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UB Symposium: The Changing Landscape of Architectural Patronage

New forms of sponsorship prompt new practice models, design agendas for architecture

By Rachel M. Teaman

Release Date: October 10, 2012

Related Multimedia

The Nitze House, in Pioneertown, Calif., is an example of the itHouse, a prefabricated design that supports sustainable, off-the-grid living. Created by Taalman Koch Architecture. Photo: Sarah Eick

The Arctic Food Network, designed by Lola Sheppard, seeks to address the challenges of food security/mobility in the remote territory of Nunavut in northern Canada. Copyright: Lola Sheppard, Lateral Office

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Once the exclusive purview of private clients and the fabulously wealthy, architectural patronage is changing as architects increasingly cultivate partnerships with nonprofits, community organizations and other public entities.

These new forms of sponsorship have prompted innovative models of practice that not only have opened up new areas of design but have also engaged with and empowered diverse and underserved populations.

To better understand this trend and its implications for design, research and practice, the University at Buffalo School of Architecture and Planning has invited eight internationally distinguished architects, scholars and designers to present "Beyond Patronage: Reconsidering Models of Practice," the 2012 Martell Symposium.

All events will be free and open to the public, but those who wish to attend are asked to RSVP to the symposium website, http://beyondpatronage.wordpress.com. The site lists the full schedule of events and speaker biographies.

The symposium will open Oct. 16 with a panel, "Student as Instigator," at 5:30 p.m. at the Greatbatch Pavilion, 125 Jewett Parkway in Buffalo. It will feature guest speakers and UB architecture students in a discussion about the role of emerging young designers in a shifting landscape for practice.

October 17 events will begin at 9 a.m. in Harriman Hall, UB South Campus. They will include a series of panels organized around emerging roles of the architect -- as an advocate who actively engages new client bases, as a detective who uncovers hidden conditions and spaces and as an initiator who forges entrepreneurial and innovative business models for architectural practice.

A catered reception will follow at 7:30 p.m. at Kleinhans Music Hall, 3 Symphony Circle, Buffalo.

Robert G. Shibley, professor and dean of the UB School of Architecture and Planning, says, "'Beyond Patronage' is an example of our school's long-standing sponsorship of public events that push the boundaries of thinking, scholarship and practice in our disciplines." He points out that this is just one of a series of public lectures and exhibits sponsored by the school throughout the semester.

Joyce Hwang, assistant professor of architecture and one of the organizers of the event, says, "Driven in part by the instability of the conventional model of practice in poor economic times and a rapidly changing political, social and ecological climate, architects and designers have begun to reinvent models of practice and confront the priorities of architecture.

"Beyond Patronage brings to Buffalo some of the most innovative thinkers and practitioners in the field," she says, "to discuss how their work informs these evolving notions of architectural patronage."

Featured speakers will include:

* Lola Sheppard, whose firm, Lateral Office, has partnered with the government of northern Canada's Nunavut Territory to design the Arctic Food Network, which will provide this remote community with food security and safe navigation.

* Yolande Daniels, principal of Studio SUMO, whose award-winning work includes the design of ethnic museums and a culturally sensitive housing project in Miami's Little Haiti. She will discuss BLINDSPOTS, a series of projects that explore the intersection of race, architecture and the city.

* Architect, writer and curator Juliette Spertus, who will discuss her recent exhibition, "Fast Trash," which articulates the beauty and ingenuity of Roosevelt Island's underground, pneumatic garbage system.

* Georgeen Theodore, whose firm, Interboro, partnered with the Museum of Modern Art on the project "Holding Pattern" to address institution-community connections through creation of a temporary public space outside the museum.

* Natalie Jeremijenko, director of xDesign Environmental Health Clinic is an artist, engineer and scholar whose work explores the interface of society, the environment and technology. Among her recent works is a permanent roof installation in New York City that supports high-density bird cohabitation.

* Hansy L. Better Barraza, principal of Studio Luz Architects, an associate professor at the Rhode Island School of Design, and co-founder of BRACE: Building Research + Architecture + Community Exchange, a nonprofit organization that brings together artists and designers with community members to create new community spaces.

* Linda Taalman of the firm Taalman Koch Architecture, internationally known for the "itHouse," a line of prefabricated minimalist houses that support off-the-grid, sustainable living.

* Lori Brown, professor of architecture at Syracuse University and editor of "Feminist Practices," a new book that documents an international group of women designers and architects whose work engages feminist methodologies. She is also involved in projects investigating women's shelters in Turkey and the spaces of abortion clinics.

Events on Oct. 17 include a breakout session on pro bono work organized by the Buffalo Architecture Foundation, which will feature local practitioners from various practice frameworks: Courtney Creenan (MArch/MUP '12), one of the UB student designers of "Elevator B," an architectural beehive habitat at Silo City in Buffalo's industrial corridor; Joy Kuebler, director of a small landscape architecture firm in Buffalo, and Kathy Callesto (MArch '08), who heads the Cannon Design partnership with Habitat for Humanity Buffalo.

"The issue of exclusion and inclusion in the field and a shifting dynamic of power between architects and the communities they serve will be a central theme of the symposium," says Martha Bohm, assistant professor of architecture at UB and a co-organizer of the symposium.

"Women and minorities continue to be underrepresented in traditional architectural practice, while architectural services remain out of reach for many," she adds. "Yet these new forms of patronage also empower historically excluded populations."

Bohm and Hwang are both part of the Ecological Practices Graduate Research Group in the UB school's Department of Architecture, which supports a more sustainable world through ecologically literate architectural practice and design shaped and limited by natural systems.

Adds Omar Khan, associate professor and chair of the Department of Architecture: "The 2012 Martell Symposium will vastly enrich our school's pedagogical and academic experience, with faculty and students closely involved in every aspect -- from programming the event to participating in the panels to producing related scholarship."

Additional support for the symposium is being provided by UB's Gender Institute, which is featuring the event as part of Gender Week 2012. Symposium organization was also facilitated by Shannon Phillips, assistant dean for graduate education in the School of Architecture and Planning, where she heads diversity initiatives, and Gabrielle Printz, a graduate architecture student at UB.