Architecture studio aims to bridge disconnect between police, community

The "Wellness Gateway," one of several student renderings of UB Police headquarters designed to engage UB police with the larger campus community.

By David J. Hill

Published January 19, 2017 This content is archived.


In October, UB Police held a one-day event called Coffee with a Cop as a way to foster good relations with students and the larger campus community.

Students in Jin Young Song’s fall studio in the School of Architecture and Planning spent the fall semester creating designs for a new UB Police headquarters that would, in essence, have the same effect as Coffee with a Cop, but on a daily basis.

“Our aim was that through the architecture itself, the building should be fostering that relationship with the campus community every day,” says Song, assistant professor in the Department of Architecture and a founder of DIOINNO Architecture, which has offices in Buffalo and Seoul.

Song has been interested in viewing the contemporary building façade as a mechanism that integrates manifold technical and non-technical elements, thereby generating a specific relationship between people and the culture. Now, the studio is searching for the new “face” of the campus police.

Student rendering of UB Police headquarters, called the Green Gateway and located on the Solar Strand site at the Flint Road entrance to the North Campus.

UB Police are headquartered in Bissell Hall on the North Campus, near Alumni Arena and UB Stadium. Completed in 1938, the former church is the oldest building on the campus and is one of two — the other is the nearby Campus Mail Center — that predate construction of the North Campus in the 1970s.

At only 6,000 square feet, it’s also far smaller than the 24,000 square feet that a recent space-needs study determined is necessary for an operation the size of UB Police, according to UB Police Chief Gerald W. Schoenle Jr. “Anyone who has toured our building quickly realizes that we are really pressed for space,” he says.

Students in the studio saw that firsthand when they toured Bissell Hall to learn more about UB Police at the start of the semester.

“One of the major issues they have is not being able to hold larger functions there. We tried to create different program spaces that would bring the community to the building to develop a positive interaction between the police and the campus community,” says Pete Urban, a student in the studio.

“Police stations are considered very private — you only go there if you’ve committed a crime,” adds student Michael St. John. “The challenge for us was balancing the public and private aspects of a new police building.”

The studio was split into three teams, each charged with developing designs for a new police headquarters in one of three different named locations: the Green Gateway (Solar Strand site), University Link (near Lake LaSalle) and the Wellness Gateway (near the current location).

The designs all strive for spaces that make it easier for police to do their job, while removing the visual barriers that can make a building seem closed off and uninviting.

“The architect is always trying to suggest something innovative to improve the client’s everyday life,” Song explains. “But based on their interviews with UB Police, the students tried to introduce additional elements, such as natural lighting and making parts of the building visible from the outside, to improve transparency.”

“For our project we were trying to increase the visual connection. Obviously, the police need their private spaces, but how do you open it up so you can see police walking between those spaces and see what’s happening inside the building,” says Patrick OBrien, a student in the studio.

The idea for the studio came about after a conversation between Schoenle and Philip Glick, chair of the Faculty Senate and a professor of surgery in the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. Glick, who had attended the UB Police Citizens Police Academy a few years ago, suggested that Schoenle reach out to Robert Shibley, dean of the School of Architecture and Planning, about the possibility of using the services of the architecture students.

“They are so creative and such an amazing, underutilized resource on campus for capital projects,” Glick says. “I really hope this project goes from idea to drafting board to getting funded. It’s a true UB community project.”

Song feels the timing for the studio was perfect, given the increased tension that exists between police departments nationally and the communities they serve. “There is a huge disconnect,” he says. “While a campus police station is a bit different from a municipal one, it offers a perfect opportunity for education and to improve that perception.”

Song and the students praise UB Police for the department’s participation in the studio. “They’ve been very engaged. They were responsive to suggestions and offered good feedback,” Song says.

“We think all three designs are excellent and all have their advantages,” Schoenle says. “All three of these designs incorporate new and exciting ways that the police could work more closely with students on our campus.”

Students in Jin Young Song's fall 2016 architecture studio toured Bissell Hall, the longtime home of UB Police, to learn more about how the university's police personnel use the space. Students created renderings for a new UB Police building in one of three different locations on the North Campus.

That’s a priority for the department, according to Schoenle.

“The police truly need to be part of the community they serve, and at UB we strive for that,” he says. “The appropriate new police/community building could be an asset to the campus in this regard. There is also a need for an Emergency Operations Center, which would be housed in such a building and would be used for all campus emergencies.”