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Regional Institute, Urban Design Project teaming up under Architecture umbrella

Published June 30, 2011

“We will continue to do the work we’ve been doing. And we will do it with a more robust team that brings a broader set of skills to the table.”
Robert G. Shibley, Dean
School of Architecture and Planning
We'll be even better together"

The UB Regional Institute, known for its cutting-edge policy research, and the Urban Design Project (UDP), a key contributor to planning and place-making efforts throughout the region, are joining forces.

Already two of UB’s most active and relevant research centers, the alliance of the Regional Institute and UDP will strengthen the capacity of the School of Architecture and Planning to produce public scholarship in service to the community and build a new infrastructure to support faculty research.

“The Regional Institute has been the go-to source for practical policy research for more than a decade,” said Robert G. Shibley, dean of the School of Architecture and Planning. “And our Urban Design Project has been closely involved in many of the most important planning initiatives in Buffalo Niagara since 1990. We’ll be even better together.

“We will continue to do the work we’ve been doing,” Shibley said. “And we will do it with a more robust team that brings a broader set of skills to the table. Our expertise will be more diverse. The potential to come up with new solutions to old problems will be so much greater.”

The new alliance brings together planners, urban designers, architects, landscape architects, data analysts, policy specialists, legal experts, researchers, information systems experts, technical writers, graphic designers, grant writers and others to provide research, policy advice, planning and design assistance to governments, businesses and not-for-profits in the region.

Members of the new team also are poised to support faculty members with burgeoning research programs spanning topics as diverse as food-systems security, responses to climate change, green transportation, inclusive design, situated technologies (the use of technology embedded in buildings), sustainable community development, planning for extreme events (such as earthquakes or hurricanes) and many others.

Staff members in both centers are supported largely by the proceeds of the work they produce. They also will help leverage the sponsored research dollars that will support students set to enter a new PhD program in planning directed by Samina Raja starting next year.

Shibley will oversee the operations of both the institute and UDP for the immediate future, while institute Director Kathryn A. Foster takes a one-year sabbatical to conduct research at the prestigious Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C.

The architecture school plans to hire an associate dean for research, who will direct both the operations of the allied research centers and provide support to faculty researchers across both departments in the school.

Interim Provost Harvey G. Stenger Jr. said the new alliance puts the School of Architecture and Planning in a strong position to contribute to the continued growth of sponsored research and the fulfillment of UB’s role as a great public research university.

“We are in the business of producing knowledge in the public interest,” Stenger said. “Aligning two of our most productive and capable centers with the research agendas of our faculty equips the School of Architecture and Planning to contribute to the core institutional mission in greater measure than ever before.”

Shibley emphasized that the alliance of the Regional Institute and UDP was only the first step in mounting a schoolwide strategy to increase external funding for research and expand public service.

“The faculty in our school have always conducted socially relevant research,” Shibley said, “and we have always done work in the community. What will be different now is that we will be working together to make it better—through this new alliance and through the appointment of an associate dean whose main job is to encourage faculty research.”

Shibley praised the work of Foster, a widely recognized authority on regional governance who has led the Regional Institute for the past six years. “Kate Foster has done a great job,” Shibley said. “During her tenure, the institute has become even more important in the life of Buffalo Niagara.”

Under Foster’s leadership, the institute greatly diversified its funding and research portfolio, growing in value in the community as a source of objective and innovative research—“decision support”—on some of the region’s most pressing issues.

It most recently completed a series of studies on the role of higher education in the new economy, a comprehensive assessment of Buffalo Niagara’s labor market and a report on the status of women and girls. It also developed an online repository of data on the bi-national region, built a cross-border governance research program and launched a policy brief series providing analysis on timely topics for the region.

The institute will continue to be located in the UB Downtown Gateway.

The Urban Design Project has established a similarly distinguished record in urban design and planning. Under Shibley’s leadership, the UDP produced the recent comprehensive plan for the City of Buffalo, including plans for Downtown, the waterfront, and the Olmsted parks and parkway system.

UDP staff also worked closely with Shibley in creating Building UB: the Comprehensive Physical Plan, the capital development component of UB 2020 that helped set the agenda for negotiations in Albany leading to support for the move of the School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences to the Downtown Campus.