Buffalo

New Exhibit documents the Erosion of Paul Rudolph’s Modernist Vision in Buffalo, New York

Paul Rudolph’s perspective drawing of the Buffalo Waterfront Housing Project (“Shoreline Apartments”)—this view foregrounds the higher-end housing (which was not constructed) which would have surrounded the marina. The complex of lower-rise apartments, which were built (and which are under ongoing threat), are lightly rendered at the top-right of the drawing. © The Estate of Paul Rudolph, The Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation.

Paul Rudolph’s perspective drawing of the Buffalo Waterfront Housing Project (“Shoreline Apartments”)—this view foregrounds the higher-end housing (which was not constructed) which would have surrounded the marina. The complex of lower-rise apartments, which were built (and which are under ongoing threat), are lightly rendered at the top-right of the drawing. © The Estate of Paul Rudolph, The Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation.

Located near Buffalo’s celebrated City Hall, the Shoreline Apartments is a housing complex designed by Paul Rudolph and completed in 1974. Featuring shed roofs, ribbed concrete exteriors, projecting balconies, and enclosed garden courts, the project combined Rudolph’s spatial radicalism with experiments in human-scaled high-density housing.

Paul Rudolph’s axonometric drawing for the Buffalo Waterfront Housing Project (“Shoreline Apartments”). This drawing shows a sample of the low-to-mid-rise apartments (which were built—and which are under ongoing threat), with adjacent parking. © The Estate of Paul Rudolph, The Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation.

Paul Rudolph’s axonometric drawing for the Buffalo Waterfront Housing Project (“Shoreline Apartments”). This drawing shows a sample of the low-to-mid-rise apartments (which were built—and which are under ongoing threat), with adjacent parking. © The Estate of Paul Rudolph, The Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation.

The complex has already been partly demolished, and the balance is seriously threatened. This has brought attention to the development—both locally and more broadly—and this focus has begun to produce results…

A SPECIAL EXHIBIT & SYMPOSIUM

Starting next month, The Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation is partnering with Buffalo’s El Museo to present:

Shoreline: Remembering a Waterfront Vision

a special project that looks into the history of one of Rudolph’s residential designs: Buffalo’s Shoreline Apartments.

EXHIBITION: October 4 -to- November 16, 2019

The project will open with an exhibition of documents, drawings, photographs, and artworks, spanning from the original vision of the Buffalo Waterfront Development in the 1960’s to the eventual destruction of Shoreline in recent years.

SYMPOSIUM: October 25 & 26, 2019

A public symposium will convene architects, urban planners, preservationists, and researchers to discuss:

  • Paul Rudolph’s design legacy in Buffalo and New York State

  • the social legacy of urban renewal and modernism

  • preservation efforts surrounding these sites and structures

Other public programs will be announced.

LOCATIONS:

The events will take place at two cities in the area—both with significant buildings by Paul Rudolph: Buffalo and Niagara Falls.

PUBLICATION

A publication is planned, to be issued later in 2019, which will bring together images, essays, and other findings from the project: it will tell the varied histories of the Shoreline Apartments.

The Shorelines Apartments in 1975, shortly after opening. The large Art Deco skyscraper, at the rear-right, is Buffalo’s    City Hall   . Image: Courtesy of EPA/Library of Congress

The Shorelines Apartments in 1975, shortly after opening. The large Art Deco skyscraper, at the rear-right, is Buffalo’s City Hall. Image: Courtesy of EPA/Library of Congress

BACKGROUND

Located near Buffalo’s celebrated art-deco skyscraper City Hall, the Shoreline Apartments is a housing complex designed by architect Paul Rudolph and completed in 1974. It was originally part of the Buffalo Waterfront Development, an ambitious, mixed-income urban renewal project commissioned by the New York State Urban Development Corporation in 1969.

Aerial view (taken from the South East) of the Buffalo Waterfront Housing Project (“Shoreline Apartments”). Photo by Donald Luckenbill, © The Estate of Paul Rudolph, The Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation.

Aerial view (taken from the South East) of the Buffalo Waterfront Housing Project (“Shoreline Apartments”). Photo by Donald Luckenbill, © The Estate of Paul Rudolph, The Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation.

