Vasco.

Jason Lloyd Clement, Julia Rocchi and Leigh Ivey – the preservation team behind “Buffalo Unscripted”, originally planned to visit for 3 days but quickly realized that 10 was more like it.  Even so, I don’t know how they managed their 3-5 events and meet-ups a day for 10 days!  They started with a big opening event at the Central Terminal which included polka dancing and a good vibrations surprise and ended with a block party on the West Side near the Peace Bridge.  Everywhere I went during the week, I seemed to run into their “Buffalove sign” and a line of Buffalonians waiting to sign the Buffalove sign or tell their Buffalo story.  My sister and I went to the Black Rock Arts Walk on Friday night and the Elmwood-Bidwell Farmer’s Market to say hello and enjoy activities in our neighborhood.  This team of three contributed enormously to making Buffalonians feel good about where they live.  Jason, Julia and Leigh represented the National Trust for Historic Preservation very well.  You can’t buy this kind of good will for an organization.

Opening Up the Richardson

The “Shutterbug Series” took photographers (both professional and amateur) into otherwise inaccessible places including the Darwin D. Martin House, the Larkin Warehouse, grain elevators and the Richardson Olmsted Complex.  My colleague, Monica Pellegrino Faix (Project Coordinator for the Richardson Center Corporation) and I, in my capacity as the Consulting Project Manager for the Buffalo Architecture Center, spent the week getting the Richardson ready for our first real public tour in almost 15 years.  It was a good way to start to test our developing tour program and show the community the stabilization work underway at H. H. Richardson’s magnificent jewel.  Richardson received the contract to design the largest project of his career, the Buffalo State Asylum for the Insane, when he was only 30, which continues to astonish me, even after working on it in various capacities for 26 years.  Buffalo has an inordinate amount of these astonishing places that inspire normal people (non-architecture professionals) to reel off dates, styles and architects’ names and it’s one of the few places I know where anyone on the street can easily debate the architectural merits of the Richardson over the Guaranty Building.

Shutterbugs and Buffalo Unscripted

The “shutterbugs” assemble at the entrance to the Richardson Olmsted Complex. Photo courtesy of Jason Lloyd Clement.

Our Shutterbug Tour was sold out as soon as it was posted and we had an interesting collection of professional photographers, amateurs who spend their off-time driving around the country photographing historic asylums and neighbors who just hoped to get inside for the first time in their lives.  It was a really hot day and since the complex is stabilized and “mothballed” the windows are currently non-operable and there is no cross-ventilation, but armed with multiple cameras and bottles of water, no one seemed to mind and more importantly, no one passed out!  We felt it was a great success and were pleased to be able to share an interesting progression of restored, in-process and still untouched spaces.  We are finishing up the restoration of some key “showcase spaces” in the Towers building (the former administration building) and one of the ward buildings (former Ward A) immediately to its east to welcome preservationists from around the country during the National Preservation Conference being held in Buffalo in October.  We are excited that we have 7 official conference events at the Richardson as well as an open house one night and our first true public tours all week long.  These 24 photographers may have been the first ones to get inside in 15 years, but happily they will be the first of many and we can’t wait to welcome our neighbors regularly.

If you’d like to see more photos, and you’re on Facebook, please “like” our FB page “Richardson Center Corporation” or sign onto Twitter and join the dialogue with @Richardsonctr.  And soon we hope to have a Flickr group up and active.  And make sure you plan an October trip to Buffalo! If you haven’t been here before,  I guarantee you, the architecture AND people will knock your socks off!

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