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Public art project features unusual benches

Dylan Burns

What do you do with driftwood, old oars, railroad spikes and other material cluttering a historic neighborhood? How about turning them into public benches?

Some prominent spots in Buffalo’s Old First Ward will soon receive unique amenities, thanks to a group of students at University at Buffalo School of Architecture and Planning students. They’re crafting benches that are made of material that gathered in the neighborhood. Senior Dylan Burns told WBFO it has been  afascinating learning experience.

“We started by researching the First Ward and a lot of students in our class are from out of town and didn’t know much about the community,” he said. “So we look at all of the elements that are the most striking of the First Ward, like the grain silos and the railroad and the Buffalo River, and we use that to derive elements that inspired us to design a bench.”

Burns said his railroad spike bench is an homage to the history of the Old First Ward. About two dozen benches will be installed at numerous “gateways” to a neighborhood that was established in the mid-1800s.

Credit Dylan Burns
Bench made of railroad spikes

“If you look at the community currently, the railroad has a striking presence. It divides it. There’s a lot of land that’s taken up by the railroad and it presents problems, but also opportunities,” he said.

The novel community project was discussed at a public meeting Wednesday night at the Old First Ward Community Center on Republic Street. The benches will likely be installed early this summer.

Born in Louisville, Kentucky, Thomas moved to Western New York at the age of 14. A graduate of Buffalo State College, he majored in Communications Studies and was part of the sports staff for WBNY. When not following his beloved University of Kentucky Wildcats and Boston Red Sox, Thomas enjoys coaching youth basketball, reading Tolkien novels and seeing live music.
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