Rudolph’s scheme featured an arrangement of:

  • monumental, terraced high-rises flanking a marina

  • a sprawling school and community center

  • a series of low- and mid-rise apartment buildings meant to evoke Italian mountain villages

  • green spaces woven through the site

Street view of the Buffalo Waterfront Housing Project (“Shoreline Apartments”), taken between 1973 and 1977. © Massachusetts Institute of Technology, photograph by G. E. Kidder Smith

Street view of the Buffalo Waterfront Housing Project (“Shoreline Apartments”), taken between 1973 and 1977. © Massachusetts Institute of Technology, photograph by G. E. Kidder Smith

“With few exceptions, Paul Rudolph’s buildings can be recognized by their complexity, their sculptural details, their effects of scale and their texture.”

So wrote Arthur Drexler, the famed director of the Museum of Modern Art’s Architecture and Design Department for the 1970 exhibition, Work in Progress—a show which included Rudolph’s designs for the Buffalo Waterfront Development and Niagara Falls (Brydges) Library.

In the end, only two phases of affordable housing (Shoreline and Pine Harbor Apartments) were built. Today they are among the most unloved buildings in Buffalo, because—like many public housing projects of that era—their inventive, complex forms and admirable social aspirations have been overshadowed by disrepair, crime, and vacancy. In 2013, the site’s owner proposed a phased demolition and replacement of Shoreline with new traditionally styled townhouses. Following failed attempts at landmarking the structures for preservation, the first round of demolitions began in summer 2015.

The ongoing threat to Shoreline Apartments represents not just the loss of an exemplary piece of Buffalo’s Modern architectural legacy, but also the demise of a certain perspective on architecture and the city—and the possibilities of positive government action. It tells a story of the aspirations of mid-century urban planning, the short-lived heroism of Modern and “brutalist” architecture, and the unrealized social visions of the past.

At a time of renewed interest in Moden buildings, this project asks critical questions in architecture and historic preservation:

  • Whose buildings are important?

  • Whose stories get told?

  • What types of structures are considered worthy of maintenance and protection, and what others are left to deteriorate and die?

  • Is there room in our cities for inconvenient reminders of a past (and “inconvenient populations”) we would rather forget?

Through the lens of the Shoreline Apartments, this project aims to inspire new conversations that might lead to a better understanding and appreciation of these misunderstood places.

EXHIBIT LOCATION

Museo Francisco Oller y Diego Rivera (“El Museo”)

91 Allen Street (between Delaware Avenue and Franklin Street)

Buffalo, NY 14202

(716) 464.4692

http://www.elmuseobuffalo.org/

info@elmuseobuffalo.org

SPONSORS AND KEY PARTICIPANTS

Shoreline: Remembering a Waterfront Vision is curated by El Museo’s curator, Bryan Lee, and prominent preservation architect Barbara Campagna, and presented in partnership with the Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation.

This project is funded by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature, and the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts.

Paul Rudolph’s overall site plan of the Buffalo Waterfront Housing Project (“Shoreline Apartments”). The higher-end housing (which was not constructed), surrounded the marina, occupies the right side of he drawing. The complex of mid-to-low-rise apartments is on the left side of the drawing—and the left-most quarter of that section is what was actually built. © The Estate of Paul Rudolph, The Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation.

Paul Rudolph’s overall site plan of the Buffalo Waterfront Housing Project (“Shoreline Apartments”). The higher-end housing (which was not constructed), surrounded the marina, occupies the right side of he drawing. The complex of mid-to-low-rise apartments is on the left side of the drawing—and the left-most quarter of that section is what was actually built. © The Estate of Paul Rudolph, The Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation.

Note: We thank El Museo, from whose web page Shoreline: Remembering a Waterfront Vision the above text was adapted.

Tour Paul Rudolph's Light-Filled Library in Niagara Falls

An opportunity to take a deep look at the architecture of the Brydges Library in Niagara Falls—which has one of Paul Rudolph’s most luminous spaces.

An opportunity to take a deep look at the architecture of the Brydges Library in Niagara Falls—which has one of Paul Rudolph’s most luminous spaces.

NEXT WEEK: A SPECIAL TOUR OF A SPECIAL PLACE

Thursday, September 12, will be a tour of one of Paul Rudolph’s most luminous public buildings.

The Brydges Library—the central library of Niagara Falls, NY—was designed by Rudolph in 1969, at the height of his career.

