Shoreline Apartments

A little over a year ago I stumbled on the following post featuring Buffalo’s, Paul Rudolph designed, Shoreline Apartments.  The massive residential project, planned and constructed the 1960′s, has reached the critical 40 year danger point in its life cycle.  40 or so years is often an age at which many buildings face a crisis.  They may be visually dated and are likely in need of  lots of maintenance and require major investments in aging roofs and mechanical systems.

We like new stuff in this country.  Like pretty much everything else in our throw away everything society, we also throw away buildings without much thought.  The Shoreline Apartments may soon get thrown away.  The current owners have floated a plan to tear down a large chunk of the complex in favor of a set of new apartment buildings that have not yet been shown to the public.

With than in mind I found the photo essay and story on beIMAGED.com very compelling and poignant.  I had asked and received permission to republish it in whole.  Unfortunately other stories came along and I forgot all about this until the author wrote to ask if we had used it.  With apologies to the author, we belatedly the bring you following segment as it was originally posted at this link.

shoreline apartments

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Once upon a time, I took photographs for an architectural project. The project was never completed, and I was left with an unusual experience and interesting photographs of a place that I knew had a story. The place is Shoreline Apartments of Buffalo NY, the architect Paul Rudolph, known for his cubist designs. It was hard to imagine while looking at original blueprints and seeing the concept behind the designs, how a place like this had become so rundown. I was photographing a place that had since 2006, had nearly 13 million dollars going into its reconstruction and renovations. Even though the buildings were not particularly beautiful, there was a history to them. A design that I was seeing with my own eyes and lens having gone to decay.

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The day of shooting was eerie. Dust and debris flew around our faces, staircases were pitch black, and the apartments felt abandoned. Not like the people living there left them, but as if they were pushed out of their homes in a rush. Dishcloths hung over cabinets, clothes were still in drawers, and doors were open, as if someone had just run out.

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The section of Shoreline that I photographed was only one of many that was going to possibly be torn down for new construction. I took a walk around the rest of the complex, where life actually was: kids were playing, parents were chatting, and people were watching TV with their windows open. A young teenage girl, who noticed my camera and observing eye, ran up to me and asked: “Are you taking pictures of our buildings?” I said yes, and asked her if she knew how important the buildings were, how interesting the man had been who had built them. And she smiled and said, “Yes. And your pictures too.” She asked if I could come back to give her some of the photographs, because she didn’t know how much longer the buildings would be standing. Even though I never went back, I think of that sweet girl now in sharing the pictures for the first time.

Learn more about architect Paul Rudolph.

 

About the author  ⁄ STEEL

Architect ( a real one, not just the armchair type), author of "Buffalo, Architecture in the American Forgotten Land" ( www.blurb.com ), lover of great spaces, hater of sprawl and waste, advocate for a better way of doing things.

95 comments
Buffalogal13
Buffalogal13

 I think that the Shoreline/Waterfront complex is a bad, low-income urban renewal project, completed by an architect who happened to be popular at the time.  The 1960s-1970s were a terrible time for American neighborhoods evidencing the beginning signs of decay.  Many neighborhoods were cleared away because they showed early signs of decay (damn you, Robert Moses); this was the case for this neighborhood.  If you look at the old Sanborn maps or converse with anyone that grew up in the Waterfront/Shoreline neighborhood, you will be surprised to hear what the neighborhood was like.  The neighborhood was densely populated by primarily Italian families; there were corner, mom-and-pop shops, a neighborhood school, and a slew of mixed-use buildings.  Sadly, the neighborhood West of Niagara Street was all demolished in the name of urban renewal.  In it's place is a superblock, monolith subsidized housing complex.  The complex is uninviting, dangerous, and basically cut off from the rest of the neighborhood (you cannot cut through the block between Carolina and Mohawk Street).  As someone pointed out, the building is just over 40 years old, and i'm sure a nightmare to manage.  The fact that the State sued Paul Rudolph just years after they complex was built because of the technical issues with the building probably means that these issues have just compounded over the years (similar to Rudolph's other buildings throughout the country).

