Mark Byrnes is a senior associate editor at CityLab who writes about design and architecture.
A Buffalo light show aims to turn the city's symbols of decline into a flashy tourist draw.
Buffalo is ready to put its long-neglected grain elevators back to use, this time in service of tourism.
The Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation just rolled out a four-stage plan to illuminate the grain elevators along the city's waterfront. It's an attempt to attract more visitors and, perhaps more importantly, to put to rest the negative association grain elevators have with Buffalo's economic decline.
Despite acclaim from the likes of LeCorbusier and Reyner Banham, the grain elevator tends to be seen as burdens from the past by locals. This is beginning to change though thanks to the emergence of Silo City, a project that has so far included art shows inside the old silos and the nationally acclaimed bee hive concept, "Elevator B."
The ECHDC, already responsible for Canalside, a sweeping redevelopment of Buffalo's inner harbor, is hoping to build off the momentum along the city's waterfront by creating an attraction that'll help reshape Buffalo's image. "It will change how we see ourselves and where we live, and it will change how visitors from near and far see us again," Albright-Knox Art Gallery director, Janne Siren told the Buffalo News.
Ambiences Design Production will be doing the illumination work. It has garnered acclaim for a similar project it developed in Quebec City, one which started off as a one-time event to commemorate the city's 400th anniversary only to be so successful however, that it has since become an annual event. It's now seen by the city as one of its most compelling tourist draws.
For a sense of how the show will work in Buffalo, here's how a test run went last fall along a portion of the "Pool Elevator" on the outer harbor:
The project's first phase is scheduled to begin in 2014. Funding for phase one ($5 million) is expected to be approved by the ECHDC this Wednesday.
All images courtesy Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation