Volatile Ecologies: Architectural Apparatuses for Earthly Survival

An exhibition by Zherui Wang, 2020-21 Peter Reyner Banham Fellow

An image of greenery amidst a post-industrial landscape, with lines, mapping data and directionals overlaid.

Exhibition at UB
March 8, 2021, 12:30 PM
Hayes Hall Atrium Gallery (physical exhibition)
UB School of Architecture and Planning
3435 Main Street
Buffalo, NY 14214

Exhibition opening on March 8 at 12:30 PM will be streamed live on Instagram.

The Volatile Ecologies exhibition is open to faculty, staff and students of the School of Architecture and Planning (access to Hayes Hall is by swipe card only due to limited staffing during the COVID-19 pandemic). Please contact us at 716-829-3981 with any questions.

‘Volatile Ecologies’ is a design expedition examining the environmental degradation in the industrial waterfront of Buffalo, New York, through the lens of scenario planning and prototype making. The exhibition features the research of Zherui Wang, UB's 2020-21 Peter Reyner Banham Fellow, with students in his fall 2020 graduate studio at UB. The work was exhibited at the virtual 2021 DesignTO festival, with a physical exhibition to be held at UB's School of Architecture and Plannign in spring 2021. 

Virtual Exhibition at DesignTO Festival
Jan 22, 2021 - exhibition opening
Exhibition runs through Jan. 31 2021

DesignTO Festival is Canada’s leading (and largest) annual design festival that celebrates design as a multidisciplinary form of creative thinking and making, with over 100 exhibitions and events forming Toronto’s design week, January 22-31, 2021.

In the Anthropocene era — our current geological age where human activities have been the dominant influence on the environment and climate — primeval elements have been increasingly a point of political contention. Toxic air, corrosive soil, black water, and environmental violence have been mediated with different degrees of consistencies and success in policymaking. If public policies alone can’t resolve the crisis, it rests upon human capital to confront the environmental change through the agency of design to extend human survival.

‘Volatile Ecologies’ is a design expedition examining the environmental degradation in the industrial waterfront of Buffalo, New York, through the lens of scenario planning and prototype making. Since their use in the 1910s, these sites have been contaminated for decades with oil spills, benzene run-offs, coal tars, ammonia liquors, wastewater, and toxic airborne emissions. Bringing together design thinking, technology, and material culture, the exhibition depicts an alternative future of the heavily polluted environment through design apparatuses and speculative drawings. With each viewing from the perspective of air, earth, and water, the apparatuses and the world they inhabit explore ideas of reparation, production, and cohabitation across spatial and temporal scales. From an air filtrating wearable to a pneumatic parasite, sentient landscape machinery to new urban surfaces, the prototypes offer material evidence and suggest the results of changing working relationships between artists, architects, designers, engineers, scientists, politicians, and other stakeholders. As visitors traverse through this exhibition, they will discover and explore narrative, practices, and aesthetics — scientifically informed and materially substantiated.

In a world of quickly changing environments, ‘Volatile Ecologies’ does not offer solutions but a platform for conversations by providing observations and speculative alternatives on the table.


Zherui Wang, 2020-21 Peter Reyner Banham Fellow at University at Buffalo's School of Architecture and Planning // Collaborators: Daedalus Guoning Li, Ji Shi // Research Studio Participants: Alfred Cai, Hua Xiu Chen, Thomas Cleary, Camilo Copete, Cristian Copete, James Feind, Rebecca Flanagan, Rossella Giangreco-Marotta, Olivia Xuan He, Yaliana Hernandez, Xiaofeng Jiang, Xing Hua Lin, Jennifer Persico, Xuwen Zhang. // Exhibition Seminar Participants: Mitchel Mesi, Timothy Zeng, Brian Kwong.

Drawings and images above by Zherui Wang

Student work from the studio

Zherui Wang, 2021 Peter Reyner Banham Fellow

Zherui Wang.

Designer Zherui Wang is the 2020-21 Peter Reyner Banham Fellow

The School of Architecture and Planning’s Peter Reyner Banham Fellowship supports the research of emerging practitioners in honor of the legacy of Peter Reyner Banham, who taught at UB from 1976-80 and produced a foundational body of scholarship on material/visual culture as a reflection of contemporary social life.

A Brooklyn-based designer, Zherui Wang received a Bachelor of Architecture at Pratt Institute School of Architecture, where he was awarded Alpha Rho Chi Medal, Pratt Endowment Fund, and Lee & Norman Rosenfeld Award for Best Thesis. He also holds a Post-Professional Master of Architecture from Princeton University under the Princeton University Fellowship and Charles & Margret Hanna Fellowship. His graduate thesis, titled Climate as a Medium, was awarded the Suzanne Kolarik Underwood Prize, the highest honor from Princeton. Wang has taught design studios and seminars at the University of Pennsylvania, Princeton University and Pratt Institute, and has contributed to the design and research endeavors at various offices and institutions, including Barkow Leibinger Architects, Pratt Institute Center for Experimental Structures, Columbia University Laboratory for Architectural Broadcasting, and Princeton University Andlinger Center for the Energy and Environment.