Track 4: This New World: Preservation technology and emerging issues within our historic buildings and built landscapes
4 - Silo City, Buffalo
Wednesday, September 26
8:30 AM - 10:00 AM
The grain elevators of Buffalo comprise the most outstanding collection of elevators in the United States and collectively represent the variety of construction materials, building forms and technological innovations that revolutionized the handling of grain. Although a small number of sites have been demolished, nearly twenty elevators dating from 1897 to 1954 have survived the collapse of the Great Lakes grain trade. Most are abandoned and only a few are still being used in the grain industry. Together, they form an extraordinary landscape of dense, sculptural verticality clustered along the Buffalo River.
Rick Smith bought the group of four elevators behind his metal workshop in 2005. Having prevented their demolition, removed commercial pressure and spent a decade clearing rubble, Rick and his team reopened the gates and invited people from Buffalo and beyond to help determine Silo City’s future. The site has become a laboratory for the arts and industry, with cavernous spaces and dramatic landscapes transformed through the arts, horticulture, education, urban sport and heritage tourism.
The privately-funded initiative gives the grain elevators of Silo City time and public access to see if they can find their own way forwards - part of an extraordinary experiment in slow-burn regeneration. New uses are evolving organically and intuitively through the interest of local people, underpinned by a strong sense of shared custodianship. University of Buffalo students are regular visitors. Visual arts and music festivals welcome 15,000 visitors over a single weekend. The dramatic industrial landscapes that ebb and flow between the elevators are being gradually transformed through wild flower meadows, bee gardens and sustainable riparian landscapes designed for phytoremediation, biodiversity and water management.
The project is at a critical stage, on the brink of securing pioneer tenants from which a colony can grow. The regenerative potential of the site is intertwined with the wider city, still in transition from industrial predominance with growing strengths in higher education, banking, life science and food production. As part of a potential regeneration mix, it is exciting to imagine how some of the 23 million annual visitors to Niagara Falls can be encouraged the few miles upriver to Buffalo. Material evidence of a prosperous past, Silo City has a critical role to play in pursuit of a vibrant, post-industrial future for itself and the city.
- Understand the history of Buffalo grain elevators including the variety of construction materials, building forms and technological innovations that revolutionized the handling of grain.
- Contextualize the heritage significance of Silo City regionally, nationally and internationally.
- Consider the opportunities and constraints of Silo City's "slow-burn" regeneration model, and how it compares to similar post-industrial regeneration projects.
- Consider how public engagement is shaping the regeneration of Silo City through the creative arts, education, tourism and landscaping and the implications for long-term project sustainability.