Shibley honored for contributions to public architecture in New York State

shibley at strand

As campus architect, Robert Shibley led an international design competition to create the Solar Strand. Photo: Douglas Levere

Published June 5, 2014

Robert G. Shibley, dean of the School of Architecture and Planning, is being recognized by the American Institute of Architects New York State (AIANYS) for his design influence on public architecture across the state.

Shibley is the first recipient of the AIANYS’s Nelson Aldrich Rockefeller Award, which honors architects employed in the public sector in New York State for their contributions to design excellence in public architecture. The award is part of the inaugural Excelsior Awards for Public Architecture, established by the AIANYS and state contracting agencies to provide models for future state-funded building design and professional practice and advocacy.

Among other things, the jury cited Shibley’s contributions over the past 32 years as a public architect in service to UB, and to the region and state that hosts it. As UB’s first campus architect, Shibley led the development of an ambitious campus master plan that calls for the expansion of facilities on UB’s three campuses, sets new standards for campus architecture and advances the competitiveness of the university.

In particular, Shibley’s innovative use of design competitions was highlighted for elevating expectations for quality architecture at UB and in the Buffalo region. In just the past few years, Shibley has led four international design competitions for UB, including the $375 million School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences building that is rising today on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus — in the heart of UB’s emerging Downtown Campus.

Part of UB’s commitment to creating a world-class building for medical education and research, and an architectural landmark for downtown, the competition was developed in close collaboration with the SUNY Construction Fund, university leadership and UB’s Capital Planning Group and Office of Facilities Planning and Design.

Michael Cain, vice president for health sciences and dean of the medical school, highlighted Shibley’s creative use of the competition format for the new medical school, which attracted an initial field of 19 architectural teams from five countries.

“Dean Shibley worked with the competitors collectively to define the terms of the contract, facilitated a public forum among them on the potential of their respective proposals, and managed a large, interdisciplinary selection committee leading up to the final choice,” Cain wrote in a letter of support for Shibley’s Rockefeller Award nomination. “He did all this within the constraints of the State University Construction Fund procurement regulations, defining a new model of selection possibilities within what some view as bureaucratic constraints to quality.”

An international competition directed by Shibley also shaped the design of UB’s Solar Strand, a 750-kilowatt, ground-mounted solar array developed with the New York Power Authority as an art installation on the North Campus. Designed by internationally acclaimed landscape architect Walter Hood, the Solar Strand is one of the largest publicly accessible solar arrays in the world.

As chair of the Environmental Stewardship Committee, Shibley helped develop UB’s Climate Action Plan for achieving a climate-neutral campus by 2030. Central to that endeavor has been UB’s completion of five LEED-certified buildings, including four meeting gold standards and SUNY’s first LEED gold-designed residence hall (William R. Greiner Hall), which was recognized in Buildings Magazine with the 2012 Grand Prize for new construction and the 2013 America’s Best Building of the Year award.

Named after the former New York governor, the Rockefeller Award also recognizes Shibley’s service to public architecture and urban design through critical practice, scholarship and teaching.

An architect and urban planner, Shibley joined the UB faculty in 1982 and assumed the position of dean in 2011. Since 1990, he has served as the founding director of the Urban Design Project, which led the development of Buffalo’s comprehensive plan, along with plans for the city’s waterfront, Larkin District and Olmsted park and parkway system. The award-winning center recently aligned with the UB Regional Institute and continues to engage in the region’s most prominent planning and development initiatives, including the 2011 strategic plan for the Western New York Regional Economic Development Council and implementation of the Buffalo Billion Investment Development Fund established by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.

Earlier this year, Shibley received the AIA’s 2014 Thomas Jefferson Award for Public Architecture in recognition of his work nationally and internationally in architecture and in setting the stage for Buffalo’s rebirth.

Using the city-region as one of several sites of study, Shibley has generated widely published scholarship and case histories on urban design and place-making over the past 40 years.

In addition to his work at UB, Shibley has held various service positions for city, state and federal government, including work as a councilmember on New York State Building Code Council and as a federal commissioner on the Erie Canalways National Heritage Corridor Commission.