200 Niagara Street, Buffalo, NY
Rudolph’s original scheme, composed of monumental, terraced, prefabricated housing structures, provided an ambitious alternative to high-rise dwelling that was meant to recall the complexity and intimacy of old European settlements.
[Arthur] Drexler exhibited Rudolph’s original, much more dramatic scheme for Buffalo’s Shoreline Apartments alongside pending projects by Philip Johnson and Kevin Roche in an exhibition entitled Work in Progress. The projects on display were compiled to represent a commitment “to the idea that architecture, besides being technology, sociology and moral philosophy, must finally produce works of art.”
Completed in 1972, the 142-unit low-income housing development was featured in both the September 1972 issue of Architectural Record as well as the 1970 exhibition at New York’s Museum of Modern Art. Like many of their contemporaries, the inventive, complex forms and admirable social aspirations of the development have been overshadowed by disrepair, crime, and startling vacancy rates (30 percent in 2006 according to Buffalo Rising).
The Shoreline Apartments that stand today represent a scaled down version of the original plan. Featuring shed roofs, ribbed concrete exteriors, projecting balconies and enclosed gardens, the project combined Rudolph’s spatial radicalism with experiments in human-scaled, low-rise, high-density housing developments. The project’s weaving, snake-like site plan was meant to create active communal green spaces, but, like those of most if its contemporaries, the spaces went unused, fracturing the fabric of Buffalo.
- Nick Miller, "Five Paul Rudolph Buildings Under Threat in Buffalo," The Architect' s Newspaper, Nov. 5, 2013
|Paul Rudolph brought his singular brand of sculptural modernism
to Western New York in the early 1970s. In a span of two years,
three buildings were built to his designs: the Waterfront School and Community Center (1974-1977) design concept by Rudolph and executed by local architects Hess and Gorey, the Earl W. Brydges Public Library in Niagara Falls (1973-1974) and the Shoreline Apartments
in downtown Buffalo (1971-1974). The Waterfront School and
Shoreline Apartments face one another across a wide expanse of green
which has never been used or landscaped in the way it was intended.
It is easy to blame the buildings and grounds for the vacancy rates and crime in modern public housing developments. But a walk around the site today, shows blocks full of buildings in various states of repair with little thought given or planning to the expansive land on which it sits. The private balconies and garden courts are desirable features in high-end condos all over town and the 9.5 acres of mostly ill-used land would be desirable in any city. A good architect and landscape architect, with the ability to respect Rudolph’s intent while recommending native and sustainable land use approaches, could do wonders with this complex.
- Barbara A. Campagna, "Paul Rudolph’s Shoreline Apartments in Buffalo, NY Face an Imminent Threat", DOCOMOMO Jan. 15, 2014