Erkin Özay, RA

Assistant Professor, Director of Undergraduate Studies - Department of Architecture
eozay@buffalo.edu - 316 Hayes Hall 316 - (716) 829-6912

Assistant Professor, Director of Undergraduate Studies - Department of Architecture
316 Hayes Hall

Erkin explaining to a student.

Erkin Özay as one of the critics at ARC 301 Junior Studio Review: Tectonics of Buoyancy

Erkin Özay is assistant professor and director of undergraduate studies in the Department of Architecture at UB. A registered architect and award-winning educator, Özay is interested in the roles of urban institutions and the multiplicity of city-making practices. He investigates how institutional settings and urban interventions can serve as shelters from the structural inequities that burden the lives of vulnerable urban communities.

Erkin Özay seated in Crosby Hall.

Özay is the author of several publications, most recently including the book Urban Renewal and School Reform in Baltimore: Rethinking the 21st Century Public School, which bridges facets of urban design, development, and education policy in its examination of the East Baltimore Redevelopment Initiative, one of the most aggressive urban renewal initiative in recent American history, resulting in the displacement of hundreds of predominantly Black households.

A founding member of the Urban Design Research Group within UB's Department of Architecture, Özay's teaching focuses on contemporary challenges of housing and urban revitalization in weak market cities. He seeks to expose students to the multifaceted nature of urban practices, beyond traditional and prescriptive models.

Özay's research and teaching have been widely recognized by the professional community and architectural academy. Özay has served as a panelist and speaker on several AIA events on school design, urban design education, and community-based practice. He is also a recipient of the AIA/ACSA Housing Design Education award.

Prior to joining UB's School of Architecture and Planning, Özay taught at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, University of Toronto, and Northeastern University. He was the Aga Khan Fellow at the Harvard GSD from 2011-2013.

A registered architect in Massachusetts and his native Turkey, he also practiced with Foster and Partners, Hashim Sarkis Studios, and Peter Rose and Partners. 

There is an infectious sense of urgency to the work we do at the School, shared by students and faculty alike.

 - Erkin Özay, assistant professor and director of undergraduate studies, UB Department of Architecture

A passion for teaching and community-building

In his teaching, Özay draws inspiration from the activist inclinations of his students: “There is an infectious sense of urgency to the work we do at the school, shared by the students and faculty alike. There are also shared priorities articulated around the centrality of social and environmental justice. This sense of urgency keeps me on my toes to expand my horizons." 

"I am energized and motivated by the curiosity and passion of our students. I often engage in a process of co-learning with my students in each course I have the privilege of teaching.”

Özay's intensive engagement with the urban landscapes and people of Buffalo has had a similarly profound impact on his work.

"Compared to other institutions I have taught in, the walls of our School are much thinner, and there is a broad audience to what we do. Our students greatly benefit from this two-way interaction, especially through engagements that reveal how they can amplify their agency by becoming part of equity-oriented coalitions." 

"Buffalo is paradigmatic in the way it was impacted and scarred by the disenfranchising social and economic forces of the 20th century," he continues. "At the same time, the city's marginalized communities devised uniquely potent ways to mediate some of these pressures. The urban landscape is replete with lessons on how these groups endured and mediated these pressures."

According to Özay, such socioeconomic dynamics are reshaping the profession of architecture. "In the last twenty years, there is a growing realization in the discipline about the degree to which architecture has been co-opted by market-driven development paradigms, generating an impetus to search for new models of practice and venues to expand architecture's agency on challenges long ignored by the discipline: racial and social justice, climate change, equitable modes of development."

Özay says there are hopeful trends in the industry, including movement toward circular material systems, middle-scale energy generation, and robotic assembly systems. Meanwhile, the disenfranchising impacts of mass surveillance, ongoing financialization of housing, and inability to build consensus and take large-scale action on the climate crisis will continue to plague our urban environments.

Perspectives on practice

Özay says there are hopeful trends in the industry, including movement toward circular material systems, middle-scale energy generation, and robotic assembly systems. Meanwhile, the disenfranchising impacts of mass surveillance, ongoing financialization of housing, and inability to build consensus and take large-scale action on the climate crisis will continue to plague our urban environments.

Recent News

Research spotlight: Urban renewal and school-led redevelopment

Özay's recent book, Urban Renewal, and School Reform in Baltimore: Rethinking the 21st Century Public School (Routledge, 2021), builds on his research interests in urban asset distribution practices and their spatial impacts on the city. The book contributes to an expanded agenda for understanding the implications of school-led redevelopment and school reform. 

Based on five years of research and fieldwork, the book provides important insights on a complex and poorly documented urban renewal endeavor in East Baltimore. As such, Özay relied heavily upon archival research and interviews with key project actors, seeking to elevate the voices of community members who were undermined by the official accounts of the development effort. The framing provides a new context on the problematic conditions of the renewal initiative and its disenfranchising decision-making mechanisms, as well as the resulting mass displacement.

Referring to the foundational work by community activists and citizen researchers who played a crucial role in curbing the aggressive conditions of the renewal effort, Özay says: "My work is all but a modest contribution compared to theirs, in an effort to contextualize the important lessons to learn from this project."

Get to know Erkin Özay:

Name a hidden talent:
I am great at making dad jokes and dad food.

What are your favorite cities?
Despite efforts to destroy it, Istanbul remains the most fascinating city I have ever lived in or visited. My other favorites are all B-cities: Baltimore, Berlin, Barcelona and Buffalo.

What is your favorite place in Buffalo?
Mayfair Lane by E.B. Green is one of the most amazing pieces of urbanism anywhere.

Selected Work