Bird Forensics by Seth Amman

While visiting my parents, a smudge on the window in the low morning sun caught my eye. Looking closer I realized it was actually a fairly intricate impression of where a bird had collided with the glass. Luckily the bird was not there, and it hopefully flew away unharmed, but the impression was so clear it looked like a photographic negative, mid flight.

I grabbed my father's Nikon DSLR and tried to capture the remnant of the impact before the sun rose too high, but I was too slow. Not giving up, I was able to coax my father into holding a high-output lamp, while at the same time propping up a make-shift backdrop with a black tee shirt. He obliged, even suggesting we take the storm window pane out and try to shoot in a darker room where we could control the lighting more. Carefully setting the glass up indoors, with a darker background, and the high-powered lamp, we finally managed to capture this image after dozen of shots.

What's most impressive is the detail, or the suspected detail, of the beak, toes, and maybe even an eye! The outstretched wings are clearly identifiable along with the minutiae of the breast feathers. What a bizarre chance encounter. Thank you sunlight and sorry birdie.

The Crosby Historic District? by Seth Amman

The Crosby Company is located on Pratt Street, Buffalo, and has been there for 119 years. Currently, a cluster a historic masonry structures are in fear of demolition by the owner. Could there be a better use? Yes. With the right team, the Crosby Company could retain their family owned business at the same location and allow a new multi-use district to flourish. The Crosby Historic District.

Learning from Klyde Warren Park by Seth Amman

"Learning from Klyde Warren Park" is a short animated film, which takes a glance at how Dallas, TX bridged a freeway with a highly programmed park. Reconnecting two areas of the city, Klyde Warren Park is a centrally located public space organized and funded by a private foundation. From personal experience, the park provides a welcome respite from the blazing heat for all walks of life: families with children playing in the fountains and children's area, business men and women having a lunch meeting, people playing with their pets in the dog park, walkerbys grabbing lunch at the 10+ designated food truck locations along the south-east side of the park, teens strolling, enthusiasts chanting to exercise moves on the main lawn, friends chatting under a tree, and vendors. All mix in this ingeniously crafted public space.

Buffalo too has struggled with a community bisected by a sunken expressway. The Kensington Expressway (Route 33 or Humboldt Parkway, as it is still dubiously named) has seriously impacted the social well-being of its surrounding neighborhoods over the past 50 years. This video only serves as precedent, not direction, as any modification to the Kensington Expressway will without a doubt be extremely expensive. I feel that the more we share, the more we become aware and hopefully, even in small ways, we can direct our energies toward vitally different urban spaces for people and activities they love.

Buffalo Gradient by Seth Amman

Buffalo is in a thick veil of fog today!

The range in weather conditions in Buffalo amazes me at times. All photos were shot on a Nikon DSLR and post processed in Photoshop to bring back a nice composition not fully captured by the camera. The degree of fog was not altered. Some are whimsical.

Multi-Chromatic Floors by Seth Amman

Morocco and Italy - you have blown me away with your floors!

When recently visiting these places with Gaia I was astounded by the variations, intricacies, and amount of color at my feet. It began in Morocco. Every building we entered was another bold display which led us on and on in endless symmetrical glazed and unglazed tile arrangements. In Italy the tiling color was expressed with marble, glass, and a multitude of stone types. The craftsmanship and intense color was striking because it was at my feet - something you walk on day in and day out.

It is not for everyone, or everywhere, but I am certainly drawn to the richness of these examples. 

Are there any specialists who do this type of work in Western NY, the region, or country?

Grain Silos: The Mammoths of Today by Seth Amman

Ever since shooting the Cargill Grain Animator with my friend Billy Erhard a few years ago, I have become more intrigued with the idea of how these massive structures could become afresh with new life. I wanted to start with a quick survey of what's been done world-wide, divided into categories.



Some projects chose to re-skin the silos in creative ways. Danish firm COBE adaptively reused the silos by retaining the raw nature of the concrete cylinders on the interior and creating a new facade, masking the secret that lies within. Primarily programmed for residential, the proposal also included a roof top restaurant with 360-degree views and a commercial component at the base to engage street life.

Photos courtesy of COBE & Rasmus Hjortshøj



These structures are big - really big! And they were built to survive inevitable grain dust explosions, so their structure of steel and thick concrete was built to last. In The Granary (below), Interface Studio Architects proposes a mix of 'utility' functions to occur in the more restrictive existing silo form, while the new structure they designed on top is not limited by the thick concrete walls, allowing for more expansive views and architectural expressions.

