Published September 11, 2015
Architect and writer Ang Li will join the School of Architecture and Planning as the 2015-16 Peter Reyner Banham Fellow. Her research in Buffalo will focus on the role of the industrial monument as a trope in architectural history and practice. Li will lead a yearlong seminar and a series of site-specific architectural installations.
“I think Buffalo is uniquely defined by a rich heritage of architectural icons in transition, making it an ideal testing ground for experimental approaches to preservation grounded within larger narratives of social and environmental change,” says Li. “I’m interested in exploring the city’s relationship to its inherited monuments through existing models for reuse across scales, from urban policy to community initiatives.”
Li’s tenure as Banham Fellow comes at an opportune time for both the School of Architecture and Planning and the city, especially in relation to the Fellowship’s namesake.
Peter Reyner Banham taught at UB from 1976-80, producing a foundational body of scholarship on material/visual culture as a reflection of contemporary social life. Spending his time in Buffalo, he engaged in a scholarly project on American industrial architecture in early modernism through historical research, hands-on engagement and seminar instruction. The work resulted in his landmark publication, A Concrete Atlantis.
Thirty years later, Li’s seminar and workshop, entitled “Post Production: Original Myths of the Industrial Ruin,” will revisit some of the former sites and structures of production studied in A Concrete Analysis through contemporary architectural rhetorics of representation, restoration and reuse.
Working through case studies, students will examine a selection of “ruins” in the Buffalo region alongside weekly readings that delve into the changing aesthetic, social, and environmental contexts of the selected sites. Seminar discussions will center around themes such as the power of image construction in the dissemination of icons, the life cycles of material obsolescence, and the expanding field of experimental preservation practices.
“Buffalo’s industrial ruins are particularly interesting to me because they’re defined by inhuman proportions, from the infrastructural monument (the locks and aqueducts of the Erie Canal), to structures for the storing and processing of raw materials (the grain silos), to vast factory complexes born out of the scale requirements for mass production (the Larkin, and Pierce Arrow factory complexes). I’m interested in the latent spatial potential of these sites today, where material obsolescence could lead to new opportunities for occupation.”
Li is not alone in looking for ways to repurpose Buffalo’s industrial ruins, but she hopes her planned research will inspire even more students and Buffalo residents to critically engage with the city’s industrial and architectural history, and consider what roles these sites will play in the future.
Ang Li holds a bachelor’s degree in architecture from the University of Cambridge, and a Master of Architecture from Princeton University, where she was awarded the Suzanne Kolarik Underwood Prize. She also served as an editor of Pidgin Magazine. Previously, she worked for number of architectural practices in the U.S. and Europe, including David Adjaye (New York), Marge Arkitekter (Stockholm) and Allies and Morrison Architects (London).