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Buffalo Architecture, The Next Generation?

After seeing a number of interesting modern Buffalo infill housing projects (new and proposed) popping up on the internet social media scene, my interest was piqued. Who is doing this work?  Turns out they were all coming from the same young Buffalo architecture firm, Abstract Architecture, PC.

You likely know Abstract Architecture through their sprawling Buffalo RiverWorks complex.  The industrially-inspired architectural form can hold as many as 5,000 people for various events including roller derby, ice skating, and concerts.  It has been a transformative project on the Buffalo River.

Buffalo RiverWorks


The firm is currently completing work on a wonderful renovation to 313 Broadway, which will house their office and a residential apartment.  The 1892 building was designed by George Metzger as a wholesale grocery.  It includes a spectacular original cornice and three gracious arched windows along the street.  This will be a stunning reuse in a part of the city that really needs it.313 Broadway


Their small portfolio is quite varied,  including residential and commercial projects, renovations and new builds.  Housing is what they proclaim as their true love, however.  This love shines through in their work.

This stone house, dubbed Ellicottville Stone House is historically inspired, but is designed with quite a bit of skill.  Notice that the outer walls are full depth random rough cut stone with true supporting stone arches.  Magnificent!Elicottville Stone House


As nice as the Ellicottville house is, it was the series of modern houses, designed for narrow city lots, that caught my eye. They are simple, quiet, and sit well with their neighbors. Here are some examples.

The client for this live/work loft renovation in the Larkinville neighborhood was so happy with their new home that they hired Abstract to design a carriage house for the same site at the back of the property.  The little carriage house has a ground floor garage with an upper apartment.  I believe this is the first new building of this type to be allowed under the City’s recently ratified Green Code.  The design is fresh and urban in the best way.  I would love to see a whole row of these.  
Seneca Street live/work

Seneca Street carriage house


This Niagara Street container house is fully permitted and ready to start construction.  Look for shovels in the ground this spring. The large second floor porch creates an inviting street front in spite of the garage at the first floor.  The glass garage doors also do a lot to enliven the public facade.  If built as rendered, the modern house is appropriately scaled and will be an interesting counterpoint to its traditional neighbors.
Niagara Container House


This house below, designed to fit on a lot as narrow as 16 feet wide, was originally proposed for empty property on Bremen Street.  The architect notes that the original project fell through but they have not given up on having it constructed, even if they have to do it themselves. This would be a wonderful contemporary infill to see come to reality. Its simple form with rich materials would be a refreshing change from the dull plastic coated new builds all too common in Buffalo these days.

Bremen Street proposal 


It will be exciting to see what this firm produces as they mature.  Let’s hope they fill Buffalo’s streets with wonderful innovative urban projects and perhaps ignite a trend toward better new architecture in the city.

Written by David Steele

David Steele

Architect ( a real one, not just the armchair type), author of "Buffalo, Architecture in the American Forgotten Land" ( www.blurb.com ), lover of great spaces, hater of sprawl and waste,
advocate for a better way of doing things.

View All Articles by David Steele
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