Just because a building is designed by a famous architect, does not necessarily mean it is worth saving.  I think it is a shame that many historic buildings in Buffalo have been torn down (the demo of the Larkin Admin building still brings a tear to my eye), but this is a bad example of housing.  I think that architectural historians and preservationists at some point have to consider the people inside, not just how interesting something might look from a theoretical standpoint.  I say we should consider demolishing the complex and build back the thriving, dense neighborhood that once stood in its place.  Not only will the residents be given adequate housing, but the evidence of a terrible urban renewal plan will be eliminated.  

As a side note, I'm curious: is there already a study of reversing the products of urban renewal in other cities?  (When I say reversing, I mean bringing the neighborhood back to what was there prior to demolition.) 

300miles
300miles

If these were built as market-rate condos on the marina, they would probably be worth a lot of money today

meatyochre
meatyochre

the last time my car was broken into was at Lincoln near Bird, not in the dirty, brown-people ghetto..however I do enjoy the average white clown doing a poverty tour of compromised areas just to get a taste of something raw (besides their sushi)..and come away revived with proud stories to tell their colleagues...

Minguni
Minguni

Yeah, good luck. Try going there at night without getting mugged

LouisTully
LouisTully

Ever see this Paul Rudolph design, Steel?  Image in the lower right.  I can email to you if it doesn't come up clear enough.  It's from a book by William Kae for the Lower Lakes Marine.

runner68
runner68

I understand that the Shoreline Apartments were designed by Paul Rudolph. I also understand that these are the only buildings that he designed in Buffalo. It's a great asset to have and we are lucky to have them. That being said, they are horribly ugly. To make it even worse, they are low income. Sadly, they group the poor people into one place and keep them there. They are poorly maintained and that alone drives a stake right through the idea of revering his work. Thats right Buffalo, lets say we are lucky to have them etc., but lets not even keep them in functioning condition. Kind of backwards, don't you think? 

To make matters even worse, its horrible urban planning at its best. The complex cuts off multiple streets (Busti, Georgia, Trenton) and turns this area into a sketchy one. 

Tear a few down and re-create the street grid. Add new units and create a new neighborhood. Connect Busti back to Upper/Lower Terrace and connect Georgia and Wilkeson back to Niagara. You could create a brand new beautiful near Downtown neighborhood. 

I understand that Brutalist Style is disappearing at a high rate. But when it's coupled with bad design and planning, then why keep it? How do the last two help a neighborhood at all? Stop the 50's and 60's way of thinking. The Convention Center and This complex are scars of the City's past. There's ways to make it work it just comes down to good leadership and vision. 

Northbuff
Northbuff

Why are these being replaced? Level the complex, sell land to highest bidder for redevelopment and build infill buildings to fill the thousands of empty lots in the city. These empty lots are housing lots not pocket parks or neighborhood vegetable gardens. Google an aerial picture of lower west and east sides, some blocks have as little as two homes on them. City must stop building new and build smart. If market rate homes were built on Shoreline land, look at the tax increase for city.

JSmith11
JSmith11

I think these buildings are "interesting" architecturally, but I don't know if interesting always correlates with being a great place to live or a place that contributes to the urban fabric of the city. The site plan of these buildings is just another suburbanized superblock from the era of urban renewal.

I also feel similarly about City Court - aesthetically, in isolation, I find it interesting and artistic. But as a functional piece of a livable city, it fails miserably.

Even Kleinhans Music Hall, which in isolation is one of the best 20th century buildings in Buffalo, still irritates me the way it turns its back to the streets and has the entrance in the parking lot.

Still, it's not like the Shoreline buildings are likely to be replaced with anything remotely better, either in terms of architectural noteworthiness or in urban form, so I would support their preservation just on that ground. Better a group of mediocre buildings with historic value than a group of mediocre or actively lousy buildings with no history whatsoever.

Davvid
Davvid

FYI - They were mentioned in December's Metropolis Magazine in an article about the state preservation and Modernism. 

"But upstate, in Buffalo, five sections of Paul Rudolph's Shoreline Apartments (1974) were scheduled to be replaced by new apartment buildings. Rudolph is the bald eagle of midcentury modern - a symbol of America, endangered by Americans."

junksincerity
junksincerity

Dude should go back and give her the pictures.

greenca
greenca

Can we please stop talking about building a new stadium on this site?  It's doubtful that it's going to happen.


