Paper Lever over the Buffalo River

Last week I posted on Allison Adderley’s parasitic sculpture hanging in Marine A at Silo City. The sculpture was one of the myriad thesis projects designed and installed by students from the University at Buffalo School of Architecture and Planning, under the direction of Associate Professor Jean La Marche. 
The second thesis project to be featured is an interactive work that literally ties in the Buffalo River. The work, Paper Lever, is incredibly made from paper and cardboard and is designed and constructed in order to accommodate the weight of visitors as they walk out onto the cantilevered deck. I was able to experience the sensation of standing at the far edge of the installation, which was apparently sturdy enough, although the thought of walking out onto a paper and cardboard deck hanging over the Buffalo River was daunting. I was amazed at the accomplishment, and reflected on the perfect site location for such a innovative project. 
Paper Lever: Troy Barnes, Stephen Olson, Scott Selin, Adrian Solecki
From the group…
Inspired by the site of the dock between the Perot and American Grain Elevators. We acknowledged the significance of the elevators and marine legs to Buffalo’s history. These amazing inventions were a link between the silos on land and the ships that carried the grain. The original drawings of the elevators were found and consulted.
It was our intention to explore a material new to us. Paper and cardboard, usually associated with packaging were explored for their structural properties. We finally decided on paper tubes and explored ways of joining them together. They were strong in compression but had to be detailed well in order to keep water out. We visited a local manufacturer, and were really pleased to learn that paper tubes could be easily made to our specifications. They could be fabricated for varying diameter, wall thickness or compressive strength. Structural calculations were made and the design responded.
The dock and the rails that the elevator travelled on became our foundation, specifically the middle rail of each set, which the rolling elevator clamped down on to resist tipping over. The original section drawing through dock proved valuable. Custom steel brackets were fabricated to clamp around the two hold-down rails. Accurate drawings were produced of the cantilever from an accurate 3d model.
All construction was done onsite in one week. A shop was built in the Peavey office building to layout, cut, drill and otherwise fabricate the tubes. Initially assembly of the structure was to take place under the two – story shed that runs along the dock, but a late April snowstorm forced a move to the American warehouse where the doors were large enough to allow the completed structure to be removed once it was assembled and made waterproof.
After moving the paper cantilever to the site it was staged on the edge of the dock. Our original intent was to be able to build and place the cantilever ourselves with simple mechanical tools. Spare cardboard tubes became rollers. A frame was erected on a raft in order to support the weight of the tip during installation. Many ropes and pulleys lent the whole operation a nautical feel, fitting with the site. With one of us on the raft, one manning the ropes, two were left to do the heavy work of pushing the cantilever out six inches at a time. After forty-five minutes, the structure dropped over the edge into place. It was then pulled back into place by 1/8 inch cables secured to the brackets we attached to the two hold down rails.
The deck of vertical tubes, somewhat reminiscent of the plan drawing of the silos, was put into place. The ropes and raft were removed. The cantilever stood. The first steps were tentative but we soon trusted what we had faith in all along. A twenty-five foot cardboard cantilever over the Buffalo River was possible. The unique perspective it afforded was enjoyed for ten days before it was brought back to rest across the rails.

About the author  ⁄ WCPerspective

Buffalo and development junkie currently exiled in California.


what of Olmsted and Ellicott? Buffalo is one of America's best planned cities...I think it's a prime city to learn planning in, yes even the mistakes.


that's gotta get them an article in some cardboard trade mag. Very nice.


Given the "success" of urban planners in Buffalo, maybe you don't -want- to be reminded?


The most amazing things I've seen in Buffalo this year have all been at Silo City -- this may top the rest.

Hey, let these guys design a cheap, liftable pedestrian bridge for the foot of Michigan Street!

Also, love that pic of Swannie Jim.


> University at Buffalo School of Architecture

You forgot "and Planning."

It's a BIG peeve of the many planning students there when that part of the school's name is forgotten.

If you're talking about the architecture students themselves, it's the *Department* of Architecture.


I can't tell what I like more--the sculpture itself or the fact that UB students/professors are increasingly engaged in design/art/architecture concepts throughout the city. Talk about a win-win.

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