UB architecture students design equestrian center on Buffalo’s east side – UBNow: News and views for UB faculty and staff

Three horses stand tall in Hayes Hall on UB’s South Campus. The imposing, life-size silhouettes made from cardboard, string, wool and weathered newspaper scraps attract the attention of students, teachers and visitors alike.

Behind the horses, students in ARC 503/603 are absorbed in design proposals for the semester. The studio full of activity, drawings and models.

This is HORSE Studio, a seven-credit course in the graduate program in the Department of Architecture. These budding architects are designing a community riding club for Buffalo. Inspired by the Buffalo Therapeutic Riding Center, students are developing ideas for similar facilities on Northampton and Louisiana streets on the city’s East Side.

A riding club at the center of a course on city buildings? He had his skeptics.

“At first we were perplexed,” says Sean Brunstein, one of the 44 students in the studio. “Why do we draw and make life-size horses?”

The answer to this question became clear when students studied global equestrian centers and began to understand the significance of the horse and its potential to develop skills, confidence, and improve physical and mental health in cities.

Justina Zifchock, a member of the teaching team, insists that a riding school is an ideal way to understand design and the city.

“For an equestrian center, students have to design several different types of buildings as well as outdoor spaces,” says Zifchock, a graduate of UB’s architecture program. “They all have to interact with each other. Students design site-specific buildings and landscapes that also enhance the neighborhood and environment.”

“Building and landscape design are the foundations of our program,” notes Brian Carter, professor of architecture, who teaches the course with Zifchock, project architect at Watts Architecture & Engineering, and Adam Thibodeaux, clinical assistant professor. “We developed this program to make connections.”

Day 1 Task: Make a life size drawing of a horse. Images of horses soon adorned the studio wall, including beasts at rest, in motion, trained to serve and boundless in flight.

The student teams then built life-size models of the animals. Three figures now stand in the studio.

“It’s a constant reminder of who we’re designing for and their size and scale,” says Brunstein. “We always have this horse with us and we can develop our designs with horses in mind.”

Design requires students to plan different but complementary elements.

“We developed requirements for the riding school and also asked the students to add 5,000 square feet for other uses they thought would be useful for the neighborhood,” Carter says.

Requirements include a 100-foot by 200-foot indoor arena for training, exercises and events; an outdoor arena; and grazing areas along with stables for 20 horses, staff facilities, tack rooms and litter areas. However, it is the additional 5,000 square feet of space that presents student interests.

Christal Smith focused on the lack of jobs on the East Side.

“I’m proposing two new training programs that help build skills and create better-paying jobs,” explains Smith. “One is for healthcare and the other is for training veterinary technicians. The technician program would be located close to the stables, while health care would help seniors living nearby and build new health programs that connect people and horses.

Tina Tan wants to make sure no one is left behind.

“My design includes a childcare centre,” says Tan. “We have housing for the elderly and a church nearby. I wanted to connect facilities and provide coverage for every generation in the community.”

Despite the technical requirements, students develop very different proposals.

“Moving from a studio table, you’re going to see completely different priorities and design,” says Zifchock.

Pointing to models of pitched-roof riding arenas inspired by barns, sheds or stadiums and developed with structural engineers, Zifchock speaks proudly of his students’ achievements.

Students sought advice from experts. Erika Abbondanzieri, an architect with Watts Architecture & Engineering and an accomplished equestrian, met with the students in September after they toured a horse barn in Gasport with Randy Fernando, another UB architecture and equestrian alumnus.

Tapping into professional networks allowed students to meet top structural engineers in Toronto and Western New York and learn from landscape architects as well.

“The structural engineers consulted with each student,” Zifchock says. “Each presented a design to the structural engineers to develop their designs – as they work in practice.”

The design of an equestrian center also generated considerations about the city’s communities. “The places we chose shaped the way we talk about riding facilities,” says Thibodeaux. “We visited the Buffalo Equestrian Center – a good example of how horses and riding can create therapeutic benefits for different people and communities.”

Advice from landscape architects also helps. The proposals integrate new natural landscapes that enhance both neighborhoods and the environment. Students considered ways to create landscapes that would reconnect neighborhoods cut off by the destruction of the Humboldt Parkway and the construction of the Kensington Expressway.

Students will present their projects on December 5th in Hayes Hall. Guests will provide a holistic review of their work.

“Many of the students are international, and their first day was their introduction to Western New York, UB and the School of Architecture and Planning,” Zifchock says. “They were asked to draw a full-size horse in one day.”

One drawing shows how the artist created an image that captures the work of horse and man.

“The students had fun and covered the studio with life-size drawings,” says Zifchock. “We have to see how they saw a horse. They also showed their opinions and perspectives through drawings.”

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