Best in Show: The Winners of the 2018 Driehaus Preservation Awards
Tuesday, October 16, 2018 | Chris Warren, National Trust for Historic Preservation
The three winners of the 2018 Richard H. Driehaus Foundation National Preservation Awards represent different cities and feature varying architectural styles. But they have one thing in common: They’re all standout examples of adaptive reuse. The developers of Crosstown Concourse in Memphis, Tennessee, took an old Sears and turned it into a mixed-use hub with housing, offices, and retail. In Buffalo, New York, a former asylum is now an elegant hotel and conference center. And the Page Woodson School in Oklahoma City has been converted into 60 units of much-needed affordable housing.
Each of these projects transformed a beautiful but deteriorating structure into a thriving, dynamic community that positively affects its neighborhood. You can read about them below and see the awards presentation in person at the National Trust’s PastForward conference in San Francisco November 13–16, 2018. The Driehaus Awards will be presented at the conference’s welcome and reception on the evening of November 14, which will serve as the National Trust’s annual membership meeting for the purpose of electing National Trust board members. (Visit SavingPlaces.org/board-of-trustees to review this year’s slate of trustee nominees.)
Richardson Olmsted Campus—Buffalo, New York
When Corey Fabian-Borenstein leads tours of the Richardson Olmsted Campus in Buffalo, New York, she knows to expect visitors from around the world. The 13 sandstone and brick buildings on the 42-acre property were designed by famed architect Henry Hobson Richardson, and its grounds were created by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux. So it’s understandable that people would be willing to travel great distances to get a close look at the campus, originally built as the Buffalo State Asylum for the Insane in 1871.
Many visitors to the Romanesque Revival–style structures also associate the long-abandoned campus with its historical role as a hospital for the mentally ill. “This building was very inaccessible to the public for over a century,” says Fabian-Borenstein, the site’s manager of visitor experiences. “It was a closed-off state hospital, and there were not a lot of facts about the facility running around in the community. In the vacuum, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest steps in, which is really not what it was like at all.”
For instance, Fabian-Borenstein has often heard people repeat their belief that patients were kept locked in the main building’s towers. “There has never been anything in the towers. They are just there to be decorative and lovely,” she says.
In part, opening the doors to the public is aimed at busting myths about the facility’s history. But it’s also a way to invite support and input for the new history being crafted ever since the campus reopened its three central buildings in April of 2017. A team made up of Flynn Battaglia Architects, Deborah Berke Partners, Goody Clancy, and Andropogon Associates collaborated on the design for the luxurious Hotel Henry Urban Resort Conference Center, which now occupies these structures, including the tower-topped main building. The farm-to-table restaurant 100 Acres is located on the first floor of the same building, and the Lipsey Architecture Center of Buffalo is tucked into the first floor and lower level.
The founder of the soon-to-open architecture center was Stanford Lipsey, a former publisher of The Buffalo News who launched an effort to save and repurpose the campus in the early 2000s. Lipsey arrived in Buffalo in the 1980s after Warren Buffett bought the newspaper and asked him to turn it around. “When Stan came here, he told me he saw a Buffalo that was down and out and struggling,” recalls Monica Pellegrino Faix, former executive director of the Richardson Center Corporation, the entity founded to preserve the property.
“He saw these great architectural gems. And while he wanted to rejuvenate the paper, he also wanted to help Buffalo look at a new future.”
The combination of Lipsey’s advocacy and support from the local community resulted in the $100 million redevelopment of the campus, which was funded by $76.5 million from New York state and $17 million in federal and state historic tax credits, as well as philanthropic contributions. The result is a property that is both thriving and looking optimistically toward the future, as the next 10 buildings await ideas for potential development.
Whatever takes shape on the remainder of the Richardson Olmsted Campus, it’s certain to help build momentum for Buffalo’s ongoing revival. “This is a city block that was virtually vacant, abandoned. It was a wall between all of these great neighborhoods and the city’s arts and culture district,” says Pellegrino Faix. “Opening up that wall has resulted in great energy, and it’s part of a can-do feeling in Buffalo. We are well on our way out of an industrial heritage economy and into a new Buffalo. It’s just amazing to see how the Richardson represents that.”