The Buffalo Evening News Building
Primary Classification: Commercial (COM)
Secondary Classification: Industrial (IND)
Federal, State, or Local Designation(s) and Date(s): None
The construction of the Buffalo Evening News Building marked a significant move for the News as it brought back together the production and the administrative sides of business at one location. The two branches were separated in 1958 when the production side of the News moved to a new location on Scott St. They would stay separated for nearly 13 years, administrative offices stayed at 218 Main St. right by Seneca St, but when they opened their doors on a new facility right next door to the production plant the News was finally whole again. The site was formerly occupied by the Lehigh Valley Railroad Company but a deal was made in the mid 1950’s to buy the land for both the production and administrative branches of the News. Soon after the production facility opened their doors in 1958, Mrs. Edward H. Butler began her search for an architect to construct a building next to the production facility to house editorial, advertising, and administrative offices bringing all parts of the paper together. Edward Durell Stone was one of the obvious options for the project, since at the time he was, if not the premiere, one of the best architects in the country. Stone had a wealth of knowledge to draw from in Buffalo joining a long list of both traditional and modern architects who were working in the city both past and presently.
The site of the Evening News building is bound to the north by the on-ramps of Interstate 190, the south by Scott St, the west by Washington St, and to the east by the production facilities of the news. The base of the building is inset from the upper walls giving a covered entry to the building. The buildings ground level itself is sunk into the ground and there is a 25 foot section that is accessible from street level. At the northern end of the building the ground floor is about three feet below the street level and at the Scott St. entrance the street level is two and a half feet above the entry floor. The ground floor is for the most part glass on all three sides except where the News and the old production building meet. There are four occupiable rooms in the four corners of the building that pride the building with lateral bracing along with the providing a different type of enclosed space in opposition to the typical office plan. On the ground floor, the northwest corner has a full sized auditorium, as well as a fire stair, the north-east corner contains another fire stair, the southwest corner has sales offices and a fire stair, and the southeast corner holds the fourth and final fire stair. This floor is broken up by column bays that measure 40 by 80 feet overall. The second floor of the building houses the link to the existing production building as well as the only production facilities for the new building. The third floor is the typical office floor with an open floor plan for cubicles while the exterior wall houses any private offices as well as common areas for employees. The assembly of the third floor is different from the bottom two as it is thicker than the first two slabs to provide for sound proofing from the production floor. Additionally, the office floors utilize raised floor systems making the plan adjustable to multiple configurations. The fourth floor is similar to the third with the exception of a large planter in the center of the space which is 60 feet by 80 feet in size. It is lit up by a skylight that is cut out of the fifth floor. Again there are office cubicles to either side and offices/meeting rooms that take up the perimeter of the space. The fifth floor has executive offices to the north side of the plan and the buildings cafeteria and eating space is to the south side.
On both the north and south elevations there are doors that lead to the exterior balcony which is similar is depth to the overhand on the ground level. There are four foot wide planters on this balcony that allow greenery to hang over the edges during the winter and fall giving the Evening news color in contrast to the stark stone panels. The building is clad with precast exposed aggregate panels with windows being introduced at a three foot step back. The stone panels wrap around the entire building and terminate at the corners as well as the east side of the building, sixty feet in from the north and south sides, where two main service cores attach the existing publishing building and the new Evening News Building. The cladding covers the depth of the floor assembly plus a 42 in high service zone which provides perimeter heating on for each floor. The exception to this is the second floor where there are no windows to the exterior and there is a link between the two buildings. From the top of the service zone to the ceiling the façade steps back and windows are punched through the wall. The windows are 4 feet wide with two foot spacing between each. This logic is continued on the roof plane to create skylights for both the interior and the exterior balcony. The roof becomes very similar to a lattice structure as much of the material is taken out to give the roof a light airy feel.
The construction of the News Building was rather unconventional for the location and time period. During this time in history a majority of the buildings being erected, including the HSBC Tower by SOM, opened one year later, where hybrid buildings using both concrete and steel but for the most part steel was the leading structural system at the time. Stone’s building however used a great deal of site cast and precast concrete to construct the Evening News. The process of erecting the building was fairly simple. Once the site prep work was completed, the basement and concrete foundation were poured, and the building was built using site cast columns and precast double tee planks. The double tee planks provided Stone with an integrated service zone that to this day houses both electrical lighting and HVAC services. The ground floor slab uses a waffle slab instead of the precast t’s to distribute the weights evenly across the lower level. The precast concrete panels were also an interesting part of construction, giving the building a very massive feeling but reducing the weight of these hung panels they were made thin. Exposing the corner of the building gives those who pass by a brief idea that the precast panels are just a veneer and that there is another structural system beneath. On the interior the massive construction is expressed as the walls and ceilings are left exposed. The one soft surface is the carpeted panels of the raised floor system. The raised floor allows for multiple layouts of the open office floor with electrical floor panels easily being moved from one space to another to accommodate the office needs.
The Evening News building is sited by the Inner Harbor of the city, located on the edge of downtown. This area is dominated by low-rise (three to four story) buildings that serve commercial and industrial needs. These building are similar in style usually utilizing brick or concrete as a façade material. The News Building was one of the first to start to develop the area in the early 70’s with most of the buildings being built after the mid 1970’s.
