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A Modernist Masterpiece, Under Fire in Buffalo

Gordon Bunshaft was a singular force behind Modernist architecture in America. Now his greatest gift to his hometown may be at risk.
OMA's proposal for the Albright-Knox's expansion would severely alter interaction between its 1905 and 1962 buildings.
OMA's proposal for the Albright-Knox's expansion would severely alter interaction between its 1905 and 1962 buildings.Tom Loonan/Albright-Knox

In 1962, the famed architect Gordon Bunshaft was asked to explain his approach to the expansion of Buffalo’s Albright Art Gallery, a 1905 Beaux-Arts structure designed by beloved local architect E.B. Green. He said it was to simply “leave it alone.”

An earlier addition proposal—a glass-enclosed expansion by Paul Schweikher at the base of the 1905 building—was received rather poorly by Buffalonians. So the museum asked Bunshaft, an avid art collector who’d grown up a short walk from the gallery and was then one of the country’s most admired modern architects, to step in. His design solution was simple—a black, glass-enclosed box popping out at a respectful height and distance from Green’s original building, with the two structures connecting via a new entrance, gallery, and courtyard.