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History

A culture of experimentation and innovation - then and now

The School of Architecture and Planning was created half a century ago as a direct challenge to orthodox design education. We live those original principles today, committed to architecture and planning as interdisciplinary problem-solving enterprises, rooted in social engagement, nourished by research-in-practice, animated by making and doing, and committed to meeting the needs of clients, communities, and society in an increasingly complex urban world. 

Throughout nearly half a century of work, the people of the School of Architecture and Planning have grappled with how to make cities more livable and humane; how to conserve and produce energy within the urban fabric; how to make every environment more accessible to people of all abilities; and how to make all of the built environment more responsive to our human goals and protective of our increasingly fragile natural ecologies.

In our early years, faculty were inspired by the insights of general systems theorists and the Bauhaus dream of a fusion of technology and art in service to society. Over the years, other intellectual fashions have made their mark on the life of the school. But some things have remained constant even as they have grown and flowered, namely our commitments to research, engaged work, and the values of urbanism. 

Research and teaching in service to the public

Students and faculty have always understood their work needed to embrace a continuous search for new knowledge about how our buildings, cities, and landscapes work, how they affect the lives of people and shape the environment, natural and human made. Whether it was about office productivity, universal design, food security, or otherwise, expanding the base of knowledge on which we act is always crucial.

The people of the School of Architecture and Planning have always strived to fulfill two interlocking principles: that research and teaching are almost always more effective when they happen in the context of practical, grounded work in the world and that our obligation to serve the community and society are well-met by exactly that same kind of work. In neighborhoods and districts in Buffalo and Niagara Falls, the Costa Rican cloud forest or communities in Europe, our faculty and students continue to serve as they learn.

Our faculty, students, and alumni are indefatigable spokespeople for the values of urbanism – freedom of choice, cultural diversity, social equity, environmental sustainability, democratic participation, and beauty. We speak to the value of the built environment we have inherited and the imperative to create new environments that are as good or better. We take seriously the promise of the city, as Lewis Mumford espoused, to provide “a life more abundant.” 

The people of the School of Architecture and Planning have always embraced a culture of making. Architecture, environmental design, and planning are not abstract enterprises. They are manifest in real materials and forms. From the fascination of our early faculty with manufacturing affordable furniture out of cheap hollow-core doors to recent work to marry high technology with the age old craft of terra cotta, we strive to make our dreams tangibly real.

Our global legacy

Our nearly five thousand graduates are making an impact all over the nation, indeed the world, as well as in Buffalo Niagara. They lead architecture firms, serve as university faculty, drive planning consultancies, and lead the professions. But they also work in the arts, politics, management, information technology, and dozens of other fields. Founding Dean, John P. Eberhard, told students that an education in the School of Architecture and Planning wasn’t good only as training to be an architect or a planner.  It would help them unlock many different careers, and it has.

In 2013, the University at Buffalo identified five themes that describe the territory of our institutional mission – humanity, justice, innovation, environment, and health. In truth, these have always been the themes of the School of Architecture and Planning. As we enter the second half of our first century these things are more important than ever. It was over forty years ago when John P. Eberhard, FAIA, came to UB to form the "School of Environmental Design" as a revolutionary experiment in design education.

A History of the School of Architecture and Planning Leadership

  • John Eberhard, the first dean of the school, was appointed in 1968 and began to plan a curriculum and assemble a faculty with classes beginning in the spring of 1969. Eberhard and his founding faculty engineered an innovative approach to the teaching and thinking about architecture and planning, formulating a school on the broadly based concept of environmental design. They developed a pedagogy rooted in the idea that the design of the environment is dependent on processes, both systematic and humane, which emphasize technical and social issues.
  • When Dean Harold L. Cohen joined the school in 1974, he continued the innovations started by Eberhard, including the move of the school to Hayes Hall. Cohen founded the Friends of the School of Architecture and Planning, and oversaw the establishment of the school’s library and recruitment efforts that nearly doubled the school's faculty and staff. Dean Cohen was a tireless champion for resources for the school and expanded its working relationship with the university and the community.
  • Following the retirement of Dean Cohen, Dr. Michael P. Brooks became dean (1984-87) followed by Interim Dean Judith E. Albino (1987-88). Bruno B. Freschi, O.C., joined the school in December 1988, and continued to build on this solid foundation. During his tenure, Dean Freschi worked to establish the school’s annual Clarkson Visiting Chair as well as Intersight, the school’s academic journal, before retiring in 1999.
  • Between 1999 and 2002, Acting Dean Thomas E. Headrick, and Interim Deans John B. Sheffer, II, and Dr. Kenneth J. Levy provided the leadership of the school. Professor Brian Carter was appointed dean in 2003 and served through 2010, when he transitioned back to a teaching role. Robert Shibley, professor, director of The Urban Design Project (now merged with the UB Regional Institute) and campus architect for UB, assumed the leadership post for the school in January 2011.

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