Architectural Styles in Buffalo

Commercial Architectural Styles in Buffalo, NY

Definition of commercial: A term used to refer to any party or organization involved in producing, transporting, or merchandising a commodity. Examples:  Bank buildings, Factory buildings, Hotels, Mixed use buildings, Office buildings, Restaurants, Retail, Skyscrapers.

Extant commercial style building in Buffalo, New York, begins in the Victorian era.

Other broad classifications: Residential, Civic, Ecclesiastical

Victorian Commercial Architecture: In contrast to earlier architectural styles based on Classical Greek and Roman models (Federal, Greek Revival), the Victorian era encompassed a number of architectural revival styles, including Gothic Revival, Italianate, Second Empire, Queen Anne and Richardsonian Romanesque. Many of these styles were popularized by Andrew Jackson Downing and Richard M. Upjohn, both of whom wrote highly influential pattern books.

Victorian ornamentation: Terra cotta and the introduction of cast iron work (heyday in the 1870s) and pressed/stamped tinwork (especially on cornices) allowed buildings in the Victorian era to have as much detail as the imagination, or pocketbook, could afford.

Victorian technology: After the Civil War, because of the railroad, builders were no longer dependent upon local materials. In addition, balloon-frame construction, invented in the early 19th century in Chicago, was now being employed across the country. This technique used light, pre-cut studs held together by mass-produced factory-made nails, which allowed for quicker and easier construction than the heavy logs attached with hand-cut nails used in frame houses. Meanwhile, electricity, water and sewage systems, and other technological advancements allowed for even further development of architecture.

In the late 19th century, metal skeleton framing, first in cast and wrought iron, later in steel, was foremost among the new technological developments.

1840-1900 Romanesque Revival
1840-1890 First Renaissance Revival
  • Late cast iron facades
  • Classical ornamentation
1850-1885 Italianate
  • Shorefronts have broad expanses of plate-glass windows framed by round columns or pilasters with rich capitals
  • Upper story windows may be headed by round arches with projecting keystones
  • Flat roof line
  • Projecting cornices with modillions or brackets
1860-1880 Second Empire
1870-1920 Georgian (Colonial) Revival
  • Main door is the principal ornamental feature
  • Cornice usually emphasized by decorative moldings, most commonly with tooth-like dentils
1880-1910 Queen Anne
  • Asymmetrical
  • Variety of forms, textures, materials and colors
  • May include towers, turrets, tall chimneys, oriels
  • Textured wall surfaces may include corbels
1880-1900 Eastlake
  • Not universally viewed as a separate style
  • Massive, robust pillars or collumns
  • In towns and small
    cities across the country, storefronts with Eastlake ornamentation were typically executed in cast iron, and were incorporated into brick buildings.

1870-1900 Richardsonian Romanesque
  • Heavy, solid, rugged brick and stone
  • Massive low arches
  • Imaginative towers, turrets and dormers
  • Widows are variously shaped and sized
1895-1920 Beaux Arts
  • Classical ornamentation, although often overly elaborate , e.g., hanging fruit on capitals, wreaths, festoons, cartouches, figure sculpture
  • Sometimes terra cotta facade
  • Sometimes Neoclassical style featuring monumental columns
  • Domed central section
End of 19th century Art Nouveau  
1895-1920 Second Renaissance Revival  
1895-1950 Neoclassical
  • Derived from Greek, Roman and renaissance sources
  • Fatures
1895-1950 Temple Front
  • Imposing Classical columns
  • Facades derived from Greek, and Roman temples
  • Used only for banks
1890-1915 Commercial or Chicago Style
  • Commercial and office form that developed in the late nineteenth century, primarily in response to the new technologies that permitted greater physical height and larger expanses of open floor space.
  • Sometimes termed the "Chicago Style" because experimentation with the form flourished in that city after the 1871 fire.
  • Metal skeleton framing, first in cast and wrought iron, later in steel, was foremost among the new technological developments.
  • Typically five or more stories in height, the Commercial Style's character derives from its fenestration. Whereas load-bearing masonry walls admitted relatively few windows, the new structural skeleton permitted maximum light and ventilation. The fenestration pattern is usually regular with large divided rectangular windows.
  • A common window type is the "Chicago window," a three-part window with a large rectangular fixed central light flanked by two narrow, double-hung sashes.

    After 1885 Tall building
    • Vertical shape
    • "Wedding cake" design with various horizontal designs atop one another - as opposed to soaring vertical bands used in skyscrapers
    • Classical ornamentation
    • Steel skeleton (sometimes in combination with masonry walls)
    1891- Early skyscraper
    • Early skyscrapers were tall multi-storyy buildings with a steel skeleton as opposed to constructions of load-bearing masonry; today, construction is based on reinforced concrete.
    • Early skyscrapers: Elaborate upper stories function as a classical capital,
    • Early skyscrapers: Identical intermediate stories ("Early skyscrapers") function as a tall shaft
    • Early skyscrapers: Lower stories function as a heavy base, a strong horizontal motif
    1900- Daylight factory
    • Embedded steel rods in concrete to create a strong, fireproof structural system that supported concrete slab floors.
    • Especially suited to multistoried indus
    • Large windows filled the spaces between the exposed concrete frame, admitting abundant light and fresh air to each floor
    • Elevators and hoists linked the various work levels
    1900-1930 Early Twentieth Century Commercial

    Often one-story, flat-roofed

    • Patterned masonry wall
    • Shaped parapets at the roofline that were often uninterrupted by a projecting cornice
    • Large rectangular windows arranged in groups.
    • Chicago window
    • Plain, flat appearance that is relieved by the use of
      panels of brick laid in patterns and sparingly used inset accents of tile, concrete, limestone or terra cotta.
    1900-1930 Two-part block
    • The most common form for small and moderate-sized commercial buildings
    • Limited to two to five stories
    • Horizontal division into two distinct zones: The street level indicates public spaces for commercial enterprises, while the upper section suggests more private spaces reserved for offices, meeting halls or apartments.
    • Varying stylistic details, .e.g., Eastlake, Tudor Revival
    1925-1940 Art Deco
    • Geometric reduced or simplified ("stylized") Classical or Gothic ornamentation, e.g., Greek key, urns, octagon shapes, zigzags, chevrons
    • Intricately decorated spandrel panels
    • vertical design
    • Found in hotels, stores, high-rise offices
    1930-1945 Art Moderne
    • Horizontal design
    • Curved corners
    • Banded windows
    • Smooth and shiny surfaces
    • Neon lights
    Early twentieth century, but especially after WWII Modern
    • Simplification of form and the elimination of ornament
    1970-present Postmodern    

    See also:

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