Celebrating 17 Years of Buffalo Architecture Foundation's Arch + Ed Program

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May 1, 2024

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The Buffalo Architecture Foundation, Inc. (BAF) is a not-for-profit, public charity founded in 2010 by AIA Buffalo / WNY. It’s dedicated to inspiring the exploration and appreciation of architecture and how it shapes our lives, and interestingly, it was co-founded by CannonDesign's Denise Juron-Borgese & James Lai.

BAF exists to raise awareness of our built environment specifically among students in Buffalo Public Schools (BPS). One of its signature programs is the Architecture + Education (Arch + Ed) program, which was developed by Dr. Anne Taylor and James Lai of CannonDesign in collaboration with the Joint Schools Construction Project and BPS. CannonDesign has been an integral leader in the Arch + Ed program since its inception in 2007.

This program is about education and diversity — and plays a crucial role in encouraging historically underrepresented groups to explore career opportunities in architecture, construction and engineering. The focus isn’t just to attract young people to the profession, but to create well-rounded people who better understand the design of the built environment. In 2013, the Arch + Ed outreach program was awarded the AIA National Diversity Recognition Award, and in 2015, it was recognized as the largest pro-bono project in Buffalo, with a satellite Lakeshore School program developed in schools for Seneca Nation of Indians children.

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  • The program has been a meaningful way for architects to give back to our community by sharing our knowledge, experience and love of architecture and the built environment with Buffalo students. It's incredible to see how successful the program has become, reaching so many students and gaining recognition across the nation.

    James Lai CannonDesign Architect and Co-founder of the Arch + Ed program

CannonDesign's Luke Johnson currently serves as chair of BAF Educational Programming and Cheri Weatherston serves as the chair of the Arch + Ed program. This year, Sharon Li Bain, An Wang and TJ Mulligan are the architects participating from CannonDesign. The program offers designers opportunities for collaboration and connection with local university design programs and access to continuing education and networking with peers and community leaders. Additionally, it presents BPS teachers with exciting alternatives for teaching the common core curriculum.

It's a rewarding experience to introduce architecture and design to young children through creative problem-solving and hands-on activities," said Sharon Li Bain.


  • During my time as a student at Buffalo Public Schools, I attended an assembly hosted by CannonDesign for students interested in architecture programs. It made a lasting mark on me and inspired me to push harder and go further in my career. Working at CannonDesign has been a true full circle moment for me.

    Tyler Jeter CannonDesign

The program structure kicks off with an all-day workshop with architects, teachers and local university students, and wraps with teams developing lesson plans and presenting ideas to all participants for their workshops. Arch + Ed then launches 8-10 workshops in classrooms over a 2-3-month period, with the first session focused on an introduction to architecture and then digging into other hands-on topics focused on subject, standards, and topics flushed out from the all-day workshop. The topics align with the NYS Common Core Curriculum, and lessons focus on one subject and 1-3 standards. Past sessions have included subjects such as science / sun, with a focus on standards of proportion and scale; problem solving; and design and construction of sun shades to combat sun glare in the classroom.

The program concludes with an exhibit held in early May at a local gallery featuring hundreds of pieces of work created by students during the program. To date, the Arch + Ed program has partnered with 34 schools, 166 architects, 150 classrooms, and over 4,150 students.

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Buffalo Architecture Foundation's Arch + Ed Program