While many people may think of the grain silos and elevators as an abandoned part of the city, where monstrous buildings wait to crumble, they might be surprised to learn that a faction of University at Buffalo students feel otherwise. In fact, UB students can be found at Silo City on just about any given day. What are they doing down there? Well, it turns out that Silo City is a very inspirational place for architecture and design students. There is no other place, possibly in the world, that is so conducive to unleashing the creative energy necessary for the students to thrive. Take the Marine A grain silo for example – it’s ginormous, it’s dry, it’s well-lit, it’s near the water, it’s empty, and it’s not going anywhere. Students can bolt projects into the walls, play loud music, host visitors to come see their work, create works without being interrupted, build large scale installations… for UB students and their professors, having access to the grain elevators and silos is a dream come true.
Over the next few days I will be featuring the architectural and design installations created by the students for their year end thesis work. Thanks to the progressive and visionary nature of Jean La Marche, Associate Professor of the Department of Architecture at the University at Buffalo, as well as the inspirational crew down at Silo City, Buffalo is home to stellar works of architectural ingenuity that are only made possible thanks to a one-of-a-kind industrial landscape.
Following is a description of Allison Adderley’s work that was constructed and hung inside the last silo of Marine A:
The ambition for this thesis was to interrogate the relationship between the act of making and the design process. The final installation explores this through a reinterpretation of the casting process, creating a more integrated relationship between form and formwork. Here, the formwork used (a fusible fabric) is suspended, utilizing the existing site openings as anchoring points.
The process is parasitic in nature, using existing conditions to dictate form and its relationship to space. Contrary to traditional formwork, each element here functions both as a construction component, as well as an architectural one. The fabric remains permanent, absorbing into the wet concrete and adding structural integrity. The fabric formwork also allows excess water to filter out, creating a more desirable cement to water ratio, increasing the strength.
The cables by which the fabric is suspended also double as internal reinforcement, projecting outside of the concrete and forming a secondary spatial relationship to the site. The result is a surface defined by the forces of gravity, site, weather, function and process; capturing the intimate relationship of each at a specific moment in time. It is both art and architecture, defined not only by its outward appearance, but also by its material and structural efficiency as both a building system and spatial generator.
Author’s note: As an aside, while I was down at Marine A photographing the installations, a local band, The TIns was shooting a music video inside. The musicians had hooked up a generator and were filming while Allison Adderley was on the opposite end with her installation. The silo was alive with activity – a new generation of Buffalonians had discovered what so many others refuse to see… without much money and support, these silos can be activated to allow creative energy to flow, and by doing that Buffalo can lay claim to an industrial and architectural heritage that is finally reawakening in a completely grassroots manner.