MichaelJarosz
MichaelJarosz

@Buffalogal13

The bad idea of closing Main Streets and converting them to pedestrian malls is being reversed in a number of places. (sound familiar?) In the interest of a quick reply, I can't cite examples of the top of my head. Maybe over the weekend I can do some research.

Paul Rudolph's buildings are notorious for leaking. Their geometry is just too damn complex. Architects today are taught one thing: design, design  design. Architects who know how to build a sound building are increasingly rare. I am afraid, much as I like his architecture, Paul Rudolph is not among the soundest of builders.

When I was in architecture school in the early 70's, Rudolph used to call the school's student employment office and ask for a team to do the construction drawings for his latest charette. Imagine: the blueprints done by a team of sophomores.

I recall there was a big issue of leakage in the Niagara Falls library by Rudolph. Anyone out there remember the details?

LouisTully
LouisTully

@300miles  ... Instead of the decrepit structures they're currently viewed as.

Check out the picture I posted below of a proposed development right on the marina from the 60's.

I mistook the architect for Paul Randolph.  It was actually David Randolph.  Very similar design, though. 

rockpile38
rockpile38

@Medea  Hey I like the Brown People Ghetto, White people ghetto, sushi, Bird Ave, Niagara St, Hertel Ave, The Circus, Clowns, The original StarTrek, Cubism, The Jeffersons, German Architects, Polar Bears! What I don't like is PC Left Wing Liberals who generalize their viewpoints with the color of peoples skin and Right Wing greedy pieces of crap. My viewpoint might also be myopic and ignorant but the only difference is I don't care if they're white, brown, on the right or left.

rockpile38
rockpile38

@runner68  It's kind of funny that Brutalist Architecture is Disappearing when the crap was just built 35 years ago. But like I said we have other examples we are actually forced to keep. I was wondering even though these examples are not Brutalist pre say but the concrete façade of the former HSBC Tower is pretty brutal especially the plaza and probably along with the Convention Center The Main Place Mall Building is really Brutal, depressing, and unwelcoming to say the least, I take it back the Convention Center is the Ford Foundation Building compared to The Main Place Mall! Are we going to have have an article on here next debating how we should preserve the Utilitarian Design of the Adam's Mark Hotel? 

Spock1
Spock1

@runner68 "That being said, they are horribly ugly. To make it even worse, they are low income."

Oh the horror!  Tear them all down right now!  There's no place in this town for ugly building dwelling paupers.  


Davvid
Davvid

@runner68  It only cuts off Georgia. I do not think the rest of those apartments were not designed by Paul Rudolph. 

Davvid
Davvid

@JSmith11  

I really struggle with the use of the word "suburban" to describe buildings in the city. Some of which are actually pretty dense.  Are the Mayfair Lane apartments suburban? Many houses along Deleware Ave or around Buffalo's parkways and circles are set back further from the street than these apartments.

When you are thinking about livability, isolation and functionality are you comparing these interiors to the interiors of an average Buffalo apartment? I went to criagslist to compare Steels photos with some actual Buffalo apartments and I don't see much difference in terms of window size, room size, ceiling height etc. 

http://buffalo.craigslist.org/apa/4298026001.html

http://buffalo.craigslist.org/apa/4338883318.html

buffalorr
buffalorr

MichaelJarosz--I've often read that Frank Lloyd Wright's buildings are well known for having leaks. I think perhaps the great celebrity of these architects may have allowed them to get away with things that lessor mortals couldn't. :)

runner68
runner68

@rockpile38  I don't mind HSBC. I like it to be honest. I think the plaza is Brutalist by nature with all the concrete. You're correct that the CC is also astoundingly Brutalist. Don't forget about City Court!

We obviously have many examples of Brutalist Style thats not going anywhere. Just to name a few: Every underground metro rail station, City Court, HSBC Tower and Plaza..However I think that the Main Place all is more International Style than Brutalist. It does have long blank walls and a feeling of "Better than the street", but it contains more glass. Especially the tower itself. But the list goes on and on. I think that the Convention Center will most likely be replaced in the next 10 years. But in my opinion, it won't be much of a travesty when its gone. It will give us a chance to reconnect Genesee and W. Mohawk which is obviously a good thing. 

You said it yourself, if its starting to disappear after only 35 years..is that a sign? Maybe it shouldn't stick around.

runner68
runner68

@Spock1 You missed the entire point of my whole comment. Did you read the sentence after that?

