The road to Silo City twisted painfully through so much industrial wasteland on the outskirts of Buffalo that both we and our taxi driver were completely convinced at various times that we were hopelessly lost. But Siri never gave up, and eventually, we bumped off the road and onto the long driveway. Silo City had at one time been a massive shipping hub, collecting grain from the American and Canadian heartlands into too many monumental silos to count as night drew close. But like so many things in the region, the fall had been hard and brutal. I’m not sure how many (if any) of them were still in use, but the sprawling site had in recent years taken on another use as a gathering spot for large open-air events.
The cavernous central square between two huge banks of silos was lined on one side with food trucks that seemed like mere matchboxes at the feet of the towering cylinders. A quick glance revealed that those of us who had come for the Congress for the New Urbanism were decidedly in the minority, with most of the crowd apparently being locals. I assumed they would keep their distance from the planning and architecture geeks that we are, but a strange thing happened as the light faded in the west and the house lights came on: the locals began to gravitate to the hundreds of seats encircling the stage just as we did. Apparently they were going to give us a chance to entertain them.
The opening act was Sjoerd Soeters, a fascinating Dutch architect I can’t believe I’d never known beforehand, especially because so much of his work dealt with issues I’m concerned with as well. But then Andrés Duany stepped up, and in the rarest of form. The sky had deepened to the blackest of violet and the light show had taken on heroic proportions as Andrés launched into an oratory for the ages. He told me later “when I saw how they were responding, I went straight into full-on Mussolini mode.”
At first, I shot from the front corner of the crowd, but realized I was missing the best angle of all, so I slipped behind the stage and wedged myself into a crevice where I captured what are undoubtedly the most heroic images I’ve ever shot. Andrés’ presentation occupies slightly less than half of the 57 images in the gallery; the rest are of the Silo City setting, mostly taken in the last golden glow of evening sun.