Our Approach to Research

Pushing at the periphery of knowledge and creative practice

Students and research staff engage in an ideas form for food systems planning.

Researchers and students (from left to right) Jocelyne Bello, Camile Brown and Nicole Smith exchange ideas on how to strengthen food equity. Photo by Maryanne Schultz

Drawing from deep traditions in research and creative practice, the School of Architecture and Planning is infused with a culture of experimentation. Our faculty, researchers, and students engage in purposeful research that tackles complex societal challenges, locally and globally. Ideas come to life in the community as we test, apply and scale research in practice settings. Our practice-driven research takes place in diverse community settings hand in hand with citizens, government and entrepreneurially-minded partners in industry.

Nationally and globally recognized

Research generated by our faculty is featured in top architecture and planning journals including Built Environment, Journal of the American Planning Association, the Journal of Architecture and Planning Research, and the Journal of Planning Education. View peer-reviewed articles published by our faculty. 

The School of Architecture and Planning in 2018 achieved top-five ranking among our peers in the Association of American Universities in three categories for federal grants (total grant dollars, dollars per grant and grant dollars per faculty member). National and global agencies funding our research and creative activities include the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Administration for Community Living, the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health. 

Robert G. Shibley.
Committed to research excellence across our disciplines

"Our faculty bring passion, ambition and discipline to their pursuit of research excellence. At the School of Architecture and Planning innovation is ingrained, extending from the studio to the research lab to the community, and engaging faculty, staff and students alike."

- Dean Robert G. Shibley

Evidence-based

The school is home to award-winning faculty whose research is routinely translated into evidence-based action in new plans, policies, designs, and programs in Buffalo and beyond. The breadth of our impact spans the fields of inclusive design, food systems planning, material and build systems development, and climate resilient design.

"Through a human-centered and evidence-driven approach to design research, the IDeA Center aspires to increase social participation of those marginalized by traditional design practices."

- Edward Steinfeld, SUNY Distinguished Professor of Architecture, Director of the Center for Inclusive Design and Environmental Access

Zoe Hamstead's research supports equitable climate adaptation planning approaches through vulnerability mapping in communities. Her work has been funded by the National Science Foundation Smart and Connected Communities program, Environmental Protection Agency STAR program and UB's RENEW Institute. 

Practice-driven

Research at the School of Architecture and Planning is situated in real-world challenges and practice environments. By working with professionals and civic stakeholders, faculty and students generate innovative, forward-looking solutions to problems facing industry and communities today.

"The Architectural Ceramic Assemblies Workshop incubates new research on high-performance facades that students can actually build and assemble alongside artists, engineers and industry leaders at Boston Valley Terra Cotta."

- Laura Garofalo, UB associate professor of architecture and member of UB's Sustainable Manufacturing and Advanced Robotic Technologies Community of Excellence

The UB Regional Institute plays a lead role in the school's practice-driven research in urban planning. The institute has developed award-winning plans for the Buffalo region in the areas of economic development, urban design, land use planning, brownfield remediation and comprehensive planning. 

Transdisciplinary

The School of Architecture and Planning forges new intellectual territory by working across the disciplines at UB, the most comprehensive public research university in the Northeast. Transdisciplinary research initiatives led by our faculty generate new research questions and solutions in partnership with disciplines as diverse as public health and engineering, and with community partners around the world and in our own backyard. 

"Global health is a sweeping humanitarian concern that affects the local and global economy, political systems, social justice and even public safety," according to Korydon Smith, professor and chair of architecture at UB; director, UB Community for Global Health Equity (CGHE). "Together with public health, design, planning and even anthropology, CGHE leverages the depth of UB's expertise to improve the health and wellbeing of marginalized, underrepresented, and vulnerable populations around the world."

Samina Raja, professor of urban planning, founded the Food Systems Planning and Healthy Communities Lab in 2002. Since then she has built an international body of work that includes a five-year U.S. Department of Agriculture grant to help “communities of opportunity” across the U.S. support small-scale farmers, and current work with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization to develop a global framework on food systems planning. 

Inclusive

Our faculty purposefully choose to work on questions of equity, inclusion, and diversity toward the planning, design and development of just communities. 

"Despite the popular conception that architectural history is a collection of facts about the past, I would argue that it is a contemporary interpretation of the past using the lens of the present. In this way, history is always contemporary knowledge, including our present accounting of the racial discourses that have shaped architectural discourses behind the scenes."

- Charles Davis II, UB assistant professor of architectural history

"The struggle to transform the conditions of life among oppressed people and build a better and more just and equitable world is an extraordinarily complex task, which requires the highest level of scholarship, accompanied by battles down on the ground.  There can be no progress without struggle; and struggle without the guiding light of knowledge will fail."

- Henry Louis Taylor Jr, UB professor of urban planning; director, Center for Urban Studies

Engaged in creative production

From prototypes and built works to installations and exhibitions, our creative work is funded by nonprofits, industry and government, and  recognized nationally and globally. Realized in the communities around us, from Buffalo to Costa Rica, our creative practice both contributes to an improved quality of life and the innovation of our professions.

The School of Architecture and Planning was invited to participate in the international exhibition Time Space Existence at the 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale, where we documented the deep and lasting impact of our place-based research on the City of Buffalo. The school's exhibition was presented as a documentary short, "See It Through Buffalo."

Collegial and collaborative

Faculty take great pride in engaging students in research and creative activities. Many of our students have co-published articles and books with faculty, and actively participate in creative projects of our faculty. We encourage students to reach out to centers and labs to seek research internships.

"Students are also some of the most honest judges of the work that researchers and planners do. The feedback that students provide on planning debates, theories, and empirical research is often uncensored and more provocative than comments received in other settings." 

- Robert Silverman, UB professor of urban planning

The design of UB's zero-energy GRoW Home has been touched by more than 400 students from 10 different departments across UB. “These things can be conceived and implemented by students," says Martha Bohm, UB assistant professor of architecture, who co-led the GRoW Home effort. "Ultimately, the university is trying to produce sustainably literate citizens after their time here, and the house is a demonstration that not only can our students be literate, but fluent in sustainability.”

Supported by robust infrastructure

The School of Architecture and Planning is home to five internationally-regarded research centers and labs. Our faculty also play lead roles on several university-wide research centers with transdisciplinary missions. The following centers and labs are central to the research and creative practice of our school.

The School is home to several national archives and databases led by scholars in planning and architecture:

Engage with us

The School of Architecture and Planning welcomes partnerships with collaborators and researchers across academic, private and civic sectors. If you or your organization would like to partner with our faculty and research programs, please contact Samina Raja, Associate Dean for Research and Inclusive Excellence: ap-ResearchInclusiveExcellence@buffalo.edu