Buffalo is headed to Venice

School of Architecture and Planning will tell Buffalo’s story of place at Venice Biennale, the world’s premier exhibit for architecture and design

Palais Bembo in Venice / The school has chosen the medium of film for its exhibit, stitching together a story of school and city through the sights and sounds of Buffalo and students at work on campus and in the community. Photo by Douglas Levere, University at Buffalo

The School of Architecture and Planning has been invited to mount an exhibit at the the 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale, the world’s largest and premier exhibit of architecture and design. Photo of Palazzo Bembo in Venice, by Frank Kovalchek from Braine le Comte, Belgium | [CC BY 2.0source file]

By Rachel Teaman

Published February 9, 2018

For more than five decades, Buffalo has inspired and situated the teachings and research of UB’s School of Architecture and Planning. In creative exchange, the experiments of its students and faculty – built works, mobilized plans, bold ideas – have woven new dimensions into the fabric of the city.

Now the School of Architecture and Planning is taking Buffalo’s story of place – and its place within it – to the world as an invited exhibitor at the 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale. The six-month event is the world’s largest and premier exhibit of architecture and design, filling the streets of the historic city of Venice with more than 300,000 visitors from around the globe. The exhibit opens May 26, 2018 and runs through November.

Recognized as a research-intensive program that engages its city as a testbed for design and planning innovation, the school is one of only 20 academic institutions invited to participate in “Time Space Existence,” an officially-sponsored collateral exhibition of the biennale. Time Space Existence is hosted by the European Cultural Center and sponsored by the Global Arts Affairs Foundation to provoke discussion on the most pressing challenges facing the profession and academy today. The school's exhibit will be hosted at Palazzo Bembo, a 15th-century palazzo located on Venice's Grand Canal. 

“The Venice Biennale is a singular opportunity to put Buffalo and our school on the global stage of architecture and design,” says Dean Robert G. Shibley, widely renowned for his work on planning efforts that today underpin the city’s resurgence.

“Buffalo holds an important place among the world’s greatest cities for architecture and urban design. And its influence – both the tangible and unseen – comes to life in the imaginations of our students, faculty, and even alumni who carry the city with them into every corner of the world.”

The school has chosen the medium of film for its exhibit, stitching together a story of school and city through the sights and sounds of Buffalo and students at work on campus and in the community. Gregory Delaney, clinical assistant professor architecture with a focus in urban design and architectural history, will serve as co-curator with architecture professor and associate dean Korydon Smith. 

The school will collaborate with local filmmaker John Paget to produce the film. Paget’s documentary-style films on Buffalo and its architecture have gained national acclaim. An exhibition catalog of faculty and student reflections on the city as context to their work will complement the film.

Students and faculty will be involved in the production, curation and installation of the exhibit as well as workshops and a study abroad program hosted in Venice during the biennale. Viewings of the exhibit in Buffalo are planned after the close of the biennale.

"For us, it's the full arc of Buffalo's history and the complexity of its current character—in rise and ruin, rust and revival—that shape us," says Delaney. "We, in turn, get to play a small role in shaping the city, from research studios and design-build interventions to large-scale master plans and partnerships with local agencies and industries. The collaboration with John Paget and the medium of documentary film give us the opportunity to share the experience of our school and city with Venice and the visitors to this year's Biennale."

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The school’s intimate relationship with Buffalo dates back to the school’s founding in the late 1960s. It was the city’s grain elevators that inspired UB architecture faculty member Peter Reyner Banham to write A Concrete Atlantis on industrial architecture in America and Europe. And it was planning students in the mid-1980s who started conceiving of Buffalo’s downtown as a neighborhood and hosted city-wide conversations on a new planning framework that continues to emerge today.

Much of the school’s internationally-significant work has its roots in Buffalo. Recent developments include experiments in design with terra cotta, sheet metal and concrete with local industry; construction of a nationally award-winning zero-energy housing prototype; and the design of food system plans now being implemented in communities around the world.

The community is invited to follow the school's preparations for and journey to Venice on Instagram (@BuffaloArchPlan, #BuffaloInVenice).