Richardson Center Corporation progresses on stabilization and planning efforts
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
At a public meeting in the Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society, the Richardson Center Corporation presented the “50%” findings from the Historic Structures and Cultural Landscape Reports on the Richardson Olmsted Complex buildings and grounds. Progress on stabilization work as well as first steps on master planning for the complex as a whole – buildings and grounds – and on the Buffalo Richardson Architecture Center were discussed.
“We are making steady and determined progress on the planning and stabilization”, said Eva Hassett, Richardson Center Corporation Board Member, “the upcoming year will be an exciting time defining the future of the Complex”.
Using $2 million in funds for stabilization activities, work took place through winter to prevent further deterioration and vandalism. The Dormitory Authority of the State of NY is completing the work, with guidance from architects Goody Clancy and engineers Simpson Gumpertz and Heger. Roofs were sealed on the twin towers administration building and the adjacent ward, Buildings 45 and 10, and gaping holes covered on the roof of Building 39, the second building west of Rees Street. Superstructures engineering firm evaluated all the connector links and prepared a design to stabilize the collapsing connecting corridor between two brick wards, Buildings 39 and 40. Work is expected to begin in May and take two months to complete. Building 43, the former female kitchen located behind the central twin towers building, is being stabilized with a support structure and temporary roof repairs; work will be completed in May. Electrical power and security measures are underway to install a more extensive security and fire alarm system and an agreement is being worked out with the Office of Mental Health to temporarily connect to the existing electric on the campus.
The 50% Historic Structures Report by Jean Carroon of Goody Clancy highlighted the importance of the entire site as a continuum of mental health treatment, from nineteenth center asylum treatment to community based care and modern medical facilities. The unique significance of the site is defined by the interrelated elements of H.H. Richardson, Frederick Law Olmsted, the Kirkbride plan, insane asylums in America, Buffalo architecture, and mental health treatment. The existing conditions survey of the interior and exterior of the original asylum buildings was completed. Much of the original complex remains intact and treatment recommendations are being formulated.
Heritage Landscapes, Preservation Landscape Architects & Planners is completing the Cultural Landscape Report, the principal tool to document the history, significance and preservation treatment of the historic landscape designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux in 1871. Firm founder Patricia O’Donnell, Buffalo native and a leader and expert in historic landscape preservation and Carrie Mardorf, project manager are studying illuminating historic documents. Carrie Mardorf presented field work findings, describing elements of the original Olmsted-Vaux plan in the Elmwood Forest Avenue corner and several late 19th century trees including a +150 year old white oak. Remaining elements of the park style landscape, created as a therapeutic element of the hospital, are being revealed and will form a basis for recommendations. As an important first step in the planning process, the Historic Structures and Cultural Landscape reports provide a critical foundation for the future stabilization and master planning activities.
Chan Krieger Sieniewicz was introduced as the master planning firm for the Richardson Olmsted Complex. Based in Cambridge MA, Chan Krieger Sieniewicz combines planning and urban design work with experience as architects, which results in a keen understanding of the technical aspects required for successful implementation of planning ideas. Familiar with Buffalo through the widely recognized innovative and practical plan for the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, David Gamble, Project Manager, stated the firm was enthusiastic to lead the Richardson Olmsted Complex master plan. Chan Krieger Sieniewicz has completed master plans for historic campuses at Rhode Island School of Design, which helped win a 1997 Preservation Award from the Providence Preservation Society, Harvard Medical School and UMASS Dartmouth. Recognition of the firm's work includes sixteen AIA design awards, eight awards in national design competitions, two Progressive Architecture awards, and two AIA Institute Honor Awards for Regional and Urban Design
Taking place throughout 2008 and concluding with the final report early in 2009, the master plan will assess the Richardson Olmsted buildings and site, adjacent neighborhoods and, with a public process, create a plan for long term development of the historic buildings and grounds. The Generic Environmental Impact Statement (GEIS) process will run concurrently and the final document will be the Master Plan and GEIS.
Members of Master Planning team are Alex Krieger and David Gamble of Chan Krieger Sieniewicz (master planners), Robert Shibley from the University at Buffalo Urban Design Project (community outreach), Mark Tytka and Nick Raczyk of Parsons Brinckerhoff (GEIS and permitting), Gary Papke of Clarion Associates (economic modeling), Bill Weyland of City Properties (real estate development), Douglas Reed and John Kett of Reed Hilderbrand Associates (landscape architecture), John Bero and Virginia Searl of Bero Architecture (historic preservation) and Joe Dommer of Baer & Associates (cost estimating).
The progress of the Buffalo Richardson Architecture Center and City Visitor Center was presented by the Richardson Center Corporation. A Feasibility Study will be undertaken May to August 2008, by a national museum consulting firm to be selected in May, and used to immediately proceed with design plans for the Center. Current plans focus on the twin towers administration building as the home of the Architecture and Visitor Center, an easily accessible location showcasing information and directions to Western New York’s architectural and cultural assets.