Erkin Özay, RA

Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, Associate Professor; Department of Architecture 130 Hayes Hall (716) 829-6912

Erkin explaining to a student.

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

Erkin Özay is 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.

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

  • Dezeen spotlights 10 student projects
    Dezeen, a global publication in architecture and design, spotlights 10 student works from across the School of Architecture and Planning in its latest edition of School Shows.
  • The Venice experience: international investigations in urbanism

    Venice experience includes two weeks of intensive site visits and hands on investigations in urbanism throughout Italy's city of canals. The program concludes with a workshop at the U.S. Pavilion of the Venice Architecture Biennale.

  • Terra cotta twist on the mundane faculty mailbox
    Faculty mailboxes typically don’t generate much excitement. But when they’re in a building that’s on the National Register of Historic Places, and that’s home to an architecture school that has a reputation for “making,” only the best, designed in-house, will do.
  • Özay and Guitart win national education awards

    An architecture studio on refugee housing and newly built church and parish center in Madrid have earned two UB architecture faculty members national recognition as inspiring educators who creatively engage architectural practice and extend their work into the public sector.

  • Faculty reimagine 'mailbox' in Hayes Hall

    An effort to engage School of Architecture and Planning faculty and students in finishing their newly renovated home in UB's Hayes Hall has yielded architectural innovation in perhaps the most functional and mundane of spaces - the mailroom.

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

  • Rust Belt Cosmopolitanism: Resettlement Urbanism in Buffalo, New York

    Buffalo at the Crossroads is a collection of essays where twelve authors highlight the outsized importance of Buffalo, New York, within the story of American urbanism. Özay’s contribution reflects on the urban impacts of refugee resettlement in Buffalo, situating in the historic context of immigration and pluralism fostered by the city.

  • Code as urban vision: A critique of the Buffalo Green Code

    This paper provides a critical reflection on the Buffalo Green Code and the city’s efforts to elevate it as a comprehensive vision for the city. The paper pays particular attention to the affordable housing and vacant land challenges of the city, which remain unaddressed in the code, despite the claims of comprehensiveness.

  • Urban Renewal and School Reform in Baltimore

    Urban Renewal and School Reform in Baltimore examines the role of the contemporary public school as an instrument of urban design. Bridging facets of urban design, development, and education policy, this book contributes to an expanded agenda for understanding the spatial implications of school-led redevelopment and school reform.

  • Making Bibelot: Casting material research within cultural frameworks

    Bibelot gives a detailed account of the entire process and the working assumptions behind a terra cotta installation built by the authors, which explores untapped potential material to expand design and manufacturing possibilities. The project also demonstrates how bridges could be built between practice and material research without sacrificing the cultural significance of architectural artifacts.

  • Spatial Uncertainties of Education Reform

    Henderson-Hopkins was the result of a deliberate and participatory decision-making process, a compelling alternative to typical commissioning practices. What went wrong? The paper provides a history of the complex decision-making mechanisms that preceded the design of the school and situates it within the current debates on flexibility. 

  • On the Agency of Architecture in Contemporary Public Education

    This paper explores the architect’s agency in the conception of public education and openings for constructing a deliberate conceptual framework to address contemporary procedural and urban factors in education.

  • Grand Manner alla Turca: Istanbul's Territorial Appropriations

    The paper discusses the transformation of Istanbul since the 2000's as it moves towards a polycentric urban model. It delves into the pattern of functional re-centering and articulates the difficulties through urban episodes that come within this terrain.