Buffalo, New York is one of many U.S. cities that experienced an extreme decline in population since the mid-twentieth century. Migration out of the city has been crippling, the population declining by nearly 50 percent from
1950 to 2000. Buffalo faces the challenge of an outdated infrastructure that is much too large for its 21st Century needs. Mass exodus has left the city ravaged with vacant and abandoned properties that contribute to the cyclical decay on the city.
This Ecological Practices Research Studio explored the possibility to
reconceptualize, reuse, or repurpose the estimated 12,000 vacant houses in the City of Buffalo. The site of our investigations was an entire block on the west side of the city. Design projects sought to develop sustainable housing solutions that were not purely based on economics but posed questions about issues of material use, waste, and resource consumption.
As a case study, the studio visited rust belt cities facing similar issues, namely Youngstown, Ohio, Cleveland, Ohio, and Detroit, Michigan.
At the end of the semester, the work of the studio was presented to community organizers and architects who are working parallel to the issue of housing abandonment in the city. It is the hope that the studio will continue as a public exhibition, bringing attention to the phenomenon of shrinking cities.