A COMPELLING UNITY

The Brydges Library embodies most of what makes a Rudolph building so compelling…

  • interesting, interlocked geometries that are bathed in (and guide and modulate) the light

  • careful planning to arrange activities in a way that is enlivening and practical

  • bold and expressive use of structure and materials

  • sculptural mastery that brings the whole ensemble together into a forceful unity

The library’s entry facade, as seen in 1972, Joseph W. Molitor architectural photographs. Located in Columbia University, Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library, Department of Drawings & Archives

The library’s entry facade, as seen in 1972, Joseph W. Molitor architectural photographs. Located in Columbia University, Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library, Department of Drawings & Archives

BRYDGES PROJECTION.jpg

As an architect, Rudolph was the embodiment of daring—yet his work was tempered by years of experience in building, planning, and working with institutional clients. Photo by Kelvin Dickinson, courtesy the Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation © the estate of Paul Rudolph

While the library’s sculpturally rugged exterior is certainly memorable, it is the light-filled interior—rising up three storeys to prominent clerestory windows—which uplifts the spirit. Joseph W. Molitor architectural photographs. Located in Columbia University, Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library, Department of Drawings & Archives

While the library’s sculpturally rugged exterior is certainly memorable, it is the light-filled interior—rising up three storeys to prominent clerestory windows—which uplifts the spirit. Joseph W. Molitor architectural photographs. Located in Columbia University, Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library, Department of Drawings & Archives

TOUR INFO

LOCATION: Earl W. Brydges Library Building

ADDRESS: 1425 Main St. Niagara Falls, NY 14305

DATE: September 12th

TIME: 3pm-5pm

RESERVATIONS: https://preservationbuffaloniagara.org/modernism-week/

BACKGROUND/DESCRIPTION: With the goals of city-wide revitalization and the provision of a larger library to its increased population, the city of Niagara Falls commissioned Paul Rudolph (a unanimous pick from a field of five finalists) to design this building, which was constructed from 1969-74. Each floor of the Brutalist structure has a distinct use, with library space on the first, an auditorium and offices on the second, local archives on the third, and mechanical equipment on the fourth, each getting smaller as they go up. Large dormers protrude from the roof, providing additional light and adding to the exterior’s dynamic, angled texture. Inside, the central space is open all the way up to the ceiling and is flooded by natural light from the clerestory windows.

MODERNISM WEEK

The tour is part of Buffalo/Niagara Falls’ MODERNISM WEEK in Western New York, which is put on by Preservation Buffalo Niagara—an organization established in 2008, committed to “bringing resources and results that ensure that our historic places thrive for generations to come.”

MODERNISM WEEK includes tours other great buildings in Buffalo and Niagara Falls, and you can see the full schedule (and make reservations) here.

MODERNISM WEEK   , in the Buffalo-Niagara area, includes a number of beautiful sites, such as Louis Sullivan’s Guaranty Building in Buffalo. The above is an excerpt from their web page, which has the full schedule.

MODERNISM WEEK, in the Buffalo-Niagara area, includes a number of beautiful sites, such as Louis Sullivan’s Guaranty Building in Buffalo. The above is an excerpt from their web page, which has the full schedule.

Rudolph's Shoreline Apartments in Buffalo - an Artist Responds - Artistically!

“Disposable: Shoreline Apartment Complex Unit”  Plastic canvas, acrylic yarn, tissue box, 8 X 16.5 X 21 inches, 2016.    An artwork by Buffalo-born & based, fiber artist Kurt Treeby. This is his depiction of Paul Rudolph’s    Shoreline Apartments    in Buffalo. It is part of a set of works by Treeby, the “Disposable” series, involving—in the artists recounting—“thousands of precise stitches, all sewn by hand…”    Photo:    www.kurttreeby.com

“Disposable: Shoreline Apartment Complex Unit” Plastic canvas, acrylic yarn, tissue box, 8 X 16.5 X 21 inches, 2016.

An artwork by Buffalo-born & based, fiber artist Kurt Treeby. This is his depiction of Paul Rudolph’s Shoreline Apartments in Buffalo. It is part of a set of works by Treeby, the “Disposable” series, involving—in the artists recounting—“thousands of precise stitches, all sewn by hand…”

Photo: www.kurttreeby.com

SHORELINE APARTMENTS IN BUFFALO

Shoreline Apartments is a fascinating complex of residences on Niagara Street in Buffalo, NY, completed  in 1974 to the designs of Paul Rudolph. To say that it “is” is a bit problematic, because the entire set of residences is slated for demolition - and, as of this writing, about half of the complex still exists (but how long that extant portion will remain is unknown.)

