Published March 6, 2014
Robert G. Shibley, dean of the School of Architecture and Planning, has been selected to receive the American Institute of Architects’ prestigious Thomas Jefferson Award for Public Architecture.
The recognition puts Buffalo and Western New York in the national spotlight. Among other accomplishments, the awards jury cited Shibley’s leadership in producing award-winning plans for Buffalo, spurring new investment and elevating public expectations for design and planning.
He directed efforts to draft Buffalo’s comprehensive plan, along with plans for the city’s waterfront, Larkin District and Olmsted park and parkway system.
In 2003, a regional action plan he helped develop envisioned Buffalo as the center of public life and commerce in Western New York. Called the “Queen City Hub,” the document carried the dedication, “To people everywhere who love Buffalo, N.Y. and continue to make it an even better place to live life well.”
Shibley won the Jefferson Award in a category that recognizes public officials or individuals who “have furthered the public’s awareness and/or appreciation of design excellence in public architecture.”
“In the post-industrial city, urban design is crucial, and the history of Shibley’s work is very impressive,” says William Bates, chair of the awards jury. “He’s done a lot within the city in planning, and he seemed to be serving as a catalyst for redevelopment and reuse of the waterfront, as well as other types of sites. We were really impressed with his commitment to the area and the impact he had made through various projects.”
Shibley says an award like this “is really recognizing broadly based and long-running collaborations with colleagues at the University at Buffalo, the School of Architecture and Planning, three mayors and a host of legislators, and the business and not-for-profit communities that host us.”
For three decades, Shibley has been a driving force in reimagining — and revitalizing — Western New York.
Today, the planning efforts he led are bearing fruit in the form of a booming medical corridor, a downtown where developers are renovating historic buildings and a waterfront where new businesses are cropping up.
“Bob has been the insightful, impactful and determined voice of urban and regional planning in this community for decades,” says Howard Zemsky, the local developer responsible for such forward-thinking projects as the revitalization of the Larkin District. “He brings a collaborative style and philosophy to the table and he is relentless in his pursuit of a better Buffalo and Western New York. Bob and his team at UB have played an integral role in shaping our economic development planning and implementation in recent years.”
Shibley will receive his award in June at the 2014 AIA National Convention and Design Exposition in Chicago.
“While we celebrate this recognition, we have to have the courage to know that we are far from done. There is no tipping point where the path to a just and equitable city and region becomes easy,” he says. “One of the most satisfying results of my work is that conversations about planning and design in the region today are not only more sophisticated, but more inclusive than they have ever been.”
His leadership in design advocacy is evident through more than 40 years of public service spanning municipal, university, federal and state venues.
An architect and urban planner, Shibley joined UB in 1982. In 1990, he founded the Urban Design Project, an award-winning center for the study and critical practice of urban design that recently aligned with the UB Regional Institute and continues to engage in the region’s most prominent planning and development initiatives. He assumed his position as dean in 2011.
As UB’s first campus architect, Shibley led the development of an ambitious comprehensive plan that sets new standards for campus architecture and advances the competitiveness of the university.
Using the city-region as his laboratory, he has generated widely published scholarship on urban design and place-making.
In addition to his work at UB, Shibley’s administrative and design management service to New York State and the federal government produced research-based design guides and demonstration programs for public architecture. His service to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers led to a Department of Defense Meritorious Service Award that called his work the “single greatest advance in design guidance in the history of the Corps.”
The Jefferson Award is granted annually in three categories.
The other 2014 award winners are James L. Abell and Carole J. Olshavsky, who won, respectively, in categories recognizing private sector architects who have made a significant contribution to the quality of public architecture, and public sector or governmental agency architects who manage or produce quality public architecture within their jurisdiction.