This week we went on a field trip to Buffalo, NY!! And it was absolutely fantastic!!
It seems somewhat unreal that it has taken us this long to make our way across the border for a full-fledged field trip, considering its been right across from us for a full two years, and we’ve only fleetingly seen the grandeur of its architecture in passing by for other field trips. So it was great to get a chance to take a look at some of the big projects there, namely, the Larkin Terminal Warehouse, the Guaranty Building and of course, the Darwin Martin House.
We started out at the Larkin Terminal Warehouse in the “Hydraulics” neighbourhood of Buffalo, in what was once a booming industrial area that housed the many buildings of the Larkin Company, perhaps most famously (and infamously, once it was demolished in 1950) the Larkin Administration Building designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.
We met with the developer of the Larkin Terminal Warehouse, Howard Zemsky, who has fully embraced the task of reusing the heritage buildings of this neighbourhood, rehabilitating them and in the process helping to revitalize the area. He has developed quite a few of the buildings in the area, and is in the process of creating an outdoor recreational public space which will have a raised seating area, a restaurant and an open air pavilion and will soon host farmers’ markets, special events and festivals. He has managed to really showcase the buildings in this area, starting with the Larkin Terminal Warehouse, in a mere 10 years and really rejuvenate the area.
We followed that up with a great lunch hosted by Bob Skerker, the head of our U.S. Willowbank Foundation, at what is apparently a local icon of a restaurant, Chef’s Restaurant, where we had some real American Italian food, and got a chance to speak with Bob, whose advocacy for heritage buildings in Buffalo, and the heritage field in general is amazing.
From the “Hydraulics” neighbourhood, we went uptown to the Darwin Martin House, in the Parkside neighbourhood of Buffalo. It was amazing to hear the history of the site, and to really experience a Frank Lloyd Wright building in person — it was my first visit to one! And let me tell you, studying his work on paper and in books is nothing compared to experiencing what one of his homes feels like. His designs are so thoughtful and beautifully carried out. They are doing an amazing job restoring it, even though the price tag is amazing as well.
Then we went to, what I think, was the piéce de resistance, the Guaranty Building. Built by Louis Sullivan, at a time when the last gasps of neoclassical architecture were dying out, this building was the forerunner to the Skyscraper, emphasizing the verticality of the building in a way that is a complete decorative celebration. The building is one of the first steel and curtain wall construction buildings and is clad in the most beautiful decorative terra cotta units, while the inside has been restored to its former glory, complete with heritage mosaics, art glass ceiling panels, and beautiful bronze finished metal work. It has truly been a labour of love and real civic pride which has been the result of the law firm Hodgson Russ’s investment in the site.
In all, it was an amazing field trip and I can’t wait to go back again and see what else Buffalo has to offer.