The structure of the Buffalo News Building represents a unique construction system for the time. The building utilized exclusively site cast concrete for its main structural elements. In comparison the HSBC Tower by SOM, two blocks north on Washington St., completed in 1972, is similar in appearance using stone veneer. However, in contrast HSBC utilized steel W sections as opposed to the site cast concrete for the main structural elements of the News. In addition to the unique structural system, there is also an integration of structure and services. The program of the building is expressed on the exterior with a welcoming glass store font at the pedestrian level that invites people in, progressing to the production floor with no windows, and then to the upper three floors where windows pierce through the façade providing light for the offices.
The significance of the construction represented a shift in the methodology of the Buffalo News. The move merged production with reporting and was a significant move for the News in terms of daily business activities. In terms of style, the Buffalo News Building presented stark contrast to the notable buildings in Buffalo at the time. In comparison, buildings like Sullivan’s Guaranty Building and Richardson’s Buffalo Psychiatric Center, which were highly ornamented, the News Building was a simple modernist box that clearly takes cues from Corbusier’s Five Points and the International Style. It is as if Stone tried to take the five points in its most simple monolithic form. This building represents a significant change to the architecture that defined Buffalo for nearly three-quarters of a century prior.
The ground floor of the News Building was designed to be an open, welcoming space flooded with light that would make the space look even warmer and more welcoming to the public. The west and south sides of this floor were glazed with storefront while the main auditorium space to the north and the production building to the east provided more solid concrete walls on the ground floor. The second floor marked the production space that was allotted in the new building and such was expressed on the exterior as it is the only floor without windows. The third floor is what would be considered the typical office floor and has windows on all sides. The open office plan is filled with cubicles with more important positions having offices mixed along the exterior walls, except for the east wall which is reserved for circulation and services. The fourth floor is similar to the third in terms of office layout with the exception of center of the plan which is opened from above to a set of skylights that covers nearly 5000 square feet of the plan. Below the skylight opening is a 4800 square foot planter with built in benches that brings life and greenery to the otherwise cool concrete surfaces of the walls and ceiling. The fifth floor is reduced in interior square footage to provide and exterior balcony that wraps around three sides of the building. The top floor of the building also holds the News’ cafeteria and the executive offices. Stone was clearly influenced by the International Style as the building can be seen as a Brutalist expression of the style that Philip Johnson coined in 1932. The News exhibits all five points that were distinct to the style, free façade, open plan, strip windows, roof gardens, and pilotes. The structural system allows for all this to happen. By using a combination of double t’s, large inhabitable columns, and waffle slabs it not only gives the plan the flexibility to be left wide open but it also clears up the façade from being structural. With a façade freed up Stone chose to use a series of punch windows that are pushed back into the façade giving them the appearance of being a larger strip. The pilotes can be interpreted as the large “inhabitable” columns at the four corners as well as smaller columns dispersed though the plan at the mid span. The planting on the exterior balcony can be interpreted as the projects roof garden providing greenery to the occupants.
At the time of its completion the Evening News Building was one of Stones last works. It was a time for Stone to reflect on his previous work and projects that he was influenced by but there was also the large task to fit it into the context of Buffalo’s rich architectural history. The project melded the influences of Buffalo’s heavy Gothic architecture with the purity and minimalism of the International Movement. Stone reinterpreted the five points in one heavy monolithic move. At the time it was an important piece of the Modern Movement in Buffalo but did not receive as much national recognition as his previous work.
Stone’s design was an important project that tied his earlier works to the end of his career. His later projects, post 1960, moved away from the earlier Modern Movement and started to mix formalism and Beaux-Art. The Evening News Building references his earlier work such as 2 Columbus Circle and the Mandel House in that both are experimenting with the ideas of the free façade and in the case of 2 Columbus Circle the monumentality and monolithic construction. It is difficult to place this work into the context of the overall architectural history of Buffalo because while it has not yet been recognized as one of the elite design projects of the city, it is still an important project in the timeline of the city as well as the style. When Buffalo’s architecture come up we think of the Gothic nature of Richardson and Sullivan, Wright’s Prairie Style, the massiveness of the grain elevators, and the sleek modernism of Saarinen, Yamasaki, and SOM, but, we are able to see a culmination of these with what Stone presented with the News Building. This building along with the others mentioned before show his dedication to the Modernist Movement and his dedication to design innovation for his use of precast in Buffalo. The preservation of the building is put into danger by the lack of public knowledge of the building along with the shifting of demand for the field. With the advent of the internet, print news numbers have been declining for years putting the whole site into jeopardy as we move forward. The building, however, remains in use for its original owner, the Buffalo News, which remains the only daily newspaper in Buffalo.
Dibble, Ralph. “News Announces Plans for New Office”. The Buffalo Evening News. 16 Aug. 1969. 7 Mar. 2014. B1-B2
Eisensmith, David. Personal Interview. 7 Mar. 2014
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Russell, Roy. Buffalo Evening News. 13 Apr 1973. The Buffalo Evening News. Buffalo, New York
“Stone: Architect of Elegance and Beauty”. The Buffalo Evening News. 2 Nov. 1973. Apr. 2014. II -20
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“The News Completes Its Move, Now Publishing in New Home”. The Buffalo Evening News. 30 Apr. 1973. Apr. 2014.