By Micaela Barker
Lynda H. Schneekloth, Professor Emerita from the University of Buffalo School of Architecture and Planning, and Julie Barrett O’Neill, General Counsel for the Buffalo Sewer Authority who oversees the implementation of the Authority’s $93 million green infrastructure combined sewer overflow reduction program, are two of Buffalo’s strongest advocates for the accessibility and health of our waterways, waterfronts and watersheds. On April 27th, the UB School of Architecture and Planning joined ArchiteXX in hosting a lecture event titled, “In and Out of [fresh/waste/hot] Water,” which showcased the women’s design practices and advocacy.
Shannon Bassett, UB Assistant Professor, introduced the evening, lectures which were particularly special because of the long-term friendship and professional passions that Schneekloth and Barrett O’Neill have shared over the years. Barrett O’Neill began by speaking about the trajectory of her career and her involvement in the Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper where she previously served as Director, and is where the two women’s professional trajectories crossed. The Riverkeeper is a grassroots community-based non profit organization works towards the protection of the quality and quantity of water, while at the same time as connecting people to water. Barrett O’Neill worked here with Schneekloth who was one of the initial founders of the Riverkeeper. After this Barrett O’Neill became involved with the City of Buffalo, a more institutional setting. Some of the major themes that Barrett O’Neill addressed had to do with how her interest in the environment began when she was a little girl because she had outdoor space to play in. As cities develop, she believes, it is critical to never undervalue outdoor green space for people to enjoy. She also addressed the importance of learning to solve complex issues by collaborating between multiple disciplines. She discussed her belief that students should learn to communicate and collaborate with other professions even before they leave school.
After this, Schneekloth spoke about society’s impact on the earth, the importance of bringing natural processes back into design practice, the ways the natural world impacts us positively, and climate justice.
During the open conversation portion of the event, an audience member raised questions related to the re-evaluation of larger institutional values in order to prioritize environmental issues for government policy making. There were other questions about how to motivate the larger public to practice sustainable ways of living.
Top image: Lynda H. Schneekloth, Professor Emerita from the University of Buffalo School of Architecture and Planning. Photo: Mahan Mehrvarz, UB