April 19 2012

Adaptive Reuse of Grain Elevators in Buffalo, New York

Monumentality of the Grain Elevators along Buffalo River

Awe-inspiring views of the monumentality of the grain elevators along the Buffalo River.

Buffalo, New York’s grand collection of architecture was generated by Buffalo’s grain elevators; its robust economy culminating as the largest grain transshipment center in the world in 1900.  At that time, the city’s grain silos had become recognized as the great cathedrals of Modernity.  Today, Buffalo is a shadow of its former grandeur, experiencing immense urban decline since the 1950′s.  As all but two stand unused, the shadows cast by Buffalo’s surviving grain elevators are representative of the shadow cast over the City of Buffalo.

In its new comprehensive plan, Buffalo has identified its historic architecture as one of the new economic bases of the city.  Nicolai Ouroussoff of the New York Times said, “Touring Buffalo’s monuments [grain elevators at the forefront] is about as close as you can get to experiencing firsthand the earliest struggles to define what an American architecture would look like.” Buffalo has spent millions of dollars into preserving, repurposing, and marketing its architectural treasures such as the Richardson-Olmsted Complex, and Frank Lloyd Wright’s Darwin Martin House among many other projects; yet the grain elevators that have had such a monumental affect on Buffalo’s cityscape through its history still stand abandoned.  These cathedrals of industry need to be repurposed, serve the needs of the neighborhood, and become an attraction if Buffalo is to achieve its full potential as a top architectural destination in America.

The grain elevators dominate the identity of Buffalo Communities

Reuse of grain elevators in Buffalo needs to be sensitive to the neighborhood fabric.

Cities across America and Canada have already discovered some of the unique opportunities that grain elevator offers for adaptive reuse.  Those reuse projects vary from contemporary condominiums, museums, hotels, and even a rock climbing center.  Adaptive reuse spaces can range from use by the public similar to a public park to spurring economic development and urban design of a neighborhood.  However these structures are reused or preserved, it is most important that they are done so in a way that is conscious of the working class history and character of the first ward neighborhood and the City of Buffalo, which they reside in.

With their original use apart of the past, how should these structures become a model of sustainability for cities ranging from Buffalo to Los Angeles?

Credits: Images and data linked to source.

Ryan Kucinski

Ryan Kucinski is a Master’s of Urban Planning student at the University of Southern California concentrating in Urban Design and Historic Preservation of the built environment. Originally from Buffalo, New York, he graduated, in 2011, top of his class in the department of Urban and Regional Planning at SUNY Buffalo with a B.A. in Environmental Design and a Minor in Architecture. In addition to his architecture and urban planning education, Ryan also has experience with real estate development and construction. His blogs focus on urban design, adaptive reuse, preservation, and place-making in the City of Buffalo; at a time when downtown Buffalo is experiencing a renaissance.

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This entry was posted on Thursday, April 19th, 2012 at 6:08 am and is filed under Architecture, Branding, Community/Economic Development, Land Use, Landscape Architecture, Urban Planning and Design. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


One Response to “Adaptive Reuse of Grain Elevators in Buffalo, New York”

  1. Jerry Malloy Says:

    As a tour guide of 27 years specializing in Buffalo’s Grain Elevator district, I have always thought the Elevators have silently offered Buffalo it’s best chance of revitalizing this area of the city. All it would take is a little vision, especially recognizing all those projects you mention already done, and the dozens of others around the world. Unfortunately Buffalo politicians lack any kind of vision and have openly declined to recognize this area as anything but something you don’t want visitors to know about or see.
    While over the years The Industrial Heritage Committee, Inc. has brought thousands from all over the world to experience Buffalo’s Elevators. I am doing walking tours this summer and fall taking people right into the elevators, not just around them. They are an attraction whether the city likes it or not. Hopefully something will open their eyes before it’s too late.

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