Medina focus of new art and playground project at former concrete plant

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 18 March 2023 at 11:12 am

Power Authority teaming with Canal Corp., UB architecture students to enliven north side of canal

Photos by Tom Rivers: Graduate students in the architecture program at the University of Buffalo met with Medina art students recently in Jennifer Scott’s class to discuss possibilities for a playground area with artistic elements at a former concrete plant site on the north side of the canal near Glenwood Avenue. One idea calls for a “forest of flutes” where people could make sounds and music from flutes. There would also be rocks or stone walls that could be used to make music, too.

MEDINA – State Canal Corp. officials want to build on the success in Medina and eyeing a former concrete plant on the north side of the canal as a new attraction.

The Canal Corp., New York Power Authority and graduate students in an architecture program at the University of Buffalo are brainstorming a new playground for about 4.5 acres of the site. It wouldn’t be a typical play area.

“It will be something to engage the youth and it will be experiential,” said Chris Romano, a professor in UB’s department of architecture.

Romano and professor Joyce Hwang are leading a team of nine graduate students in developing the playground at the vacant former industrial site. They have been tasked by the Power Authority and Canal Corp. to develop concepts for the project.

Medina is a test site for the project, trying to better utilize public spaces to connect people to the water, said Joanna Pacheco, capital planning manager for the New York Power Authority and lead architect for Reimagine The Canals of the New York Power Authority.

“We need to have two sides of the canal,” she said about the efforts to bring an attraction and fun area on the north side of the historic waterway.

She thinks the former concrete plant is an underutilized asset. The spot is close to the Glenwood canal bridge and the “Big Apple” sculpture, with views of the church steeples close by.

The UB students will continue to work on the design process this spring with construction possible this summer and fall.

Pacheco said the project will enliven that part of the village, which currently doesn’t see too much activity.

“There is no wrong answer which is what I like about architecture,” she said.

With the “Not Wall,” people could interact and do fun things with walls that vary in size, color and materials.

Recently the UB team met with art students at Medina High School in Jennifer Scott’s class to present three different ideas and get their feedback.

One concept was a “Not Wall.” Walls typically aren’t interactive but the UB grad students proposed walls of varying shapes, colors and dimensions. There could be a large wall and smaller ones. They could be played in – or on. People could tap the walls with rocks and other materials to make sounds, for example.

Students also proposed a “forest of flutes” that would be large flute-like structures projecting from the ground. They would make for a striking visual site and also could make music. Next to the flutes would be large rocks or stone walls that could be struck with objects to make music, too.

Medina students Franky DiCureia and Jordan Olsen look at concepts of using colorful bars and steps to interact with, and also jazz up an area.

Another idea was mixing art in structures that people could step on and cling to. It would be like an outdoor gym class, or a space to interact with objects.

The grad students and professors asked the Medina high schoolers how they view public art. The students listed murals, statues, the “Big Apple” sculpture in Medina and the Eiffel Tower in Paris as examples.

The group from UB encouraged them to expand that view, and see public art as “community spaces that bring people together.”

The UB team polled students on the concepts, and one student praised the “super cool ideas.” Students asked if the three concepts could be merged together in the final project.

“They took a boring wall and made it crazy,” one student said. “They saw the potential and made it into something better.”

Jennifer Scott, the Medina art teacher, thanked the UB professors and grad students for sharing the ideas with her students.

“I love it,” she said about the ideas. “It’s a wonderful opportunity for the kids to interact with the grad students.”