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Recent projects by architect Brad Wales

Clean, small, sustainable

This house at 553 Breckenridge underwent a gut rehab in order to bring in the light.

Photo by Jim Bush


May 11

House(s) by Brad Wales, architect

with Affordable Houses by UB Small Built Works Students + photos by Jim Bush, cosponsored by Benjaman Contemporary Gallery

Opening reception May 11, 7-9 p.m., at 164.5 Allen Street




A University at Buffalo architecture professor has been quietly changing the streetscapes and living spaces of Western New York, one steel beam at a time. Brad Wales’ student-focused Small Built Works program and his own innovative practice use Buffalo and environs as a sort of laboratory for smart, community-focused building.


Wales first came to our attention in 2001, with the first Small Built Works in the Allentown neighborhood. His UB students were invited to imagine interesting additions to the Allentown streetscape that could be functional and symbolic. A bus shelter at Main and Allen is one of the most prominent of these. Over the years that followed, Wales and his students have added a the 18th Street Community Park, and an extensive citywide bench project. Small Built Works won a major architectural prize in 2005. Most recently, there is a series of affordable small and tiny houses—so far, as permit-ready drawings; the first is to appear in Tonawanda this spring.


Large areas of glass bring passive solar energy to the house.


On his own, Wales has at least four projects in hand as of this writing, including a small house on Rhode Island Street, a carriage house on Trinity, and a major renovation on Penhurst Place. Two interiors are shown on these pages. At 553 Breckenridge, the owners needed a new kitchen and wanted an open plan that would bring light into the house. Wales cut archways into existing interior walls or removed them, replaced most of an exterior wall with glass, and rebuilt the ceiling to further open up the space. Now, light from the back of the house penetrates as far as the front door and the garden is in full view from the kitchen. Wales’s philosophy is to always provide a passive solar energy system and the new southern-facing windows provide this.


An apartment project for Hertel Avenue’s New Age Salon added a second-floor residential unit in a tight space. By opening up the roof gable space, Wales was able to create an airy feel within the narrow building. As with the Breckenridge project, this was about working within a modest budget and a minimal floorplate for maximum effect. Wales notes, “We have a preference for high integrity natural materials like wood, glass, concrete, brick, steel, and stone—materials that look great highlighted by natural light.”


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