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Architecture school playing lead role in urbanism conference

By RACHEL TEAMAN

Published June 5, 2014

“This conference brings international attention to our work and to our region during one of the most promising times for the rebirth of cities and new ways of thinking about how we plan and design our communities.”
Robert Shibley, dean
School of Architecture and Planning

More than 1,200 planners, urbanists, architects and leaders of the emerging cities movement are in Buffalo this week for the Congress for New Urbanism’s national conference, and faculty members and students from UB’s School of Architecture and Planning are among those leading the conversation.

The Congress for New Urbanism is an international grassroots movement that promotes planning and design solutions for walkable, mixed-use neighborhood development, sustainable communities and healthier living conditions. Some of the latest issues in urban development are on the table for discussion at the conference, including tactics for micro-scale and “lean” urbanism, bike-friendly street design and strategies for removing freeways from downtowns.

UB architecture dean Robert G. Shibley says the siting of the organization’s 22nd annual conference in Buffalo presents a prime opportunity to showcase both the architecture school and the Buffalo region as leaders in the development of planning and policy solutions to these questions.

“This conference brings international attention to our work and to our region during one of the most promising times for the rebirth of cities and new ways of thinking about how we plan and design our communities,” says Shibley, who is moderating and presenting at several of CNU22’s workshops. “With the nation’s leading research labs on food systems planning and accessible design, and our faculty and students directly engaged in the plan-making behind Buffalo’s renaissance, the School of Architecture and Planning is catalytic. It brings new knowledge and models of practice to the process of the Buffalo comeback story.”

Indeed, the architecture school is playing a lead role in the conference, with several faculty members organizing workshops and events, and many others participating as panelists, presenters and facilitators. Among the topics they are addressing are equitable and environmentally sensitive urban development, accessible housing, transportation and food access, and urban design strategies for Niagara Falls. UB students also have led the conference’s engagement of the next generation of urban planners and are hosting several related events across the region.

The conference, which is taking place downtown in the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center and at sites throughout the region, opened June 4 and runs through June 7. For more information, visit the conference's website.

Among the CNU22 events featuring UB faculty and students:

  • Redefining Access to Housing, Transportation, & Healthy Food. Edward Steinfeld, professor of architecture and director of the Center for Inclusive Design and Environmental Access (IDeA Center), along with Jeanne Leccese, program coordinator for Growing Food Connections at the Food Systems Planning and Healthy Communities Lab, will explore universal design principles at work in transportation, housing and food systems. Will Stoner, associate state director for AARP Livable Communities, also will participate. Jordana Maisel, director of outreach and policy studies for the IDeA Center, organized the workshop and will serve as moderator.
  • Resiliency, Regional Planning, & Frameworks for Urban Development. Shibley is among several experts participating in a conversation on environmentally sensitive development and the effects of climate change and severe weather events on urban infrastructure. One Region Forward, a sustainable development planning initiative for Buffalo Niagara being led by the the UB Regional Institute, as well as New York City’s response to Hurricane Sandy, will serve as case studies. UB alumnus Alexander Morris, an architect with Wallace Roberts and Todd, a Philadelphia-based architecture and planning firm, will also present at the workshop.
  • Reviving Niagara Falls’ Urbanism. Hiroaki Hata, associate professor of architecture urban and regional planning, and several graduate architecture and urban planning students will guide a design charette on mixed-use and infill development strategies for Niagara Falls’ Main Street corridor. The charette will focus specifically on a master plan for the new Intermodal Transportation Hub in the city's North End that was developed last semester out of an urban design studio led by Hata. Niagara Falls Senior Planner Thomas DeSantis, a UB graduate, Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster and several distinguished new urbanists will lead the conversation.
  • International Approaches to Urban Sustainability. Shibley will moderate a conversation with leaders of several model initiatives in zero-carbon urban design and development, including EcoDistricts, a national network of people, tools and services to help development practitioners create resource-efficient and just neighborhoods, and Dublin’s Elm Park, an international model of compact, green development.

Nathan Neuman, a student in UB’s master of urban planning program, is co-chair of the local committee of CNU NextGen, the Next Generation of New Urbanists. In this role, he has led efforts to engage students and young urbanists, a key force in today’s revitalization of cities, in the conference. CNU has offered financial support for students, as well as discounted lodging on UB’s South Campus, to build student attendance from around the world.

Each evening of the congress, NextGen will host social, networking and participatory events to maximize the experience of attendees, engage the public, highlight Buffalo and provoke conversation. These include “Buffalo Park-In,” which will invite participants to create a pop-up park out of several on-street parking spaces in downtown Buffalo, and “Tour de Neglect,” which will guide cyclists across Buffalo’s East Side. NextGen also is sponsoring daily tours of downtown Buffalo, led by Neuman, as well as a closing party at Larkin Square. All NextGen events are free and open to the public. View the full schedule of NextGen events.

The conference also will explore sites throughout the region as exemplary forms of new urbanism, from the city’s Olmsted parks and parkway system to the village centers of Lewiston and Hamburg. Many of these — the Larkin District, the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, Silo City and Buffalo's burgeoning waterfront — are products of UB’s Downtown Campus development and the engagement of the School of Architecture and Planning for planning and design expertise. The city’s new form-based zoning code, which was developed in partnership with the UB’s Urban Design Project, also will be discussed and celebrated as a model initiative. Buffalo’s first zoning rewrite since 1953, the Buffalo Green Code is expected to bring smart growth reform to the city’s development process.