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‘Elevator B’ Sets Young Alum on Promising Professional Path

Creenan-Chorley, in 2012, assembles the 22-foot-tall frame for Elevator B in the School of Architecture and Planning shop. Photo by Douglas Levere (BA ’89) © University at Buffalo

By William Becker, MArch/MUP '16

Recent dual-degree graduate Courtney Creenan-Chorley is an emerging leader in Buffalo’s architectural community. An architectural planner at Flynn Battaglia Architects, she also sits on the Buffalo Architecture Foundation board and is a vocal proponent of public service in architecture.

When asked about her most influential experience at UB, Creenan-Chorley quickly points to her work on Elevator B, a 22-foot-tall steel tower and bee habitat standing among Buffalo’s grain elevators.

First, the 2012 MArch/MUP graduate, along with four other students, won the school-wide design competition to envision a new home for a relocated colony of bees in Buffalo’s “Silo City.” Then the students built the project, all in a matter of months.

The gleaming hexagonal tower, sheathed in 66 panels of perforated steel, features a cypress and glass bee cab that can be lowered to tend to the hive. Visitors can enter the structure to view and study the bees. Since its completion in the summer of 2012, just after Creenan-Chorley and her four colleagues earned their degrees, Elevator B has become an architectural icon for the “new

Buffalo.” Part of an emerging movement in animal architecture and the reimagining of Buffalo’s post-industrial landscape, the project captivated the international design press. Its collection of awards includes the 2013 Architizer A+ award for Best Student Design/Build and the Emerging Talents award from The Morpholio Project’s Inside2013 competition.

“It was a nice way to top off my long tenure at UB,” says Creenan-Chorley, also a 2008 graduate of the School of Architecture and Planning’s environmental design program. The hive is no longer in residence, likely because it grew too quickly and ran out of food stores, she adds. Nonetheless, Creenan-Chorley says the project is emblematic of the School of Architecture and Planning’s emphasis on self enterprise, collaboration and full-scale design/build.

The gleaming tower for bees rises among Buffalo’s grain elevators and the city’s former industrial heartland. Photo by Elevator B Design Team

“For a while, it was up in the air as to whether we were going to actually build it. But we worked so hard on the design, there was no way it wasn’t going to get built,” she said, quickly adding that the tower would have never stood up if it weren’t for the team behind it.

In addition to the project’s five student designers, Elevator B was guided by several faculty in the school’s Ecological Practices Research Group and supported by staff from the school’s shop and Fab Lab. Sponsorship and competition organization came from the school as well as Rigidized Metals, a Buffalo-based manufacturer whose thin-gauge steel panels form the tower’s skin and whose CEO, Rick Smith, owns the Silo City property.

“The general attitude of the school is not to project things onto the students, but to have them go out and discover things on their own,” Creenan-Chorley says. “You might not have the answer, but you know how to get it. That skill set really prepares you for a career in anything.”

Indeed, this architect-planner just won Buffalo Business First’s “30 Under 30” award for rising leaders. She’s also a leading participant in the Buffalo Architecture Foundation’s Architecture+Education program in Buffalo Public Schools and speaks regularly about the value of pro bono and public service design.

At Flynn Battaglia, a mid-sized firm specializing in historic preservation, Creenan-Chorley coordinates projects across the firm’s architecture and planning portfolio, including its role as executive architect for the restoration of the Richardson Olmsted Complex in Buffalo. The adaptive reuse project will transform the historic site into an urban resort and hotel, a center for special events and conferences, and a cultural destination.

Creenan-Chorley, who couldn’t choose between architecture and planning and so decided to pursue both, says maintaining this balance in your own professional and personal life is critical. “You really have to learn to say ‘no’ sometimes. That’s something that I am still learning how to do. It’s important to find that balance and not over-stretch yourself.”

However, this won’t be the case when it comes to Elevator B. She and Scott Selin (MArch ’12), the only other Elevator B team member still in Buffalo, are looking for a beekeeper to help bring the hive back. “We’re going to maintain Elevator B. You see so many installations that are forgotten. Our names are attached to it, so we intend to maintain it.”

Where are the other Elevator B Team Members?

 

- Kyle Mastalinski (MArch/MUP ’12): Urban Design Group Architecture, Baltimore, Md.

- Daniel Nead (MArch/MUP ’12): Clark Peterson Lee, Binghamton, N.Y.

- Scott Selin (MArch ’12): CJS Architects, Buffalo, N.Y.

- Lisa Stern (MArch ’12): Turner & Townsend PLC, New York City

Drawing a curious young visitor, Elevator B has also helped to educate the public on the ecological importance of bees. Photo by Elevator B Design Team

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