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Albright-Knox plans draw concern from preservation community

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The Buffalo Preservation Board wants the Albright-Knox Art Gallery to come to a board meeting and explain why the first draft of its plan for a major expansion potentially damages the landmark status of the Delaware Park cultural center.

The building was one of the very earliest local structures to earn landmark designation, coming just 15 years after  the Gordon Bunshaft-designed building opened. The proposed design for the addition would significantly alter its  appearance.

"The concept of this requires destruction and radical alteration of a significant portion of the Bunshaft gallery's facing courtyard, which impacts U-sheds of the original Green building and Olmsted landscape," said Preservation Board Chairman Paul McDonnell.

"The Secretary of the Interior standards (for landmark designation), among other things, include the following requirements: A property will be used as it was historically or be given a new use that requires minimal change to its distinctive materials, features, spaces and spatial relationships."

The board voted unanimously yesterday to issue a letter to the art gallery requesting an appearance at a future meeting to explain the changes. Gallery officials have yet to respond to WBFO News for comment on this issue. 

The development has emerged as the Albright-Knox seeks to raise $155 million to cover the cost of expansion. The design is being handled by the architectural firm OMA.

"This worries me, OMA getting off to this start," McDonnell said. 

"It could be many things. I can narrow it down to arrogance or ignorance. Neither is good."

The controversy has also served to highlight the design contribution from Gordon Bunshaft. A Buffalo native and graduate of Lafayette High School, Bunshaft earned wide recognition as modernist architect. He's buried in Cheektowaga.

WBFO is awaiting response from officials at the Albright-Knox.


Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.
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