'Re-Imagining' UB

Ambitious physical plan aims for inspired campus growth and attractive living-learning landscape

By Arthur Page

Extensive construction projects on the North Campus this summer included the restoration and new landscaping of Founders Plaza at the heart of the North Campus. (Photo by Douglas Levere '89)

As part of its plans to transform into a model 21st-century public university and rise among the ranks of this country’s leading public research universities, the University at Buffalo is seeking input from alumni as it creates a master plan to guide its development.

UB’s ambitious vision is being guided by UB 2020, a strategic plan through which the university will invest in academic programs and research in areas where it has strategic strengths that place it at an advantage over competing institutions. The university plans to grow by 40 percent between now and 2020, increasing student enrollment by 10,000 and the size of the faculty and staff by 750 and 600, respectively.

UB has not had a comprehensive master plan since SUNY built the North Campus in the 1970s.

“Even if UB weren’t going to grow, we would still need a plan,” explains Robert G. Shibley, senior adviser to the president for campus planning and design and professor of architecture and planning. “But we are going to grow, and substantially.”

The new master plan will cover the campus centers in Amherst, on Main Street and in downtown Buffalo, and will include ways to better connect them with one another and better integrate them with surrounding neighborhoods. The goals: memorable, attractive campus settings where students can study and gather; state-of-the-art facilities where researchers can more easily collaborate across academic boundaries; and facilities and settings that will attract and engage the entire community.

“In essence,” Shibley notes, “we’re undertaking an historic ‘re-imagining’ of UB.”

This design by Watts Architecture & Engineering was adapted from the original design by Sasaki Associates, original planners of the North Campus. (Architect's Rendering by Blair Rusin)

The internationally renowned firm Beyer Blinder Belle Architects & Planners LLP of New York City, Washington, DC, and Beijing—which has worked on projects at Harvard Business School, Princeton University, Indiana University and Stony Brook University—will lead development of UB’s comprehensive plan under a $4.5 million contract.

While the plan is under development, work continues on campus improvements. The restoration and new landscaping of Founders Plaza at the heart of the North Campus was completed recently. Also in the works is the redesign of spaces in the Talbert-Capen-Norton corridor on the North Campus to create a “living-learning landscape” that will include informal seating areas, café-style gathering places, Internet hotspots and group work places.

The thoughts and opinions of alumni are being gathered through the “UB on the Road” program of the Office of Alumni Relations. Shibley spoke at an alumni event in Washington, DC, on June 19 and will meet with alumni in New York City in a session being planned for October. Similar gatherings will be held in Florida in Naples and West Palm Beach early next year.

Alumni input also is invited through the Web site for Building UB: the Comprehensive Physical Plan. You are asked to share your vision for the future of UB, as well as your opinions on issues to be considered in planning for the university’s future, in the section labeled “Tell us what you think.” You also can help inform the planning effort through visual input, sharing digital images of your favorite spots at UB, as well as things that you think need to change, as part of the section “Framing UB.”

Arthur Page is assistant vice president for news services and periodicals at UB.

To contribute your ideas to campus planning, go to