New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has announced that the Richardson Olsmted Complex, a National Historic Landmark that is widely considered to be one of Buffalo's most important and beautiful buildings, will be rehabilitated and reused as a hospitality venue and cultural amenity for the city. The design team, including New York-based Deborah Berke of Deborah Berke Partners and Buffalo-based Peter Flynn of Flynn Battaglia Architects, have high hopes of transforming the unused building into a "thoroughly modern travel and cultural experience" while maintaining a deep respect for its long history.
"Working on the rehabilitation of the Richardson Olmsted Complex is an extraordinary design opportunity," said Deborah Berke. "We are designing a 21st-century architectural addition to H. H. Richardson's spectacular 19th-century buildings that is both rooted in history and forward thinking."
This first phase of development will create a boutique hotel, event and conference spaces and an architecture center. It will include re-greening the site with new landscape and designing new circulation patterns.
Deborah Berke Partners designed a new North-side entry that will welcome visitors with a sculptural glass entry way - an illuminated portal into the central building. The firm emphasized the project's balance of the historic and the modern by juxtaposing the existing Medina sandstone with the crisp transparency of glass.
The first floor of the complex's main building houses a café, the Buffalo Architecture Center and amenities for guests and the public to enjoy. The upper three floors contain the hotel lobby and event and conference spaces. The boutique hotel's 88 guest rooms, located in the two adjacent buildings, combine features of the existing architecture with 21st-century elements to create streamlined spaces suited to the modern traveler.
The new landscape designed by Andropogon Associates is linear, defined by vegetation that creates "rooms" within the landscape, and incorporates the new entrance road that traverses from Rockwell Road to Rees Street and accommodates traffic, parking, and service. The landscape is reflective of the site's former agrarian use, inspired by the farmlands and meadows that once extended to Scajaquada Creek.
Phase I and II stabilization activities are already complete, spending $10 million to prevent further deterioration and improve safety. All buildings at risk of collapse have been stabilized and the masonry, ventilation, lighting and roof systems have been extensively repaired. Abatement and cleaning took place in the central Towers building and two adjacent buildings in preparation of rehabilitation and to enable public access.
The South Lawn landscape and circulation re-greening project is nearly complete, combining Olmsted's original vision with contemporary, sustainable design to create a healthier urban environment and multi-functional civic space. This welcoming gathering place contains rain gardens for storm water drainage and visual interest, open and canopied spaces for gathering and recreation, a pedestrian pathway and views of the historic complex.
"In addition to being one of the many architectural jewels that attract tourists to Buffalo, this project will create hundreds of construction jobs as well as permanent employment opportunities in the region," said Governor Cuomo. "The Richardson Center Corporation had been a true partner to New York State and I applaud them for their continued commitment to Buffalo."