Writing the book on the School of Architecture and Planning

By Bradshaw Hovey

Research Associate Professor, Urban Planning

Harold L. Cohen, second dean of the school, recently shared with me his theory that every 10 years or so, any academic enterprise – a university, a school, a department – becomes something fundamentally different than it was before. 

Faculty turn over, students come and go, programs are reworked, times change. The idea that a school might have a soul, a personality, or even a tradition is, then, just an illusion. 

But my journey into the history of our school has revealed evidence to the contrary. Interviews of scores of faculty, students and alumni, and mounds of archives - research that will be compiled into a monograph on the School of Architecture and Planning as it marks 50 years since its founding in 1968 - have spoken to the durable heart of our school and the persistence of certain patterns: a commitment to learning by doing and by making, an emphasis on the role of research in practice, an idea of planners and architects as problem solvers, not merely building designers or plan-makers, an appreciation for the complexity and interrelatedness of those problems, the tendency to engage with the community.  

The school was created in a time of doubt and dissatisfaction with both the built environment and the professionals who designed it. The founders were driven by a vision to create a new generation of environmental design professionals who would see the task of creating a world in its full complexity and organize interdisciplinary teams to do the job.

Across five decades now, and surely with a lot of twists and turns in the road, the school is more or less true to those original impulses. Of course, it has changed, and certainly grown. But, as Wordsworth said, the child is father to the man.

“There’s a story attached to every person who ever studied here, about what they learned here, what they remembered, and what they did in the years after graduation...I want to hear those stories.”

 

- Bradshaw Hovey, a research associate professor who is developing a monograph commemorating the school's 50th anniversary.

The school has definitely grown. What started with a faculty of three, a first cohort of 20 graduate students in “building systems design,” and a curriculum that consumed just a few lines in the university class schedule, is now a school with nearly 60 full-time faculty, more than 650 students, five major degree programs, multiple specializations, and more than $6 million a year in sponsored research.  

The story is dense and deep and varied. It’s not just a story about a few celebrated professors. There’s a story attached to every person who ever studied here, about what they learned here, what they remembered, and what they did in the years after graduation.

The school has now granted nearly five thousand degrees, graduate and undergraduate, in architecture, planning, and environmental design. Our graduates populate private firms, government agencies, colleges and universities, and not for profit organizations across Buffalo Niagara, across the nation, and truly, around the world.

Everyone has a story to tell. I want to hear those stories. I want to see the project reports and the syllabi. I want to get my hands on documentation of the work and photographs of the people and places. More than anything, I would love to read the recollections of our former students, both of their time here in school and out in the working world.

Who made the greatest impression on you? What lessons – intended or otherwise – stick with you from your days in school here? What have you accomplished in the years that followed?

Of the original faculty only John Eberhard and George Borowsky are still alive. Michael Brill, Terry Collison, Ibrahim Jammal, and Dick Chalmers are all gone. Faculty who came somewhat later are also dead. Gunter Schmitz, Scott Danford, John Archea, Magda McHale, Marilyn Reeves, and Peter Reyner Banham are all gone. We would be grateful for people to share their memories of those teachers.

Alumni and others can send messages, including electronic files, via e-mail to Bradshaw Hovey at bhovey@buffalo.edu. Hard copy material can be sent to Dr. Hovey at 115 Hayes Hall, 3435 Main Street, Buffalo, NY 14214.

If you have old papers that you’ve been keeping but you just don’t know what you would do with them, send them to us. We are assembling a School archive as a by-product of the ongoing research. We will keep your papers as part of that collection.