Preserving the Past, Forming the Future

The Restoration of Hayes and Crosby Hall

Hayes Hall under construction.

Hayes Hall's original granite walls, window lintels and timber construction are among the architectural details revealed during the abatement phase of the Hayes Hall restoration.

Published August 24, 2017

Perhaps it’s not a surprise that the School of Architecture and Planning would approach the restoration of Hayes and Crosby Halls, two of the university’s most historic buildings and home to the school for nearly 40 years, with the highest of standards, and even a bit of introspection.  

The result is a project that at once demonstrates leadership in historic preservation, sustainable building practices and creative space design, and thoughtfully expresses the school’s appreciation for where it’s been, what it values and where it’s headed as a 21st century school of architecture and planning.  

Indeed, the $50.5 million project will preserve the exteriors of these iconic structures and make them more efficient and sustainable, with the expectation of LEED Gold certification. Reimagined interior spaces, with walls literally and figuratively torn down, create openings for interactive learning and flexibility in programming, while symbolizing a renewed commitment to engagement across the school, university and community. 

“The restoration of Hayes and Crosby is a rare opportunity to make a bold physical statement about our place in time, our connection to the community, our responsibility as citizens of this planet and our commitment to top-notch education and research in architecture and planning,” said Dean Robert G. Shibley, who has overseen the project as dean since January 2011 and, prior to that, as campus architect for UB.

The Hayes phase of restoration is in abatement with completion slated for August 2014. The makeover of Crosby Hall, housing studios, labs, critique spaces and additional office space, is currently in the design phase, with a 2016 target for full build-out. Both projects are part of the “Building UB” master plan for the university, developed by Shibley as the physical piece of the UB 2020 strategic plan.

The project will also bring the buildings up to code, install state-of-the-art building and environmental systems, advance accessibility features and, primarily through the reclamation of the buildings’ fourth floors, allow the school to consolidate its studio spaces into Hayes and Crosby Halls while giving students more work space.

“Our reimagined and renewed facilities can now accommodate our vision to become still more competitive with the top schools of architecture and planning, to grow our faculty and student base, and to become an even more robust research center,” said Shibley, noting the school’s current enrollment of 800 students will grow by way of two new degree programs, a Master of Science in Architecture and a PhD in Urban and Regional Planning. 

For now, the school’s administrative offices have relocated to Diefendorf Hall, and other faculty and staff have decamped to the infamous annexes, where they will be some of the last occupants. Once Hayes and Crosby are restored, these 


UB has partnered with New York State on this important undertaking. While the state has provided UB a construction budget to pay for the renovation and construction—a total of $50.5 million—we are turning to generous donors to help us create and complete the learning spaces inside. The school is working to raise an additional $3.5 million to complete the build-out. Give now.


Once Hayes and Crosby are restored, these “temporary” buildings will be removed and the gracious quadrangles and lawns of E.B. Green’s 1930 campus plan reopened.

As the Hayes project moves from demolition to build-out, and the design phase of Crosby becomes more tangible, excitement at the school is palpable. 

“We have been talking about this for over 30 years – we can now say it’s finally happening. And it’s going to be great,” said Bruce Majkowski, associate dean and liaison to the Hayes/Crosby project (MArch ‘86, BPS ‘84).

With its signature bell tower reaching for the sky, Hayes Hall is one of the university’s most iconic buildings and the face of the South Campus. Its history is also deeply tied to the community.

A local landmark, it was built in 1874 as an insane asylum in what was then known as the Erie County Almshouse complex. In 1909, the university, then just a medical school in downtown Buffalo, purchased the complex. A major restoration in 1927 converted the building for use as the university’s main administrative offices. Since 1977, Hayes has been home to the school, holding its administrative and faculty offices, classrooms, research centers, library, visual resources center, digital laboratories and exhibition galleries.

The Hayes project has been overseen by the school under the direction of the State University Construction Fund and University Facilities. Rochester-based Bergmann Associates has served as design consultant, while SLR Contracting & Service Company, Inc., a minority- and woman-owned firm, is general contractor. The entire Hayes/Crosby project is being financed by New York State’s critical maintenance fund.

Part of Bigger Vision - "Building UB"

The Hayes/Crosby project is just one of many capital improvement projects under way today across UB’s three campuses as the university, under the leadership of Dean Shibley as UB campus architect, implements its “Building UB” master plan. 

