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Editorial: Faix devoted herself to the towering task of saving Buffalo's Richardson complex

In discussing the area’s contingent of high-caliber cultural leaders, one would be remiss to leave out Monica Pellegrino Faix, who is leaving her role at the renamed Richardson Olmsted Campus in September to join her husband in Alaska.

Her departure comes at the pinnacle in the effort to transform the architectural masterpiece created by Henry Hobson Richardson.

What was once known as the Buffalo State Asylum for the Insane is now the Hotel Henry Urban Resort Conference Center. Also there are the 100 Acres restaurant and the future Lipsey Buffalo Architecture Center.

And there will be more to come. Three of the 13 buildings and nearly one-third of the 500,000-square-foot site are being reused. As one of the largest historic preservation projects in the United States, the process has been long and challenging. That was well suited to someone as incisive as Faix, hired in June 2007, a year after the Richardson Center Corp. board formed.

It took $100 million, mostly in state funds, along with some private donations and enormous volunteer effort to get to this point in repairing Richardson’s largest architectural commission where he developed his Richardsonian Romanesque style. Legendary landscape architects Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux complemented Richardson’s genius.

Faix is always quick to credit the late Buffalo News Publisher Stanford Lipsey; Howard Zemsky, a former Richardson Center Corp. board member who now leads Empire State Development Corp.; and the board. Faix humbly leaves out the fact that she has been dedicated, spending countless hours poring over details. Paul Hojnacki, Richardson’s board president, heaped praise on Faix for her accomplishments.

For her, the revitalization and reimagination of this national landmark was an obvious passion that made its way into everyday conversation and gentle but effective advocacy.

Although not known to take credit, Faix deserves recognition for her role in building to the magnificent crescendo that took place recently on the Richardson’s South Lawn. That event featured an incredible custom-designed light show that was projected onto the iconic towers in concert with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra playing Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Berlioz and Rachmaninoff.

Faix remains optimistic about the complex’s future as it searches for both money and a development partner. She said she will continue working on the Richardson project on a limited basis while away. More important, she plans to return to Buffalo.

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