I’ve been to my share of architectural unveilings over the last few years. I’ve witnessed unforgettable moments when home runs like the The Burchfield-Penney, Granite Works, the FLW Boathouse, the Webb Building were unleashed to the public. These are such special occasions that make incredible impacts on our city. Yesterday I was able to witness yet another incredible architectural feat; the completion of the Darwin Martin House Complex Visitor Center.
When I got the heads up a couple of days ago that architect Toshiko Mori was going to be in town to present the architectural masterpiece, I thought to myself, “Wow… is it really completed?” It was merely one year go (almost to the day) when WCP posted that construction on the Greatbatch Pavilion was to start. At the time, it was almost inconceivable that the one-year construction schedule would be possible. Thankfully, supporters of the grassroots effort can now herald the triumphant arrival of Phase IV component of the restoration of the Frank Lloyd Wright’s Darwin Martin House.
To walk through the pavilion is to experience the dawn of a new architectural age in Buffalo. The ultra-modern visitor’s center is beyond anything that we could have hoped for. The sleek rooflines and eternal glass skin immerse visitors into a world where two modern masterpieces play off, and at times mimic, each other. Incredibly, Toshiko has managed to create the ultimate theatre from which one can view the star. And she’s done it in a way that creates no animosity between the two. The hi-lights of the pavilion are seamless and subtle, unlike the bold, resilient features of the Martin House.
I’m a big fan of sci-fi movies. I couple of my favorites are 2001: A Space Odyssey and Blade Runner for the sheer creativity in which they present different looks at the future of technology. The sophisticated sustainable technology incorporated into the visitor center and interpretive gallery is phenomenal. A transparent projection wall doubles as a glass corridor. The electronic shading (Blade Runner-esque) has built in sensors in order to detect temperature, sunlight and carbon dioxide, thus maintaining a constantly pleasant indoor atmosphere. The radiant heat floors (thermowells) allow for a totally silent viewing experience – there are no distracting air conditioning or heating units. The three perfectly placed interactive touch flat screens are inviting to play with and surprisingly informative for both native Buffalonians and visitors to the region. I still can’t get the scene in 2001: A Space Odyssey out of my head when HAL 9000’s central core is being shut down… remember those glowing lucite cards?
Attendance to the visitor center is expected to range between 40,000 and 50,000 people a year. That translates to a whopping $15,000,000 to $20,000,000 in tourism dollars. The organic architecture has sprung up virtually overnight. I am still having a hard time believing that this wonderful building is there at all – as the Martin House Complex is now 75% complete, we can already bask in its glory thanks to the team that made the dream of the Greatbatch Pavilion a reality.