Erkin Özay: Rust Belt Cosmopolitanism: Resettlement Urbanism in Buffalo, New York

Photo of sidewalk with colorful building facades
photo / Chen, Salton, Xiong
Plan of Buffalo, NY
Plan of Buffalo, New York. photo / provided
photo / Chen, Salton, Xiong Plan of Buffalo, New York. photo / provided

Erkin Özay is a registered architect and an urbanist with a research focus on urban asset distribution practices and their spatial impacts on the city, with a specific concentration on the design of educational environments. He is an assistant professor in the Department of Architecture at the School of Architecture and Planning at SUNY Buffalo.


This "pop-up" lecture/presentation by Özay is in connection with the third-year undergraduate design studio, ARCH 3101 Design V, taught by Associate Professor Lily Chi, and visiting critics Rychiee Espinosa and Ryan Ludwig. Özay will lecture on his research concerning the impact of refugee resettlement communities on the post-industrial landscape of Buffalo, New York.

In Buffalo — a "preferred resettlement community" — a new-found standing as a place of hope for displaced thousands has jolted lethargic public systems and provided much-needed urban stimulus. Yet the city is struggling to formulate equitable modes of urbanization for its new residents and existing disadvantaged communities. In response, a loosely-coordinated network of institutions has emerged, bridging gaps left by weak welfare structures. This local resettlement apparatus provides significant implications for urban practice, based on notions of cosmopolitanism and cooperation.

The 21st century has been labeled "the century of people on the move." It is also characterized by "the turn against immigration." In the context of contested immigration politics, can pluralism — that much-touted but deeply flawed characteristic of American democracy — provide an adequate framework for integration, when newcomers are less white and their destination cities poorer? This is a crucial question to address for many Rust Belt cities that look to refugee resettlement as a means to impede depopulation and revitalize distressed neighborhoods.

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