I had breakfast with Queenseyes a few days ago, and he
offhandedly showed me a picture of a very unusual new house under construction
in Buffalo. Of course, I could not wait to see it in person. The
House is on Bird Avenue at Ashland. It is wedged into a tight urban site.
Though it could easily be imagined as a NASA prototype for living on
Mars, it also fits well in its more local Buffalo urban environment. It
fits so well, as a matter of fact, that I had to circle the block twice to find
The new house was designed by architect and UB School of
Architecture professor Adam Sokol (presumably for his own residence). Its
shape is both radical and not so radical at the same time. Though its
composition and use of materials is not traditional in any sense it does take
many cues from its surroundings. You could describe the house as a modern
take on the shingle style. The shingle style, like this house, used
exuberant and experimental compositions with taught surfaces of wood shingles
to create a new form of Architecture. In place of wood shingles, this new
Buffalo house is covered with charcoal black shakes, made of environmentally
sustainable recycled rubber/plastic.
Its highly experimental shape gives the house a dynamic
sculptural presence. But it respects its urban constraints, allowing it
to exist in peace with its much older neighbors. Its asymmetrical
roof line takes cues from adjacent houses, matching up with their eves.
Its setback from the road also matches adjacent houses. A dramatic
cantilever offers a simple solution to the need for the evil parking space and
could double as a front porch by simply moving the car. It is hard to
convey the true qualities of this house in photographs. The shape changes
as you move around, and the striations on the shingles provide a subtle play of
light and texture.
When looking at this Bird house I could not help thinking of the
scattered plastic-sided houses being built on the East Side of the city in
increasing numbers. These new East Side houses offer nothing special to
the city, nothing unique, nothing that will provide for a sustainable
environment, and nothing that will create urban environments to last
generations. This Bird house is probably too expensive and custom to be a
prototype for new-builds on the East Side, but it certainly it offers a clue as
to what should be planned for that distressed part of the city if we are ever
going to attract new people with new ideas to – not just the East Side – but
WNY in general.
I have an email in to the architect. I will update the
story if I hear back from him.