When art and architecture unite

201 Ellicott

September 28, 2022

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A new piece from Architect magazine profiles the growing movement to more intentionally unite art and architecture to nourish communities and elevate design outcomes. Michael Tunkey, a design leader in our Buffalo office, contributes extensively to the piece and discusses our work at 201 Ellicott and the D'Youville University Health Professions Hub.

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Maya Hayuk's "Tree of Y," painted on a side of D'Youville University's Health Professions Hub, is an incredible 96' x 90' and an extension of an exciting partnership between CannonDesign and the Buffalo AKG Art Museum.

The article features projects and voices from across North America who are contributing to this important, unifying movement. It defines this trend as a "movement that prioritizes art to help create a narrative of a building and its environs, inviting artists into projects early as collaborators, rather than as an afterthought at the end of the process to paint a leftover wall." These efforts can take several forms, including connecting to the community through the content and narrative of an artwork and bringing in artists early to help inform, shape, and tell the story of a place from the onset.

The piece shares Mike's thoughts on how art and artists add meaning and incredible value to an architecture project. In Buffalo, Mike has become a sort of liaison between artists, architects and developers. He's a member of the Buffalo AKG Art Museum's public art committee and has forged an exciting partnership with the museum.


  • Involving artists and connecting with the community is an important and effective strategy we use in our design work. It's a way for other voices to come into the architecture and for us to give up some level of control. The artists we work with are very in touch with the communities. They often talk more fluidly than we do in terms of community.

    Michael Tunkey, AIA Design Leader

For Mike and our team, this trend has most overtly taken shape with recent community-focused projects in Buffalo. 201 Ellicott is a new affordable housing complex with a fresh food market along a known food desert in the heart of the city featuring a stunning mural from Josef Kristofoletti. Blocks away, the D'Youville University Health Professions Hub brings incredible new medical education resources to Buffalo's West Side community and offers a mural from Maya Hayuk. Both projects have been recognized with numerous media and awards including 2022 Fast Company World Changing Idea awards.

201 Ellicott
Josef Kristofoletti painted this entire mural on the side of 201 Ellicott by hand. He titled the beautiful piece "Golden Hour."
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There is a sort of romance to the placement of this spectacular and meditative work, full of gradations of tones and hues, in an urban setting.

Mike shares with Architect that these art efforts build trust in communities. These initiatives have also won over developers, he says, turning a building into a destination that attracts attention.

“It then has this iconic value that architects aspire to but rarely achieve,” he says. To achieve this, however, the whole process must be deliberate. "If you are going to plan for public art in a new project, it should be designed for public art. There should be no compromises. It shouldn’t seem like a leftover space that you’re giving as a leftover."