“Rudolph’s original scheme, composed of monumental, terraced, prefabricated housing structures, provided an ambitious alternative to high-rise dwelling that was meant to recall the complexity and intimacy of old European settlements.” – Nick Miller, in The Architect’s Newspaper

“Rudolph’s original scheme, composed of monumental, terraced, prefabricated housing structures, provided an ambitious alternative to high-rise dwelling that was meant to recall the complexity and intimacy of old European settlements.” – Nick Miller, in The Architect’s Newspaper

Here’s a good, concise background on the project, as reported by Nick Miller in The Architect’s Newspaper (November 5, 2013):

[Arthur] Drexler exhibited Rudolph’s original, much more dramatic scheme for Buffalo’s Shoreline Apartments alongside pending projects by Philip Johnson and Kevin Roche in an exhibition entitled Work in Progress. The projects on display were compiled to represent a commitment “to the idea that architecture, besides being technology, sociology and moral philosophy, must finally produce works of art.”

Completed in 1972, the 142-unit low-income housing development was featured in both the September 1972 issue of Architectural Record as well as the 1970 exhibition at New York’s Museum of Modern Art. Like many of their contemporaries, the inventive, complex forms and admirable social aspirations of the development have been overshadowed by disrepair, crime, and startling vacancy rates (30 percent in 2006 according to Buffalo Rising).

The Shoreline Apartments that stand today represent a scaled down version of the original plan. Featuring shed roofs, ribbed concrete exteriors, projecting balconies and enclosed gardens, the project combined Rudolph’s spatial radicalism with experiments in human-scaled, low-rise, high-density housing developments. The project’s weaving, snake-like site plan was meant to create active communal green spaces, but, like those of most if its contemporaries, the spaces went unused, fracturing the fabric of Buffalo.

Here’s an image of a portion of the Shoreline complex, as built:

The Shorelines Apartments in 1975, shortly after opening. The large Art Deco skyscraper, at the rear-right, is Buffalo’s City Hall.    Image: Courtesy of EPA/Library of Congress

The Shorelines Apartments in 1975, shortly after opening. The large Art Deco skyscraper, at the rear-right, is Buffalo’s City Hall.

Image: Courtesy of EPA/Library of Congress

THE ARTIST:  KURT TREEBY

Mr. Treeby, a fiber artist that’s a native of Buffalo (and who is based here), does fascinating work, and—on his website—you can find his own text on his career, from which we quote:

Kurt Treeby first studied art at the College of Art and Design at Alfred University. While at Alfred he studied painting, drawing, and art history. After receiving his MFA from Syracuse University Treeby develped a conceptual-based approach to art making that continues to develop as he works with a wide range of fiber and textile processes. His work comments of the production and reception of art, as well as the role art plays in our collective memories. He focuses on iconic imagery and the connection between so-called "high" and "low" art forms. Treeby has exhibited his work on a national and international level. He teaches studio art and art appreciation at the College at Brockport, State University of New York, and Erie Community College.

KURT TREEBY’S “DISPOSABLE” SERIES

The artist has done a series of artworks, each of which is a significant building (or complex of buildings) that has been demolished—or, like Shoreline, is on the way to being demolished. Among the building’s he’s focused on are: The Larkin Building (by Frank Lloyd Wright), BEST Products Showrooms (by SITE), the Niagara Falls Wintergarden (by Cesar Pelli), and various other structures. The one he did, of a  portion of the Shoreline, captures the Paul Rudolph’s design very nicely!

Here are some excerpts from Mr. Treeby’s beautiful and sensitive artistic statement on his work—and this series in particular:

Every city includes a variety of structures including historical landmarks, industrial factories, and utilitarian homes. My work examines the architectural ecosystem of production, consumption, and destruction embedded into the social, economic, and physical landscape of cities, reimagining a future apart from their industrial or commercial past.

Focusing on iconic structures, I faithfully replicate architectural and structural details from an alchemy of historical records and collective memory. I recreate these buildings in plastic canvas and craft-store yarn, amplifying the tension between fine art and craft. The final sculptures function as the visual embodiment of the restoration process, as historical records, and as personal memories; all imperfect and incomplete.

I use the medium of plastic canvas because it is rooted in domestic crafts. Traditionally, the medium is used to construct decorative covers resembling quaint cottages or holiday-themed houses for disposable items like tissues and paper napkins. Unlike the fantastical commercial patterns, my sculptures are often larger, replicating complex buildings that have been demolished or significantly altered over time. Because I cannot always experience the original structures, I combine archival records and satellite imagery to help me understand the building’s original site.

The hours spent on each piece are a meditation and a reflection on loss. Engaging in this meticulous process is my way of paying tribute to the original architects. My imperfect buildings act a stand in for the original, and as monuments to memory itself.


We urge you to visit Kurt Treeby’s website, and explore his movingly intriguing work for yourself: http://kurttreeby.com