University at Buffalo - The State University of New York
Skip to Content

Terra Cotta Panels on New Medical School Building Nod to City’s Past

Published November 18, 2016

Even before ground was broken three years ago for the new downtown home of the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, it was clear that the building would transform the neighborhood.

Together with its future neighbors, the John R. Oishei Children’s Hospital and the Conventus medical office building, the new medical school building would be making a lasting statement in an area undergoing major changes.

Local Company Won Bid Over Two German Firms

The designers at HOK were clear that while an urban renaissance was taking off in Buffalo, the new medical school building should also reflect the city’s rich architectural past.

That’s the reason that this fall, terra cotta panels — 28,006 of them to be precise — are being installed as the high-performance “skin” of the new home of the medical school.

“HOK contacted us during the conceptual design stage,” says Willard Pottle, international sales and marketing manager at Boston Valley Terra Cotta, a local company that won the bid to manufacture the panels over two German firms.

“They made it very clear that they wanted to use terra cotta to acknowledge Buffalo’s architectural history.”

Material Found Throughout Buffalo Connotes Durability

Terra cotta can be found throughout Buffalo, notably on city landmarks like the Guaranty Building and the Darwin Martin House. These buildings were references that HOK designers used in discussing how they wanted the panels on the new medical school building to look.

More recent examples of projects that Boston Valley has created terra cotta panels for include: 250 Delaware Ave., the Peace Bridge and the new Scott Bieler Clinical Sciences Center at Roswell Park Cancer Institute, also on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.

“This medical school building is a new landmark for Buffalo,” Pottle says, adding that terra cotta, which is very popular on university campuses worldwide, connotes durability.

“Terra cotta isn’t a 25 to 30 year kind of material,” he explains. “It’s a material for buildings that will be there a long time.”

Panels Will Cover 105,000 Square Feet of Building

When installation is complete, the building will be covered in 105,000 square feet of terra cotta panels. Each panel weighs 60 pounds and measures 1 foot by 5 feet.

The project, among the largest in the history of the family-run company, has been several years in the making between the initial design, planning and construction. Located just south of the city in Orchard Park, Boston Valley Terra Cotta traces its roots back to 1889.