"Sadly, they group the poor people into one place and keep them there."

Obviously I don't believe that displacing low income residents is the right thing to do. I believe in mixed income instead of one giant place with low income. 

Thanks for being the typical bleeding heart, getting angry and not reading the rest of the comment. If you would've done that, you would've realized that what I said does not constitute your feelings. 

Read on sir, read on. 

runner68
runner68

@Davvid I'm sorry your double negative is confusing me! Please explain haha. 

JSmith11
JSmith11

@Davvid @JSmith11 

By "suburbanization" I mean a site plan that snubs the street grid in favor of a garden apartments scheme that begins with the presumption that everyone will be using a car (an particularly absurd presumption for low-income housing).

Density is not necessarily mutually exclusive with automobile-focused development. The "towers in the park" projects may be dense, but they are also very un-urban.

greenca
greenca

@micahh64 @greenca  

Remember, it's an election year, a season ripe for political pandering.  Let's see if that actually goes anywhere.  Note that Poloncarz admitted in another story (http://www.buffalonews.com/sports/bills-nfl/can-buffalo-afford-a-new-stadium-for-bills-20140215his surprise at the lack of taxpayer support:  

"There are huge questions about whether this community can stomach such a large public investment.

Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz said he has been surprised by the public’s apparent unwillingness to pay higher taxes in order to keep the Bills here.

“Almost everyone I talk to [says], ‘I want the Bills to stay here, but I’m not willing to basically bankrupt the community to do it,’ ” said Poloncarz, who will get to appoint seven members to Cuomo’s New Stadium Working Group"

It all comes down to dollars and cents (if Wilson's heirs don't move the team first in year 7 of the current lease making the issue of a new stadium a moot point).  This area does not have the corporate money to fill the luxury suites, nor do the average fan have the money for the increased ticket prices needed to pay for the stadium, let alone the whole boondoggle of the PSLs.  


LouisTully
LouisTully

@runner68 @rockpile38 Awesome buildings, BOB and Commerce.  Wasn't aware of those.  Too bad, but neat if it's true it's in storage and could someday be reassembled.  Pipe dream, probably.

I love how the site makes a point of noting when it was demolished and how the property is still "shovel ready".  Makes you shake your head when thinking about modern day demo.  Don't we have enough "shovel ready" sites????

runner68
runner68

@rockpile38 according to preservationready.org, the Bank Of Buffalo domed building was not demolished but dismantled, the blocks were numbered, and put into storage, probably for future reassembly. The only part of the building that was demolished was the actual dome itself, which was damaged when the Commerce building was demolished. 

Wouldn't it be nice if someone would reassemble this beauty? 

http://preservationready.org/Buildings/BankOfBuffalo

rockpile38
rockpile38

@runner68 @rockpile38  Do you think that we should start planning preservation efforts on all that long one/two story suburban office crap in the Elm/Oak Corridor, don't want to deprive future generations of those architectural wonders! JK, I agree I'm not a big fan of the HSBC Tower but I also disagree with skinning it unless SOM were to do it because it's theirs and it would keep it official, on the other hand we could build potentially down the road if office space is in better demand, a couple of small to mid-size buildings to accentuate it, or I would have been more than satisfied if we kept the old Bank Of Buffalo and Commerce Towers, then we would have nice blend of old and new!

rockpile38
rockpile38

@Spock1 @JSmith11  No it's just me a 38 year old low income Buffalo resident/ Home Owner in S. Buffalo who's originally from the East Side who never finished college, who's a general laborer & landlord, collects & sells mid century furniture and art, and is passion about spending most of my time in the city enjoying all of it's neighborhoods, culture, history, parks, art & architecture studying those things as a passionate hobby or maybe my life! But what I don't do is claim to know everything, put other people down that don't see eye to eye with me, and never be wrong at least on BR. There it is ,me just your everyday flawed Joe Blow who has a lot of emotions running through his body, sorry to disappoint or please however your going to twist it and construe it to another snide remark putting someone down. Oh yea nice comment by the way it definitely suits you My Liege!  I don't even know how Christylou is.

Spock1
Spock1

@JSmith11 You may be right.  There are some similarities between the two in writing style and subject matter (all caps, calling for long since demolished buildings to be rebuilt etc).  Runner also didn't object to me referring to him as Christylou.

