Botanical Gardens developing master plan for architecture, exhibits

lilacs and dome at Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens
Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

by Connie Oswald Stofko

A new, larger events space. A new admissions area. A new cafe. A new gift shop.

How can the Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens create those areas, possibly constructing new buildings, without disturbing the domed buildings that are architectural and historical gems?

“And we have to do something with the garage and those greenhouses that obstruct the view of one of the Olmsted Parks,” said David J. Swarts, president and CEO of the Botanical Gardens, referring to South Park, in which the Botanical Gardens is located.

Those are some of the concerns that will be addressed by a long-term master plan being developed now for the Botanical Gardens. The plan will also address possible improvements to the plant collections and exterior gardens.

“There are so many different pieces and parts to this,” Swarts said.

The plan should be complete by the end of the year.

Toshiko Mori Architect PLLC, of New York City, the firm that designed the Darwin D. Martin House Visitors Center in Buffalo, will lead the design effort in collaboration with Oasis Design Group of Baltimore, MD, and Arup of New York City.

“The design team clearly demonstrated its combined, highly specialized expertise in architecture, landscape architecture, conservatory exhibit design, master planning and structural engineering,” Swartz said. “The team was selected following a nationwide search, proposal submission and interview process.”

A number of local architects are assisting and serving as consultants, he said.

The plan will focus on site master planning with retention of the seven original Lord & Burnham glasshouses, which opened to the public in 1900.

Because it is listed on the the National Register of Historic Places, the iconic architecture of the domed buildings in front must remain the same, though the interiors can be changed, Swartz said. The other buildings and the courtyards can also be changed.

The construction work that you see going on now is separate from the master plan. The work is the reconstruction of House 3 that is being done by Erie County, which owns the buildings and is responsible for capital construction. While Houses 2 and 3 are closed, the rest of the Botanical Gardens are open.

While you’re at the Botanical Gardens, take a look at the newly planted entrance garden, one of six Proven Winners Signature Gardens in the country. The goal is to develop a showcase garden that complements the property and provides visitors the opportunity to view the latest new plant varieties and plant introductions from Proven Winners. The beds should be mature in about three years.

The improvements that already under way and the improvements to come in future decades under the developing master plan are all “part of the renaissance that is taking place throughout our community,” Swartz said. “We’re working collectively to be part of that rebirth.”

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