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Architecture and Design You Can BuffaLo(ve)

Architecture and Design You Can BuffaLo(ve)

Smile for the Camera

It came to me while taking a selfie as I raced by one of America’s greatest residential masterpieces: Buffalo is home to some truly remarkable yet humble architecture and design. Being a runner has given me the opportunity to sightsee in many attractive places but my formal training as an architect has helped me find the hidden gems. So lace up a pair of running shoes and try to keep up on my weekend jaunt through Buffalo.

Lace Up

Whether by bus, train, or car, the commute to Buffalo from the Central New York region isn’t difficult. It’s just two and a half hours away and a great city for a day or weekend trip. I usually stay downtown by the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center, which has access to public transportation and some beautiful views. This time, I made the trip to conquer my first marathon, but I’ve had the pleasure of racing in Buffalo before. You could say I’ve been around the block.

Waterfront at the Canalside dock

Canalside at Buffalo’s waterfront is my favorite place to unwind, and even grab a cocktail, the night before a race. This newly revitalized area is part of the city’s downtown corridor and is steeped in history dating back to the early 1800s. Kick back and watch the ships rock in the wharf. If you’re a history junkie, consider arriving early in the afternoon and entertain yourself in the Naval & Military Park.

Explore the Architecture

My race began bright and early the morning after I arrived. Runners gathered in droves between rich, post-industrial, brick buildings. With a strong stride, music blasting, and sharp shades I was off! The first portion of the race took me through downtown and past a great deal of urban infrastructure. But the real excitement began once I was deep in the race and had entered suburban Buffalo.

When I ran through the Parkside Neighborhood, I was happy to stumble upon one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s most refined and handsome works, the Martin Complex. The bold interplay of the home’s vertical mass along with the delicate but vast eaves of the roof were a breathtaking sight. The handsome Prairie Style structure is enough to stop anyone in their tracks.

Frank Lloyd Wright's Darwin D. Martin House

Frank Lloyd Wright’s Darwin D. Martin House

To fully understand and appreciate the Prairie style, I suggest taking the time to visit the whole complex, which includes five original parts as well as two additional structures. Upon walking onto the site, you begin to see how the parts are linked and woven into the landscape. The Martin House complex was designed in this fashion to allow for clear, linear vistas throughout the various buildings and surroundings. The interiors are just as powerful and innovative as the exteriors. Spaces flow fluidly, storage is built in, and the custom furniture compliments the material composition and construction. It is truly a symphony of parts.

Vintage wallpaper design

Vintage wallpaper design

Another neighborhood in Buffalo with engaging architecture is Front Park. And if you’re lucky, you can sneak inside a home to see it all. I was able to tour one while strolling down Columbus Parkway. It was residence constructed in the early 1900s, like many others in the neighborhood. To my delight, it still had much of the original construction intact, though some of it was deteriorating. The hardwood floors were original and creaked with every step I took. A claw-foot tub and faded wallpaper added to the eerie character of the residence. Homes like these are hidden gems in what one might overlook as just a typical suburban neighborhood.

Design Unwind

Design detail in architecture at Spot Coffee

Architectural design detail at Spot Coffee

After a walk to unwind through Front Park, try stopping for coffee at Spot Coffee on Elmwood. Spot Coffee is a community-oriented café aimed at fostering a sense of local culture. What’s most appealing is the space’s built environment and detail. There’s something whimsical about the way material joints meet and surfaces come together. If you pay attention closely, you can see colored tile mixed into the grout between the cinderblocks that construct the walls.

If you’re looking to take advantage of the evening, meander over to The Left Bank. This venue has a lounge atmosphere with a great bar and a fabulous menu. The industrial storefront is a mere reflection of the cool interior tucked into a small building. The interior architecture plays on the industrial aesthetic and the atmosphere enhanced by the cultural events and art featured at the space.

Spread the BuffaLo(ve)

Buffalo shows us there can be stunning architecture stashed around every corner. So the next time you’re venturing around CNY, remember to keep your eyes open. You never know what kind of design you might run into.

About The Author

Joseph Sgambati III

Architect // CrossFitter // Designer // Graduate Student // Runner // Writer


This site celebrates the people places, and culture that make Central New York one of the most vibrant and livable regions in the country. From Auburn to Utica, from Syracuse, to Ithaca, this is LivableCNY.

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