Its possible that he/she is not Christylou but has a lot in common with him/her.  Same could be the case with rockpile, though the latter exhibits a much greater amount of Christylouishness.
 

rockpile38
rockpile38

@JSmith11 @Spock1  Why doesn't Scotty just beam us all up on here into the void of obscurity and mediocrity along with The Shitline Apts!

JSmith11
JSmith11

@Spock1  

I don't think runner68 is ChristieLou. runner68 seems more erudite and thoughtful.


runner68
runner68

@Spock1  Shhhh, it's okay. I know you're angry that I called you a bleeding heart. My apologies Mr. Spock. 

It wasn't a rant, only common sense and one idea out of many.

But in reality, where were your ideas for the place? I don't remember seeing any. Why don't you post your ideas for Shoreline and let us know how you feel, then we can criticize like you. Fair enough?

rockpile38
rockpile38

@Spock1

   Guys I don't think STEEL was being serious about saving this complex when he posted it. We're all taking the bait so we can start stirring the pot just to see what people would say, good bad or indifferent. I mean come on take a look at the pictures alone they reveal a lot right there, especially the front pic it's caged off like a prison. Stop lying to yourself if you think these are worth keeping let me repeat that stop lying to yourself!!! Dude said by building a Convention Center here would be the biggest mistake in Buffalo History 'OK that very well might be but why, where does this rank? Where does The Convention Center rank? I'll take my mistake and run with it how's that. You guys that shoot everything down rarely have ideas, suggestions, or alternatives of your own. Instead you follow up with a snide remark like a misspelled word or whatever crap you just said, everybody can see right through all that shit! It's 'OK to disagree and argue/debate a little or even poke fun a little to make A POINT! But throw some creative ideas out there instead of going with the program. Jesus keep them fix them up I don't care just type in those words elaborating your point. And those little tricks you guys use to insinuate that these big projects[somewhat over the top do to the current economics & demand] are going to be drawn up and constructed in a year or two, debunking the idea altogether, these aren't Seneca casinos and Super Wal -Marts I'm proposing, that shit doesn't work on me. These projects would be 8 to 10 years in the making! I don't claim to no all the facts by any means but my ideas are well thought out with many layers to them I'm not saying there all possible but some might stick to the wall. A new Bills Stadium/Convention Center/Sports Museum would spur the need for retail, residential, hotel and office space alone! And we would be able preserve and market the west side for tourism! And don't talk like an idiot, everyone on here knows the current demand for hotel rooms in Downtown are CURRENTLY high let alone in years to come. And I mentioned the possibility of reintroducing the BCT not only because it's right there but it would be in more demand with compliments to the Stadium/CC, but at the same time the BCT was designed to be a mixed use high rise in all sense of the word proposing 5000,000 sq ft of class A office space, 80 condominiums, and a 300 room 5 Star Hotel! And the new Stadium/CC would be in close proximity to major Downtown Hotels and metro rail which probably could be expanded right to the new district! I have many, many ideas to go along with these possible builds but those are secrets.

Spock1
Spock1

No Christielou, I read the rest of the comment.  There's nothing there or, from any of the comments I've read by your rockpile38 sock puppet, that counters your assertion that you find the Shoreline Apartments objectionable because they are ugly and occupied by the poor. 

Your point about concentration of poverty doesn't make your ills of ugly building and poverty rant any less worthy of mockery. 

David Steele
David Steele

@Davvid @runner68 There are a set designed by someone else.  They have a similar look but are cheaper and the forms are striped down.

Davvid
Davvid

@runner68 Yes, thats what i'm saying. I'm 80% sure. I'll try to confirm it though.

runner68
runner68

@Davvid so are you saying that the buildings between Busti and 7th are not Rudolph designed but the buildings between 7th and Niagara are? Just clarifying.

greenca
greenca

@JSmith11 @greenca @micahh64  

I give him kudos to publicly admit that.  For too long the Bills were the local equivalent of the third rail of politics.  Don't ever touch it.  

It's encouraging that the hold-them-at-any-cost mentality is dying and reason is taking over.


JSmith11
JSmith11

@greenca @micahh64 

I don't know how to feel about Poloncarz being "surprised" that the citizens aren't willing to "bankrupt the community" to keep the Bills here.

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