Cleveland takes a peek at Buffalo
The Darwin D. Martin House in March. Photo by Harry Scull / The Buffalo News.
Steven Litt, the Cleveland Plain Dealer's excellent art and architecture critic, had an illuminating piece on Buffalo's cultural assets in Sunday's edition. Litt, like others who've lately come to witness the city's successful and burgeoning efforts to build a tourism trade around our art and architecture, was impressed with the progress that's been made on the Darwin D. Martin House and other ongoing projects in East Aurora, the newly minted Museum District and elsewhere.
Guilt and shame may have something to do with the city's high performance. In 1950, to its eternal regret, the Buffalo countenanced the demolition of Wright's first monumental office building, the Larkin Administration Building, which figures prominently in textbooks and college art history courses on the rise of Modernism. The building was removed to make way for a parking lot.
The city is atoning for that sin by making itself a model of historic preservation, cultural tourism and economic development. Specifically, the Buffalo Niagara Convention & Visitors Bureau is heavily promoting the work of nonprofit preservation groups and cultural organizations that are stewarding the region's riches.
Historians often say that Modernism was an international force in culture that erased local distinctions and emphasized a global sameness. In Buffalo, however, it's clear that Modernism in art and architecture was a movement very much inflected by regional forces, and made all the richer for it.
If Buffalo can rise again, it may owe its recovery to the riches left behind at the dawn of the modern age. Today, it's a terrific place to ponder the role played by culture in the destiny of cities. That's a story made all the more inspiring by the current efforts to preserve the best of the recent past.