Metropolis, last nights rental flick, reminded me a lot of Buffalo. I’ll have to watch the original again: I haven’t seen it since moving to Buffalo. The reason, of course, is obvious. Buffalo’s heyday intersected neatly with the Nouveau movement. The most striking and obvious example is the city hall, but there is also the abandoned central station, HH Richardson’s neglected state hospital, the Calumet building and scores of other buildings, not to mention the Olmsted-designed parks and Forest Lawn Cemetery.
All of this makes for either the perfect neo-gothic setting for the next Batman movie or the prototypically steampunk city (sans punk!). The world of both Metropolis films would seem very at home in this city that (architectural) time seems to have forgotten.
There is a movement to conserve the historical architecture in the city, but it is small and it seems to be something of a Sisyphean labor. Many of these buildings are relatively inexpensive, but fairly trashed. A restoration would be difficult, but making use of them otherwise might not be. There may even be possibilities for guerrilla anarchitecture.
But perhaps this is a project that can be most effective in its imagining. So, I have another project that will have to wait (unless others want to help): an alternative future for Buffalo. Where it could have gone, starting in 2003, if the cards had-will fall the right way. It would include the dreams of the 20s (the hanging monorail, the dirigibles, the elevated highways) with those of the 00s (biotech, virtual reality, global cities, terrorist cells).