campus news

UB architect’s proposal named 5/14 memorial finalist

5/14 Memorial Commission logo.


Published April 19, 2024

Jin Young Song.
“The project aims to be an agency for social justice, healing and remembrance, not only for the current community members in our time, but also for audiences nationwide and future generations. ”
Jin Young Song, associate professor
Department of Architecture

A design concept developed by a UB architecture professor is among the three finalists for Buffalo’s 5/14 memorial. The finalists’ design proposals will be submitted to the 5/14 Memorial Commission on April 22 for the final selection process.

The commission was established in fall 2022 by Gov. Kathy Hochul and Buffalo Mayor Byron W. Brown to plan a memorial that honors the lives lost and the lives impacted by the racially motivated mass shooting that took place at the Jefferson Avenue Tops Friendly Markets on May 14, 2022. The commission consists of residents, local artists, faith-based leaders, business leaders and family members of those whose lives were lost and were impacted by the mass shooting.

Jin Young Song, associate professor in the Department of Architecture, School of Architecture and Planning, teamed up with Douglass Alligood, a partner at the firm Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG), on a design concept that seeks to commemorate, remember and heal.

Alligood, a longtime mentor of Song, is a member of the AIA College of Fellows and possesses a deep understanding of African American culture and heritage. He has extensive experience in the community engagement process, particularly through his recent involvement with the National Juneteenth Museum in Fort Worth, Texas.

“We believe in the inherent power of ‘design’ — its unique capability to elevate awareness, mobilize communities, stimulate intellect, and ultimately incite meaningful action. Working together with families, community members, and the 5/14 Memorial Commission, we aim to produce an agency for social justice, healing, and remembrance, not only for our time but also for audiences nationwide and future generations,” Song and Alligood explained in their entry.

Song readily admits that society’s problems run deeper than what one building can fix. “In the face of tragedy, injustice, segregation and the urgent need for social reform, I acknowledge that a singular building project cannot cure society’s deeply entrenched issues,” he says. But, he adds, “Through this project, I hope to answer that we can see ourselves through design, we can rethink our society through design.”

The UB Regional Institute assisted with a survey to gauge the community’s interest in the type of memorial to be created, as well as the preferred location. More than 1,300 people responded to the community survey, which the 5/14 Memorial Commission launched last June; it concluded in November.

The results were shared in public meetings and included in the Part 1 Request for Submissions. After the Part 1 submission reviews, finalists were announced on March 20. Each finalist received a stipend to refine their work and develop the final design. The funding was derived from the funds generated during the 5/14 Remembrance Weekend event last year. (SUNY Trustee Eunice Lewin served as committee co-chair for that event.)

The other finalists are Watts Architecture & Engineering of Buffalo and Beehyyve, an architecture and engineering design collaborative based in Chicago. Finalists will submit their work to the 5/14 Memorial Commission on April 22.

Each entry was required to include a park-like landscape and at least one fully enclosed building, along with interpretative, artistic or educational structures and designated areas for temporary and permanent art installations.

Song and Alligood’s proposal is based on close communication with 5/14 Memorial Commission members and families, envisioning this mission with an interplay between a permanent memorial and support space where visitors and community members are invited to wander within the project. The project would be a place for remembrance and healing, providing support space for education, exhibitions, community activities and gatherings.

“Through this immersive experience, I hope audiences will walk through the memorial, read the names and catch glimpses of their reflections,” Song says. “By seeing through this memorial, we hope to ‘see ourselves’ to gain insight into our society, asking what the next step could be.”

Song hopes that regardless of whether his and Alligood’s concept is chosen, members of the UB community will participate in the community engagement process that will lead to the productive discussion on the role of design in the city.

“The project aims to be an agency for social justice, healing and remembrance, not only for the current community members in our time, but also for audiences nationwide and future generations,” says Song.