Published June 13, 2022
Members of the public recently joined with UB architecture students to see the results of an urban design studio engaging residents in reimagining the heart of the Bailey Green neighborhood on Buffalo's East Side.
UB architecture students and faculty, along with community stakeholders, at the May 7 community event discussed the studio’s design proposals for “Bailey Commons,” a community-led development that would transform a series of vacant lots between Zenner and Kilhoffer streets into a mix of green open space, play space, and new urban infrastructure and housing.
The studio’s teaching team – Conrad Kickert, PhD, assistant professor of architecture and urban design in UB’s School of Architecture and Planning, and Joy Kuebler, a nationally regarded landscape architect – employed a play-centric design process to create an inclusive and fun environment for residents to share their ideas for the future neighborhood hub.
Activities included walking tours of the neighborhood, design-themed card games, collaging, role play, and the use of everyday objects like boxes and buckets to try on design ideas.
“Rather than design and present, students have co-created proposals for neighborhood improvements through an intensively collaborative process called placemaking,” says Kickert. “This process invites us not to jump to conclusions, but to listen, engage, play and iteratively create new ideas with community members.”
The studio is supported by Harmac Medical Products, a longstanding Bailey Green anchor and the neighborhood’s largest employer. For the past decade, under the leadership of John Somers, Harmac has engaged faculty and students at the School of Architecture and Planning in neighborhood planning and design projects that advance a more vibrant, sustainable and healthy Bailey Green. That work has already led to infill and adaptive reuse housing development, green space, and an urban farm.
Bailey Commons will continue to take shape with input from the community, with elements of the design now moving into the first phase of construction as student-led design-build projects.
“Our ultimate aim is to empower community members to take our designs further after the studio ends, and to make a positive, on-the-ground impact through achievable, championed design interventions,” said Kickert, who will attend Saturday’s session along with Kuebler, Somers, and UB School of Architecture and Planning Dean Robert G. Shibley.
The event included design presentations by students, opportunities to hear from residents who participated in the design process, and a “skills park” where neighborhood children can build imaginative structures with real tools and scrap materials.
Community organizations hosted their own tables, with healthy food demonstrations by local retailers, seed planting stations, and a toy and bike raffle by the Stop the Violence Coalition.