UB architecture students create unique structure at Silo City

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BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – What was once a patch of non-native Japanese knotweed near Buffalo’s waterfront is now home to a truly unique piece of architecture.

Students from UB’s School of Architecture recently completed the build of a 60 ft. diameter trellis at Silo City. The structure will train the branches of willow trees planted underneath the dome, creating a natural canopy of greenery.

“Over time, it will get denser and denser with vegetation,” said UB graduate student Mitchel Mesi, who worked on the project. “I think it will be something pretty cool.”

The project was supposed to start in the spring 2020 semester, but construction was delayed until fall 2020 due to COVID-19.

Students work on a class project at Silo City as part of their class Ecological Practices Graduate Studio under the direction of Nicholas Rajkovich, with the School of Architecture and Planning in October 2020.\r\rPhotographer: Douglas Levere

The students had to take additional precautions to be safe while working on the project, UB associate professor of architecture Nicholas Rajkovich said.

“We actually had teams working in different pods over the course of the project, so they never overlapped with each other,” Rajkovich said. “I’m incredibly proud of these students- they worked really hard in uncertain circumstances, followed the rules, didn’t get sick, and they have a great project to show for it.”

The trellis is currently not open to the public, but it will eventually be used as a gathering or event space when Silo City reopens, Joshua Smith, director of ecology for Rigidized Metals said.

“With COVID-19, outdoor gathering space has become much more valuable,” Smith said. “We anticipate it becoming a space used for gathering.”

Students work on a class project at Silo City as part of their class Ecological Practices Graduate Studio under the direction of Nicholas Rajkovich, with the School of Architecture and Planning in October 2020. Photographer: Douglas Levere

Silo City is a 27-acre parcel of post-industrial land on the Buffalo River. It’s owned by Rick Smith of Rigidized Metals Corp. 

“It’s an important ecological zone despite being heavily used by industry in the past,” Smith said. “This project kind of came out of our efforts to regenerate the landscape.”

The area where the trellis now stands was formerly occupied by Japanese knotweed, a non-native plant.

“We’re transforming this patch of introduced species that doesn’t have a lot of ecological benefit into a gathering space for humans and non-humans alike, and revegetating it with a biodiversity of plants that will have more benefit,” Smith said.

The trellis is made using repurposed material from Rigidized Metals, Smith added.

“This is all material that would have been scrapped, but it’s gone to a much higher use now,” he said.

You can keep an eye on when Silo City will be open to the public by checking their website or social media pages.

Kaley Lynch is a digital reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2017. See more of her work here.

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