Buffalo City Hall is a paragon of the Art Deco style. The grand scale, elegant lines and symbolic embellishments remind us of Buffalo's former standing as a rival to New York City. This building wants a bustling populace in awe of super heros and arch villains doing battle on its balconies. All it gets are windy and deserted streets with a view to Lake Ontario.
Completed in 1932, the building strives to celebrate the history of Buffalo, focusing on the constructive force of industry rather than lauding destructive battles. The central figure greeting visitors is a historian with his pen poised to continue documenting the Buffalo story. By looking at the exterior friezes and interior murals, you find images symbolizing: Buffalo industries including steel, shipping, science and medicine, electrical energy and engineering; the pioneering past of this region; the importance of strong community, family and civic duty; and relations with Canada. The Iroquois people are an important part of Buffalo's history and are referred to by the magnificent graphic ceiling in the main hall, painted to represent an abstracted Chief's headdress.
The swastika symbol, although intentionally smudged, can be seen in the elevator foyer. Although this is a left hand swastika, the Nazi's degradation of the right handed version was cause enough for partial removal. It is a shame that the Western world has such bad connotations of this almost universally used geometric arrangement, especially considering it's Sanskrit meaning "to be good."
I felt sad in the grandeur of this building. With imagery striving for a bright and prosperous future, I wonder how these builders would feel about how Buffalo stands now. The security guard looked out of place in his Tapout T-shirt but was very friendly, if not aesthetic, and directed us to the top floor panorama. On the glass barrier was written this line which echoed my mood:
Roll back the curtain of memory now and then show me where you brought me from and where I could have been.