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The Five-Point Weekend Escape Plan

Explore Architecture in Buffalo

3. What to Do

Frank Lloyd Wright's Blue Sky Mausoleum, one of the architect's many creations in Buffalo's environs.  

Explore Silo City, a cluster of hundreds of abandoned cylindrical grain storehouses that perfectly illustrate the death-and-rebirth cycle of America’s industrial cities. The rusted-out campus once helped feed the nation, then inspired modern architectural greats like Le Corbusier, who studied the stark, undecorated grain elevators and ultimately imagined the Bauhaus style. Now part of the sprawling site has been repurposed for urban spelunking, poetry slams, concerts, and art installations. For the most dramatic views, rent a kayak from BFLO Harbor Kayak ($40) and paddle around to where the Buffalo River meets the Erie Canal and the lake.

Explore a cluster of Frank Lloyd Wright masterpieces. Start out with the jewel of the group: the 1905 Martin House Complex, considered to be the prime specimen of Wright’s prairie style that uses long, horizontal lines and local materials to try to mirror the surrounding landscape. Then take a drive to the light-filled Graycliff, a summer home Wright built on the limestone cliffs overlooking the blue expanse of Lake Erie. Stay on the water with a visit to Fontana's Boat House, a functioning rowing club constructed in 2005 from designs Wright drew 100 years earlier for his alma mater in Wisconsin. Feast your eyes on the newest addition to the city’s Wright collection: a copper-roofed filling station. Wright’s designs were to be built in Buffalo in 1927 and then replicated across the nation, but never were. The Pierce Arrow Museum purchased the rights, constructed the building, and unveiled it in early July of this year. Finally, pay your respects at Wright’s haunting Blue Sky Mausoleum. The stark white steps of granite graves were designed in the mid 1920’s, but not built until 2004—and they’re still waiting for their first occupant.

Reflect on Buffalo’s past with a tour of its extant architectural gems, starting with Buffalo Central Terminal. The grand, vaulted ceilings and sturdy brick walls are all that is left of the Art Deco transportation palace, left unattended for decades since the last Amtrak train pulled out in 1979. It’s now ravaged by decay, but hard-hat tours are available through the volunteer organization striving to restore it. Catch a concert by the likes of Emmylou Harris or a book talk by authors like Patti Smith at Kleinhans Music Hall, designed and built by Eliel Saarinen and his son Eero in 1940. Extolled by Jascha Heifetz and Serge Koussevitzky, it’s still considered to have some of the best acoustics in the world, in addition to an austere Scandinavian design that presaged the mid-century movement. See what’s playing at Shea's Performing Arts Center, the last surviving Louis Comfort Tiffany–designed theater. Opened in 1926, it’s now in the final stages of a painstaking $2.5 million restoration of every interior detail, from its woven carpets to the chandeliers hung from the 110-foot ceiling.

Published on Aug 1, 2014 as a web exclusive.