This article is from the archives of the UB Reporter.

Bronze book will introduce airport travelers to Buffalo's history, architecture and points of civic pride

Published: July 1, 2004

Contributing Editor

A 2,000-pound, "operable" bronze book, the pages of which chart the history and physical development of the City of Buffalo and describe many points of its civic pride, was installed in The Gallery at the Buffalo Niagara International Airport on Tuesday, where it will be exhibited through December.


The bronze book, which was installed on Tuesday at the Buffalo Niagara International Airport, was produced by UB faculty members and students through a university-funded, interdisciplinary collaborative venture.

The bronze book was produced between 1999-2002 by UB faculty members and students through a university-funded, interdisciplinary, collaborative venture, "The Public Casting of Cities."

"The goal of the project," says principal investigator Frank Fantauzzi, associate professor in the Department of Architecture in the School of Architecture and Planning, "was to offer a reconsideration of public art for a lay audience—to explore new forms of public art and in particular, discover how public art contributes to the construction of civic identity."

Kent Kleinman, chair of the Department of Architecture, notes that "any verbal description of the scope and quality of this work will be woefully inadequate."


This detail of page 4 of the book shows the Buffalo street plan, a map of the harbor and Buffalo River, the Old County Courthouse, the H.H. Richardson Complex and grain elevators.

"It involved creating dozens of low-relief models of Buffalo's great and minor icons, casting them in bronze and compiling them into a large, 12-leaf, book-like structure made of milled-bronze stock and bronze counterweights. The casting was done in the Casting Center in the Center for the Arts."

The 12 pages of the book turn to reveal more than 50 highly detailed bronze castings of the most significant buildings in Buffalo's history, the city's original radial street plan and an historic timeline in bronze that records major events in the founding and development of the city.

A full-color, richly illustrated booklet accompanies the exhibit and describes the methodology of the project and its results. The weight of each page prohibits the public from turning the pages by themselves. Fantauzzi says a new page will be turned every week or two, to give viewers an opportunity to see the entire contents of the book.

Lawrence M. Meckler, NFTA executive director, says the NFTA is very pleased to be able to display the bronze book at the airport.

"Visitors to our community and local residents alike will be awed by the size and dynamics of this impressive bronze book that so uniquely captures images of our community," he adds.

The project involved the departments of Architecture and Urban and Regional Planning in the School of Architecture and Planning, and the departments of Art and History in the College of Arts and Sciences.

In addition to Fantauzzi, the project was directed by Anthony Dong, UB adjunct professor of architecture, and local architect and UB architecture alumnus David Zielinski, M.Arch. '00, B.P.S., '95. Significant assistance was provided by Shahin Vassigh, associate professor of architecture; former architecture student David Willard and Burke Paterson and Julie Silver, both former technology directors of the UB Casting Institute.

Fantauzzi says that from the onset, the team brought methods and dealt with issues from several fields, including historical narratives in literary, visual and oral form; vernacular and public architectural design; urban planning; drawing; sculpture, and other forms of visual art.

"We conceived the bronze book in 1999 as an homage to the 20th century—a 'final book' at a time when new technologies threaten to eliminate traditional books as we know them," Fantauzzi says.

"Buffalo has an extensive collection of important buildings, of course, so inevitably, the bronze book must be seen as an open-ended document and not a definitive portrait of the City of Buffalo, which continues to be drawn, even as we speak."