Nearly half of Kideney Architects’ staff of 50 – including three of the firm’s four principals – are graduates of the School of Architecture and Planning. With an 89-year history, a collaborative, open culture, and an internship program that involves students in all aspects of the practice environment, it’s no wonder UB grads flock to the firm.
We recently sat down with the firm’s fifth generation of principals – Raymond J. Bednarski, president and CEO (BPS ‘96); Anthony E. Gorski (BPS ‘91); Timothy E. Kupinski (MArch ‘89, BPS ‘87) and Joseph Lenahan (a product of Georgia Tech) – to learn more about what drives the Buffalo firm and, with its recent endowment of the Kideney Scholars program, the value of its connection to the School of Architecture and Planning.
Kideney’s Buffalo roots run deep. Founded by James William Kideney in 1926, the firm is the oldest and largest architecture-specific practice in the area, with across-the-board contributions to the region’s architectural heritage.
In its early years, Kideney established itself in education architecture, designing dozens of K-12 schools (particularly during the post-war baby boom) and shaping college campuses from UB to Fredonia. Its Modernist design of Buffalo’s central library downtown in 1964 set a standard for grand municipal architecture. The firm’s signature projects also include expansion of the stagehouse and exterior restoration of Buffalo’s Shea’s Performing Arts Center and, for UB, the Crossroads Culinary Center, a state-of-the-art student dining center on the North Campus.
Perhaps the firm’s most significant project of late sits on the booming Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, the heart of Buffalo’s urban renaissance. One of the largest projects in Kideney’s history, the 350,000-square-foot Conventus medical center is designed as a downtown gateway and campus hub, with a sleek glass façade and elevated walkways that will link the building to UB’s new medical school and the future John R. Oishei Children’s Hospital.
Now, Kideney itself is returning to its downtown roots. After 25 years in suburban Amherst, the firm has just relocated to the former headquarters of the Erie County Industrial Development Agency on Genesee Street, mere blocks from the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.
"Kideney was always perceived as a Buffalo firm,” says Lenahan. “And I think that we were missed when we were in Amherst. We’re glad to be back and want to be a part of everything happening in Buffalo.”
Kideney’s passion for Buffalo and Western New York is the primary driver behind its scholarship and internship program with the School of Architecture and Planning, according to firm leaders.
Conceived by previous partners to help develop diversity and cultivate local talent, the internship and Kideney Scholars program were recently bolstered with $25,000 in additional support from Kideney.
“It’s frustrating to watch people come through [the UB program], develop and then leave,” says Kupinski. “It’s like Buffalo is the world’s farm team. So this program was an effort to keep talent here. Three of [our leadership team] went to UB, so it made sense to maintain and build on that connection. And it’s been successful.”
So what do interns at Kideney do?
“Roll up their sleeves and get involved in everything we’re doing—working on a design, rendering or production drawing; visiting construction sites; attending client meetings. We don’t hold anything back,” says Bednarski.
Adds Lenahan: “Mentoring is a huge part of the process of becoming an architect. No matter what you may have focused on in your education, when you get into the field it’s so broad and complex. We all enjoy helping a new intern get better at what they’re doing and learn the process a little more.”
Daniel Lamm (MArch ‘15), a former Kideney intern who was recently hired by the firm, can speak to that: “They make it their primary goal to expose you to as many areas of the profession as they can. By the end of my first year I had designed a building…with one of the partners, coordinated product representatives on a project to replace all the exterior wall covering and windows of a 33-building complex, and worked on numerous construction documents and details.”
Interns are also treated like a member of the firm family, adds graduate architecture student Josh Dillin, who has spent the last three years as an intern with Kideney. “Everyone here interacts with everyone. You’re not just a number. I have experience with two other firms, but there was a level of division or isolation within those firms. Kideney doesn’t have that. Everyone is professional, but down to earth. We all push hard, but there’s always time for a good laugh.”
“The School of Architecture and Planning’s legacy is our legacy.”
As the firm settles into its new offices and prepares for the next phase in its long-running history, its ties to Buffalo and UB are only growing stronger.
Up next for Kideney is designing the interior build-out for the 10-story addition to Roswell Park Cancer Institute, also on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, and a multi-million dollar student housing project for Greenleaf Development, adjacent to SUNY Buffalo State in the Grant/Amherst neighborhood. The firm is also renovating its own building’s exterior.
“We’re two blocks from the medical campus, there’s a lot happening right here in this piece of the city, and we’re involved in other developments downtown. It made all the sense in the world for us to get back down here,” says Kupinski.
As for its connection to the School of Architecture and Planning? “The School of Architecture and Planning’s legacy is our legacy,”says Bednarski. “Having passed through there, we’re proud of it and happy to see that it’s developed into the world-class program it’s become.”