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Gardening & More: Botanical gardens envisions possible future building designs

CASTLE IN THE AIR ­— Lauren Colley is one of the seniors in architecture at the University at Buffalo who created a concept for what an addition to the Buffalo & Erie County Botanical Gardens might look like. Photo submitted by Connie Oswald Stofko.
BUFFALO — The Buffalo & Erie County Botanical Gardens could use more space for its exhibits and events. If it were to construct an addition, what might that building look like?

Designs by senior architecture students at the State University of New York at Buffalo provide a starting point for the community to begin talking about such a project, said David J. Swartz, president and CEO of the gardens.

You can see models of six different concepts, and vote on your favorite one, from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. daily, through Sunday, April 7 at the botanical gardens, located at 2655 South Park Avenue, Buffalo.

The exhibit is called LifeCycles: An Orangery and Demonstration Garden Exhibit. Fashionable in 19th century Italy, an orangery was a building where citrus trees were nurtured during the winter. In warmer months, the trees were moved outside, to provide an event space to host parties, weddings and celebrations.

Having space for both plants and events is something the botanical gardens needs. It hosts weddings and other events, but that space is limited. If the gardens had more room to hold events, it could produce more revenue, Swartz explained, in a press conference on March 15 that unveiled the students’ work.

“These are concepts of what could be, in the future life of the botanical gardens,” Swartz said. “They provide something to present to the public and donors. Hopefully, we can raise the resources, so we can build this out.”

A total of 60 students participated in the design studio and all of the students’ concepts will be compiled in a book, according to Omar Khan, chair of architecture at UB.

The studio was taught by professors Brian Carter, Nerea Feliz, Curt Gambetta, Jordan Geiger (coordinator) and Brad Wales.

Here is a glimpse of the students’ work:

Lauren Colley
In Lauren Colley’s concept, the new building would be designed so that visitors would walk through outside gardens, as well as inside gardens, as they moved through the space. Going outside would be part of the experience; the interior gardens alternate with the exterior gardens.

Mesh, covered with plants, would hang over the exterior spaces. Some of the spaces would have more solid coverings, so that visitors wouldn’t be exposed to the weather.

The paths in the outdoor spaces would be short, compared to those in the indoor spaces. During the winter, should visitors bundle up for the outdoor weather or leave their coat in the coat room?

“Personally, I’d still check my coat,” Colley said.

Vincent Ribeiro
The trees in the exhibits grow taller, and the building in Vincent Ribeiro’s design could grow taller, too. He would use tubular construction techniques that would allow the ribs of the building to be increased in height, perhaps once a year, to accommodate the growth of trees, in the exhibit. The roof could open to allow ventilation, in the summer. The new building would connect to the current building by an underground tunnel.

Christa Trautman
The dome of the current building is an iconic structure, and Christa Trautman didn’t want the new building in her concept to obscure that view. Rather than construct a tall building, she would carve into the earth, creating huge shapes that mimic the shape of the dome. Constructing the new structure over these depressions would allow trees and other plants in the exhibit to grow as tall as they need to.

The old and new buildings would connect, and a bridal party would be able to have a procession from the current dome to the new building, adding a romantic touch to a wedding.

Nate Heckman
The exhibits in the botanical gardens are from areas around the world, that are located on the same meridian as Buffalo.

In Nate Heckman’s vision, the exhibits would be displayed within a single, domed building. Another dome within the dome would help control the climate.

He would arrange the plants by the country that they’re from. By arranging the exhibits in a spiral, he would be able to group the plants from the warmer climates together and the plants from the cooler climates together.

Timothy A. Boll
The main idea of the design by Timothy A. Boll is to use only one heating source and one cooling source, to create all the micro-climates needed for the various plants. He aims to have areas ranging in temperature from 40 – 87 degrees Fahrenheit, all in a single building, with no walls.

A source of cold air would be situated high above the plants and a heat source would be located near ground level.

Since cold air falls and hot air rises, the air would constantly be moving and mixing. The air nearest the cold source would remain cold and the air nearest the heat source would remain hot, with the air in the in between in a range of warm temperatures.

Plants would also be on platforms at different heights, to take advantage of the different air temperatures.

Visit the exhibit to get a glimpse of what the future might hold for the Botanical Gardens and its building designs.

Connie Oswald Stofko is publisher of, the online gardening magazine for Western New York. Email

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