Building Clarity: Structural Legibility, Corporate Transparency and Public Accessibility in Buffalo's Industrial Architecture, 1880-1920

Other Titles
Focusing on three building types in particular, the grain elevator, the daylight factory and the powerhouse, this dissertation traces the multiple ways in which architecture was used to clarify the presence of industry in America from 1880-1920. The notion of ‘architectural clarity,’ or transparency, emerges throughout this work in a diversity of physical, phenomenological and cultural definitions. Examining the ways in which industrial architecture conveyed specific messages to the public, this dissertation considers this notion of clarity as it emerged in three major ways: structural legibility, corporate transparency and public accessibility. Architects worked with engineers and corporations in order to advertise, educate and entertain the general public about the role of industry during this time, through a variety of design solutions, business tactics, and factory tours. This work traces the evolution of these types of professional and public encounters with grain elevators, daylight factories and powerhouses from the early twentieth century to the early twenty-first. As each of these three building types originated or significantly advanced in Buffalo and Niagara Falls in some way, a regional approach to this architectural history is integral to this study. By viewing these building types through a variety of visual media, professional journals, and promotional materials, this work addresses the role of architecture in shaping, influencing and controlling public perceptions of industry as it was evolving in the Buffalo-Niagara region at an alarming rate from 1895-1901. Utilizing a methodology that integrates the perspectives, experience and histories of the engineers, general contractors and laborers alongside architects wherever possible, this work views the design, construction and operation of industrial architecture as an inherently collaborative process. Addressing the local, national and international conceptions of Buffalo’s industrial architecture through these images and ephemera can demonstrate both the emphases and exclusions that occur when discussing industry in the architectural canon at large. In doing so, this dissertation aims to not only conceptualize, but also mobilize, this history of industrial architecture in order to integrate this complicated past into a continually evolving urban landscape in the present.
Journal / Series
Volume & Issue
Date Issued
History; Buffalo; Daylight Factory; Grain Elevator; Powerhouse; industry; American studies; architecture
Effective Date
Expiration Date
Union Local
Number of Workers
Committee Chair
Woods, Mary Norman
Committee Co-Chair
Committee Member
Meixner, Laura Lee
Lasansky, Diana Medina
Degree Discipline
Degree Name
Ph. D., Architecture
Degree Level
Doctor of Philosophy
Related Version
Related DOI
Related To
Related Part
Based on Related Item
Has Other Format(s)
Part of Related Item
Related To
Related Publication(s)
Link(s) to Related Publication(s)
Link(s) to Reference(s)
Previously Published As
Government Document
Other Identifiers
Rights URI
dissertation or thesis
Accessibility Feature
Accessibility Hazard
Accessibility Summary
Link(s) to Catalog Record