Buffalo Tales- Part 1: The Queen City of the Lakes

While the focus of my trip back East was my Dad’s birthday, I did manage to squeeze in a side trip to Buffalo. I went to college in Buffalo, and have a long-standing love affair with the place.  Buffalo’s unique history has resulted in an incredible collection of buildings and landscapes unrivaled by any other American city its size. Most date from the first half of the 20th century, Buffalo’s golden years. Like many rust-belt cities, the second half of the century was difficult; the city lost half its population;( in 1900 it was the 9th largest city in the US, today its 69th). So, like Detroit , Cleveland, and others in the area, Buffalo has much that has been abandoned. Its part economics, and part just numbers- imagine San Francisco suddenly having 400,000 fewer people living here. So, this duality; the glorious past that is lovingly maintained and thriving, and that which has been abandoned, at least for now, is the subject of these two posts.01_buffalo


Its 1901, Buffalo is at the height of its glory, and it shares its wealth and beauty to the world in the form of 1901 Pan-American Exposition, seen below. Buffalo is a center of industry, it is superbly located at a confluence of land, water, and rail, it had produced two presidents, and , not surprisingly, had become a place of great wealth. With this wealth, came the natural desire to create landmark buildings. And this desire called on the best architectural and planning minds of the day. These were great years in Buffalo, with the only pockmark (and perhaps a portent of things to come),  the assassination of President McKinley at the Exposition.


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The Grand Tour.5- A Detour to Stanford

Part 5 in the the Bay circumambulation is a bit of detour inland, to Stanford. I have never really walked around this campus much, though I did a bit of work there  a number of years ago. The campus is studded with buildings by rock-star architects, but  the original quad is the most compelling part of the campus. The trip also included a visit, and tour, of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Hanna House nearby. I’ll write about that later on. It was about a 5 mile saunter, down and back from San Francisco on Caltrain. Here’s the route:


First, a bit of background on Stanford.  Stanford was founded by railroad kingpin Leland Stanford, and named the school in honor of his only child, Leland Jr, who died of typhoid at a young age. The campus owns over 8,000 acres, making it the largest campus in the world in terms of contiguous land.  The initial conceptual planning was done by famed landscape architect Frederick Law Olmstead (of Central Park fame, among others). The University began accepting students in 1891, with the inner quadrangle completed (almost) for the opening. The quadrangle is rendered in the Mission Revival style; golden sandstone, muscular arches, deeply recessed windows, and red tile roofs. It establishes the character for the rest of the campus.


Stanford was on break the week I was there ( at least I assume so- it was a gorgeous day and no one was around- maybe a vastly more studious bunch than I imagined). As a result, this part of the campus felt extra Mission-y, one could imagine oneself living the monk’s life, quietly contemplating the deeper questions of life in the cool shaded arcades. On a depopulated day like this, the experience was memorable.

One of the challenges with a campus that has a very clearly defined(re:limiting) vocabularly, is how to add to it. A walk through the campus reveals the challenge of this, both the successes and failures, even for Star-chitects. Here’s Sir Norman Foster’s (they don’t mess around at Stanford) 2003 Biomedical Sciences Building; my favorite- a sinuous glassy u with offices and classrooms opening to the court on the inside, foster-3foster01,yet respectful of the campus rhythyms on the outside. One great thing about pristine glassy school buildings where students and profs work and teach, is all the interesting ‘lived-in’crap that ends up at the expensive glass facades; stuffed animals, pizza boxes, even skeletons.

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