UB architecture faculty receive coveted ‘Emerging Voices’ award

Georg Rafailidis, left, is an associate professor of architecture and Stephanie Davidson is a visiting assistant professor of architecture, both in the University at Buffalo's School of Architecture and Planning.

Release Date: February 12, 2018

Stephanie Davidson and Georg Rafailidis poured years of research into their design for a specially engineered masonry heater that heats Tipico Coffee for a full day using only six to 10 logs. Photo: Florian Holzherr

This collage of Stephanie Davidson's and Georg Rafailidis' "Free Zoning" project envisions how the site of the Central Park Plaza in Buffalo might look after 30 years, if the building materials were used to reconstruct dwellings and work spaces without any zoning restrictions. The project won first place in an international competition.

Stephanie Davidson and Georg Rafailidis are the authors of “Processes of Creating Space: An Architectural Design Workbook” (Routledge). The book shows beginning designers how to generate space with user experiences in mind.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Two University at Buffalo architecture professors are among this year’s recipients of the Architectural League of New York’s annual Emerging Voices awards.

Stephanie Davidson, visiting assistant professor of architecture, and Georg Rafailidis, associate professor of architecture, are being recognized for their “distinct design voice” and “potential to influence the disciplines of architecture, landscape design and urbanism.”

Twelve other designers — representing seven practices from the U.S., Canada and Mexico — are also being honored. This marks the second time in four years that UB architecture faculty have been recognized by the Architectural League of New York. Associate Professor Joyce Hwang was among the Emerging Voices honorees in 2014.

The jury reviewed significant bodies of work from 50 nominations, and considered accomplishments within the design and academic communities. The work of each Emerging Voice represents the best of its kind, and addresses larger issues within architecture, landscape and the built environment.

“It is humbling to be selected and placed among such innovative, inspiring individuals. We are humbled and we are very grateful to the jurors and to the Architectural League for appreciating and celebrating our work,” Davidson said.

Davidson and Rafailidis credit their academic roles for their creative output that materializes in a wide range of media and scales, including competition entries, realized spaces and books.

“Academic work, and all that comes with it — teaching, writing papers, entering competitions — prompts us to continually ask new and different questions,” says Davidson. “The academic commitments that both of us have in our lives serve as the base for our creative output.”

Their recent projects include the award-winning Tipico Coffee space on Buffalo’s lower West Side, the widely exhibited winning competition entry Free Zoning and their book “Processes of Creating Space.”

Tipico Coffee, the cozy, 880-square-foot cafe, a former corner store in a residential neighborhood, is distinguished by the extra-large operable windows punched into its early 20th-century monolithic brick façade. Those windows work with operable skylights in the summer to create natural ventilation and passive cooling.

In the winter, a large-scale, wood burning Kachelofen (masonry heater) serves as a radiant heat source. The device, which doubles as seating, can heat the space for an entire day using six to 10 logs.

Free Zoning proposed to dismantle a derelict strip mall — Buffalo’s Central Park Plaza — and allow local residents to use the infrastructure and building elements within a context where zoning restrictions would be lifted. The proposal anticipated a dense, heterogeneous mixture of building forms, types and uses.

Free Zoning, which has also been exhibited internationally and published extensively, was the winning project among 122 entries submitted from 11 countries in the competition “Strip Appeal: Reinventing the Strip Mall.”

Indicative of their academic roles, Davidson and Rafailidis consider each project they work on as a study.

“One main question that we ask, and that we study, in our work is: Can spaces be conceived in a way that is not use-specific? If spaces are developed from a mode of thinking and working that doesn't rely so much on a use, maybe we can avoid the redundancy, demolition and waste that we see all around us in the built environment,” says Davidson.

Davidson and Rafailidis also just published “Processes of Creating Space: An Architectural Design Workbook” (Routledge), a book that shows beginning designers how to generate space with user experiences in mind. The book has received praise from several noted artists and architects, including British sculptor Rachel Whiteread and Dutch architect and professor Herman Hertzberger.

As part of the Emerging Voices lecture series, Davidson and Rafailidis will present their work in New York City on March 15.

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