Buffalo: Aim For Sky

Location:Buffalo, New York
Site:1,000,000 m²
Client:Empire State Development

Buffalo was the gateway to the Midwest thanks to the Erie Canal construction in 1825. The Erie Canal provided a direct water route from New York City to the Midwest, triggering large-scale commercial and industrial development as well as migration. The growth of Buffalo went so far that the highway structure (Skyway) was built in 1950 to connect the city with industrial developments. Skyway was part of the urban silhouette of Buffalo for a long time. It eventually became a part of the image of the coastal front albeit being obsolete since the last decade. Currently, the City seeks design alternatives about the revitalization of the area skywalk passes through. We seek an answer to a fundamental question: how should this area be transformed? We brainstorm the alternative parameters to develop our concept. We believe that the Skywalk holds great potential and therefore, we propose re-utilization of the structure. Our proposal goes beyond merely suggesting the transformation of the existing road structure to a green space project. We propose a new landscape and urban design approach that integrates digital technologies into placemaking. The concept of the proposed project is shaped by a compact helix of three notions-Recreation, Experience, and Circulation- along the Skywalk corridor, thus creating the REC.

We propose a green belt integrated with the coastal front; a social zone that is connecting all types of social and cultural activities ( Buffalo Skyway); a linear urban development along the coast; a radial city development at the skywalk-downtown intersection; a new tram route between existing rail line and the metro line, protection of existing wetland area and wetland park, and the revitalization of riverfront. We also propose the gradual transition from urban to the rural matrix, using the skywalk structure as the connector; the use of the transition area between the skywalk and the ground; occasional vertical structures to connect different elevations; the reuse of the abandoned industrial buildings. Finally, we propose strategies such as enhancing the legibility of the industrial heritage, supporting their reuse, and incorporating these areas with the skywalk.

The recreation experience has begun to be digital beyond the physical with the increasing use of the internet and social media tools and platforms. Subjects such as content production, creating memories, and making experiences permanent has changed people’s routines. With this new trend, providing a digital experience that integrates with the physical experience of people proposes unlimited possibilities. This experience can be personalized and enriched based on the individual’s creativity. Therefore, the project goes beyond being a mere green space project. With the green screen areas in the field, users will create their memories while creating an interactive production platform with new content and memo fragments.

We focus our research on four topics -the emerging sectors and trends in the global economy, the role of social media tools in the society, the world views towards global and ecological concerns, and the utilization of renewable energy resources. We believe that the potentials of the Skyway corridor can only be sustained by strengthening the value of the space and its relations with its environment through flexible and sustainable design solutions. Within this context, we propose a new pattern of production exclusively involving local people, socially and economically. The Buffalo skyway should be designed holistically to elaborate contemporary approaches, integrate the latest technologies, and preserve the site’s unique cultural and natural values as well as Buffalo identity. Today, the contribution of technology, social media, and movie industry is inevitable in the physical, social and economic development of cities. This trend will most likely continue with a higher intensity in the future.

Traditional experience is solid, defined, and most of the time physical. Nowadays, however, this defined border becomes blurry and some different options emerge with technology. The new experience proposes unlimited choices based on people’s imagination. The skywalk creates two planes, the ground and the bridge. The space between these planes also proposes exciting opportunities for new programs. This whole system can be a new landmark for Buffalo.

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