Photos courtesy of ISA



The vertical silo typology is great for storing grain and other materials, but can also be utilized as an extreme topography where no natural heights exist. Many places are quite flat, yet residents may yearn for activities that can push their limits. Appropriating underutilized silos to take advantage of their height is a smart way to activate them. While some climbing centers retain the original silo shape like an ice climbing grain silo in Cedar Falls, Iowa, or for traditional climbing at Rocktown Gym (extreme murals too!) in Oklahoma City, some proposals, like Amsterdam based NL Architects, create a simulated rock surface within one large silo.

Photos courtesy of Silo Ice Climbing, Rocktown Gym, NL Architects



While all of these examples take into account the unique form of the silo, some engage them in almost spiritual ways. The precedent for 'silo homage' is a previous cement factory turned residence, architecture studio, garden, and restaurant. Ricardo Bofill purchased and converted the old factory in the 1970s. He selectively removed some structures as well as created a consistent design language for window and door openings, while leaving the rest in its raw nature. Having visited this silo complex, the aged site seems to have gotten better with time as the plants have engulfed the remaining structures accentuating a mysterious abundance of life and ruin simultaneously.

Photos courtesy of Forgemind Archimedia



While all the above are marvelous in different ways, we sometimes need to consider that great funding sources are not immediately available. This is understandable, but a long term vision should not be lost. Lighter, Quicker, Cheaper (LQC) strategies exist to bring attention and new use to these industrial giants. Projects like the 400-year anniversary celebration for Quebec City used projections to bring the otherwise inactive grain silo facades to life. Here in Buffalo, using projection has been tested and planned for a series of individual grain silos where their large surfaces can be used as artistic canvases. If implemented, the lighting of up to 14 grain elevators with multiple scheduled projection shows per year would attract visitors from near and far.


These examples are a small exhibit of new silo projects I have collected over the years, but there are many more out there that show potential for us here. Hopefully the City of Buffalo and other owners of Buffalo's Grain Silos can promote a mixture of accessible uses for these behemoths, our industrial deities.

Looking at the small things: Japanese Manhole Covers by Seth Amman

Japanese Manhole Covers - Photo by Seth Amman

Digging deep and going back to some photos I had taken in Japan almost a decade ago, I wanted the first entry to show something small but with a big design and city impact. I saw many amazing things which may be teased out in future log entries, but one unique element that caught my eye throughout Japan were the highly artistic manhole covers.

In the nineteen-eighties Japan needed to begin replacing the ancient sewer systems that still existed in many towns outside the major urban centers. While this may have been a necessary interruption to improve life, there was nation-wide resistance until one government official appealed to individuals with a new tactic. The official suggested that rather than mass producing the typical manhole cover, each municipality could customize the manhole to best represent their location. Surprisingly, this was a huge success. The sewer infrastructure was updated and municipalities across japan created cultural icons and place-specific identity with the most unlikely of objects.

Just Google Japanese manhole covers to get a wider view of some of these pieces of infrastructural art. There are thousands of designs in Japan now and at least one book devoted to the topic.

Yokohama, Japan - Photo by Seth Amman

Yokohama, Japan - Photo by Seth Amman

Kumamoto, Japan - Photo by Seth Amman

Kumamoto, Japan - Photo by Seth Amman

Ueno Park, Tokyo, Japan- Photo by Seth Amman

Ueno Park, Tokyo, Japan- Photo by Seth Amman

While this is a great idea, it doesn't need to be replicated everywhere. It is important to think about what is special, ...memorable about the places we live, work, and play in. Here in Buffalo, New York Community Canvases, a public art initiative, organizes local artisans to paint the otherwise blank signal and transformer boxes, as well as it pioneers many other creative projects. This type of gumption is needed to energize the public places we love, or want to love. Art causes intrigue, awe, wonderment or disgust, but it touches us one way or another and is as unique to our communities as a fingerprint is to us.

These cultural entrepreneurs, the non-profit organizations, are significant economic catalysts to Buffalo's urban areas. Most important, this evolutionary approach results in authentic diversity based on the efforts of multiple actors over time, and this produces real city character. We must innovate past assumptions to revitalize our urban experience. The Japanese manhole covers and Buffalo's utility paintings do just that.                   

Elmwood Avenue Signal Box, Buffalo, NY - Courtesy of Community Canvases

Elmwood Avenue Signal Box, Buffalo, NY - Courtesy of Community Canvases

Hertel Avenue Signal Box, Buffalo, NY - Courtesy of Community Canvases

Hertel Avenue Signal Box, Buffalo, NY - Courtesy of Community Canvases

Another example seen in Calgary, Canada - Photo by Seth Amman

Another example seen in Calgary, Canada - Photo by Seth Amman