Published March 27, 2023
Here at UB's School of Architecture and Planning, we’re committed to creating safe, open and vibrant spaces for all – regardless of race, gender, ability or background.
Recent conversations across the county are challenging the rights of transgendered individuals. In the face of these hurtful, polarizing views, we stand with the University at Buffalo and hold steadfast to the values of diversity, inclusion, equity and mutual respect. We believe that the built environment professsions play a central role in creating safe and inclusive spaces and environments, from employing design to shape our physical environments, to fostering an inclusive cultural expression and social landscape, to building public awareness of gender equality through innovations in policy and placemaking.
The works shared below are just a few recent examples of what we do here at the School of Architecture and Planning in support of equity, inclusion and justice for people of all genders.
MUP student Morgan Stewart is developing a case study of New York City's HAGS—the first fine dining restaurant to publicly identify itself as queer—as a point of inquiry into the future of inclusive urban food spaces. The website of the restaurant, which opened in 2022 in New York's East Village, states that HAGS is "by Queer people, for all people."
Student Andrew Gunther hopes to build awareness of inclusive restrooms through her Master of Architecture thesis. “You and the Loo” invites end-users to design an inclusive, genderless restroom through gameplay. The system starts with spatial decisions and moves more in depth to include such as questions as availability of tampons. Games are scored based on inclusivity and have discussion points for lower ranking cards to help educate on why that decision, even if it is mainstream, may not be the best option for creating a welcoming, inclusive bathroom.
Edward Steinfeld, SUNY Distinguished Professor of Architecture and Director of UB's Center for Inclusive Design and Environmental Access, is leading a team of faculty and students in an interdisciplinary design studio exploring gender inclusive restrooms.
According to Steinfeld: “Access to restrooms and changing rooms is a flash point in the conversation about transgender inclusion, but design has been overlooked in the debate."
Engaging faculty and students from UB’s architecture, psychology and public health programs, the studio is exploring how design can make a difference in acceptance and safety. The photo included here shows an all-gender multi compartment restroom on another SUNY campus. At a conference in the building, a student said “This is the future of peeing!” Another said “Using this restroom was a transformative experience – feeling safe and not vulnerable.”
The team is developing an exhibit to educate the public on the issues, to be unveilved in Fall 2023.
Adam Thibodeaux, UB clinical assistant professor of architecture, centers his teaching and research on the uncovering, preservation, and reclamation of architecture that once sheltered populations marginalized by difference. His work has focused primarily on buildings that once served as queer gathering spaces whose histories have been masked by a need to assimilate in urban conditions where they were once unwelcome.
His practice makes the case that these buildings should be valued for their histories of sheltering marginalized populations, and that the methods of reclaiming them should learn from the populations they once protected. Featured projects include a 2021 inclusive design studio that explored post-gay spaces as opportunities to celebrate Buffalo’s queer community through archival and exhibition (see an example of this work in UB’s Dezeen Schools Show last Fall). His recent “Mighty Real” installation project in Buffalo’s grain silos paid tribute to Queer Buffalo icon Patrick Cowley. Meanwhile, he will platform queer projects and performances at his Kingfish Gallery in Buffalo over the course of the next year. Learn more about Adam’s work.
If you are working on studio projects, research or creative practice that elevate issues of gender equity and inclusion, please share an image and brief description of your work with Rachel Teaman, Director of Communications, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The relevance of gay neighborhoods—originally formed to promote segregation of individuals who identify as sexual minorities—is lately challenged by advances in technology, experiences with pandemics, shifts in generational opinion and social values, increasing acceptance of LGBTQ+ individuals, and (in certain places) increased rights and protections for LGBTQ+ individuals.
Confronting this question head on are urban planning professor Daniel B. Hess and Alex Bitterman, co-editors of the recently published The Life and Afterlife of Gay Neighborhoods: Renaissance and Resurgence (Springer, 2021). The publication, which has been cited by national media outlets including The New York Times, provides an in-depth overview of the formation, maturation, current challenges, and future prospects of LGBTQ+ spaces in urban environments.
"Lost Histories," by former MArch student Christopher Sweeney, was developed through a 2021 inclusive design graduate research studio taught by Adam Thibodeaux. According to Sweeney, whose project was featured in UB's "Dezeen Schools Show" in December 2022, "437 Ellicott Street in Buffalo, New York, has a small window of queer history inside its walls, housing the popular Swan Club in the early 1980s. Today, the site is a high-end restaurant, without a trace of the Swan Club's existence. What happened to the voices of those who frequented the Swan Club?
"The recent demolition of an adjacent building both physically reveals the site while inviting an exploration of this history of erasure in LGBTQ communities.Lost Histories reimagines 437 Ellicott as an exhibition space for physical fragments of demolished queer spaces in Buffalo, alongside the names of those who died during the AIDS epidemic, as recorded in The Madeline Davis LGBTQ Archive."
Molly Ranahan, who earned her PhD in urban and regional planning from UB, dedicated her thesis to the needs of aging LGBT communities. Specifically, she examines what solutions planners and researchers can offer in the housing development and programming process to foster a safer and healthier environment for all residents. Her findings show that despite changing social and political attitudes towards gender and sexuality, the needs of LGBT seniors have been largely underrepresented in gerontological research, and remain largely overlooked by many of the communities in which they live. Among Ranahan's findings are that, despite changing social and political attitudes towards gender and sexuality, the needs of LGBT seniors have been largely underrepresented in gerontological research, and remain largely overlooked by many of the communities in which they live.