An Appreciation for History

From day one, the project team has approached the largest restoration of Hayes Hall in 80 years with a deep appreciation for its history.

“From design to implementation, we have approached this project with a reverence for the history of the building, its 

past and its architectural details,” said William J. McDonnell, associate dean and school liaison for the project, adding 

that the team worked closely with the State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation every step of the way due to Hayes Hall’s landmark status. 

For the exterior, which has remained largely intact since the 1927 restoration, the resulting design includes several small but not insignificant improvements – replacing 40 blocked or altered windows, installing five sets of bronze doors in place of aluminum storefront doors, replacing the roof, and thoughtfully integrating ADA “access paths,” designed by the school’s very own Center for Inclusive Design and Environmental Access, to flank the building’s front entrance. 

On the inside, extensive alterations over the years have removed most historic features. While this left Hayes with a patchwork of styles, it also presented the school with essentially a blank canvas for space design. Historic features are preserved where possible, but modern elements dominate. The result is a playful balance of 19th and 21st century details in a vibrant, daylit space ideal for gathering, exhibiting and discovering. 

Creating a Front Door for the School

The most dynamic of these spaces is the “Gallery,” a twostory atrium and entryway to the building’s core. As the school’s “front door,” it serves as an obvious point of entry and sets the tone for spaces and academic programs within. 

Maintaining a reverence for the building’s origins, the marble and wood-trimmed entry will remain. And while a hole punched into the second floor of the central corridor introduces volume and verticality through a two-story atrium, flooring materials were chosen to outline the boundaries of the original hallway. 

The space will be immediately activated by exhibits of student work, seating areas and a computing lab that offers a glimpse of state-of-the-art technologies found throughout the building. Open spaces for gathering can host lectures and events for the school and community. 

These design elements are then carried throughout the building, as interior walls and drop ceilings are removed and glass and aluminum partitions – along with the original transoms – allow daylight to pour into the corridors. 

“We are opening up Hayes’ long and dimly lit hallways to make the space more inviting,” says Robert K. McCubbin, principal, Bergmann Associates, adding that exposing the building’s “systems” promotes its use as a teaching tool for the school.

“It will be a totally different feeling,” added Charlene Finn, interior design principal at Bergmann, referring to the view of Hayes Lawn that will be accessible through glass walls along the hallways of the building’s wings. Despite the flexibility and freedom for design and space programming on the interior, original features are preserved where possible. 

The building’s grand open stairwells, curvilinear interior window moldings and terrazzo flooring are some of the retained elements. In recognition of the original building floorplan, brass inlays demarcate where walls once stood. 

Minimalistic accents and finishes keep with the theme of the building as a student gallery. “Our approach is not to compete with the great products being generated by the students, but to provide more of a background or canvas,” said Finn.

Open and flexible spaces and “living-learning landscapes” promote commingling, collaboration and open dialogue across the departments and other disciplines, particularly important for the school’s new research-intensive graduate degree programs. 

“We’ve created a design approach that is about how we can do things better together than we can by ourselves,” said Shibley. 

On the fourth floor, the reclaimed attics are among the building’s most inviting spaces, featuring exposed wood trusses and skylights for natural light. The design also supports display and critiques within these spaces, with a large auditorium-style classroom for lectures and events 

Stewardship in Sustainability

The Hayes restoration also breaks new ground for the university in green building design and adaptive reuse, and is on track for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold certification. 

Sustainable design solutions include energy-efficient windows and mechanical systems, natural ventilation, extensive use of daylighting, and the selection of durable materials and finishes, including reclaimed wood and products made within a 500-mile radius. SLR Contracting has recycled the bulk of debris, from radiators and glass to wood and metals.

According to Shibley, achieving LEED Gold is an important statement about the school’s commitment to living creatively and responsibly on this planet, while the process has served as a powerful teaching tool for students and faculty alike. 

“The pedagogical use of these buildings as examples of sustainable and preservation practices, or ecological practices, is really the theme,” he said, adding that the school is looking to add specializations in these disciplines to both the MSArch and Planning PhD. Meanwhile, the school’s continuing education program, coming in April, will use the Hayes and Crosby restorations to explore these issues with professional architects and planners. 

Said Ernest Sternberg, professor and chair of the Department of Urban and Regional Planning: “This project preserves and improves a wonderful building for future generations of students. Yes, it will be great to teach and study in so fine a building. More than that, it will be an honor to work in a place that has played so large a role in Buffalo’s and UB’s history.”