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Historic preservation the focus of new UB programs

Aerial view of downtown Buffalo.

As the nation's eighth largest city at the turn of the last century, Buffalo is distinguished by its legacy of historic architecture and world-class urban design. Photo: Douglas Levere

By CHARLOTTE HSU

Published April 3, 2014

“For our school, it’s been a long-standing labor of love to engage the historical context of our community.”
Robert Shibley, dean
School of Architecture and Planning

The School of Architecture and Planning is offering two new programs in historic preservation: A master of science in architecture degree and an 18-credit advanced certificate program geared toward architects, planners, historians, lawyers, journalists and other professionals who feel that learning about historic preservation can advance their careers.

Both programs start in the fall. Prospective students can apply through June 1, with more information on the programs available on the architecture school website.

“For our school, it’s been a long-standing labor of love to engage the historical context of our community,” says Robert G. Shibley, dean of the School of Architecture and Planning. “We have had a long history in urban design and preservation, thinking critically about our region’s existing stock of buildings, their importance and how the fabric of our community has evolved in an industrial and increasingly post-industrial city.

“We thought there was an unmet need in the region — an underserved market of people who genuinely want to get a firmer base in historic preservation,” Shibley says.

As the nation’s eighth-largest city at the turn of the last century, Buffalo is distinguished by its legacy of historic architecture and world-class urban design. Among the region’s crown jewels are Frank Lloyd Wright’s Martin House complex, Louis Sullivan’s Guaranty Building and a Frederick Law Olmsted-designed park and parkway system. The city’s industrial landscape contains one of the nation’s largest clusters of grain elevators, widely regarded as a precedent for modernist architecture.

In this unique setting, students in the two new UB programs will:

  • Gain an understanding of the role that heritage plays in architecture and planning.
  • Learn about legislation relating to historic preservation.
  • Learn how to conduct an analysis of a building’s current condition and how to use the “tools of the trade” to draft compelling proposals for nominating buildings as historic landmarks.

Students in the master’s program will complete a capstone project that focuses on an actual building or site in the Buffalo-Niagara region. Projects could include nominating a structure as a historic landmark or developing guidelines for a new building that fits in a historic district.

The master’s program combines the study of historic preservation and urban design as a way to understand both historic resources and their urban context.

Faculty members say the new programs fill an important gap in Western New York’s educational offerings.

“Increasingly, employers in the planning- and architecture-related fields are looking to hire people that have a familiarity with historic preservation, if not a professional degree, and so we are trying to fulfill those needs,” says Ashima Krishna, assistant professor of urban and regional planning, who will teach in both new programs. Krishna, an architect and historic preservation planner, researches the preservation and management of historic landscapes in developing countries.

“Every year, we have students and architecture aficionados come from all over the world to see our architecture, and our visitors’ bureau has really focused on our region’s heritage. We have hosted major preservation and architectural history conferences,” notes Barbara A. Campagna, adjunct professor of architecture, School of Architecture and Planning alumna and seasoned preservation professional who helped organize the new programs. “It all seems to be coming together, and the one thing that seemed to be missing in the region is a preservation program.”