Architect Magazine Showcases Rust Belt Architecture Schools, Including our Collaboration with the University at Buffalo

Boston Valley Terra is pleased to see the press the University at Buffalo School of Architect of Planning had been receiving lately for their programs focus on equitable, sustainable and well-designed environments. We are proud of the many projects we’ve worked on in collaboration with this institution. This article, featured on, discusses the influence legacy cities, such as Buffalo, NY, have on design education.

TITLE: A Rust Belt Education
How design students in legacy cities like Detroit, Buffalo, and Cleveland are helping to revive their local communities.
SOURCE: Architect Magazine
DATE: Thursday, August 25, 2016
WRITTEN BY: Amanda K. Hurley 
See the original article at

UB School of Architecture and Planning, Boston Valley Terra Cotta, Ang Li, Terra Cotta, Rust Belt, Albert Kahn

Ang Li’s “No Frills” was created in collaboration with the University at Buffalo School of Architect and Planning & Boston Valley Terra Cotta.

Ask Robert Shibley, FAIA, the dean of the University at Buffalo’s School of Architecture and Planning, if being in a “legacy” city influences design education at his institution, and he doesn’t hesitate: “You bet. We’re a consulting firm that never goes home when the job’s done,” he says. “You’ve got the cheapest lab in the world, which is right outside your door. You have to imagine ways of building value into it.”

Perhaps no other American architecture school has done that as much as Buffalo’s has. In 1990, Shibley established an urban-design center within the school that created a comprehensive city plan as well as a set of strategic plans for downtown, waterfront, and Frederick Law Olmsted–designed parks. In 2011, the year Shibley became dean, the center became the UB Regional Institute. It has joined teams that worked on a federally funded roadmap for sustainable development in the Buffalo region and the Buffalo Billion plan, which guides Governor Andrew Cuomo’s investment of $1 billion in the area’s economy.

The institute established a Citizen Planning School—a free program in key planning issues and tactics for any resident of Erie or Niagara counties—to foster broad, informed public engagement in local planning. It also helped rewrite the city’s building and zoning codes. “The advantage of being in a Rust Belt city is, you’re invited,” Shibley says. “I’m on a first-name basis with most of the politicians in town. They know our programs and [our] work.”

Not all of the work coming out of Buffalo is wonky plans—much of it is hands-on. As a thesis project several years ago, four students bought a dilapidated house for $6,500, transformed it into a stylish 650-square-foot tiny home, and moved in. Current students work with Boston Valley, a local manufacturer of architectural terra-cotta, on developing new digital fabrication tools for the traditional craft.

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