Project 3x30 - One Seneca Tower

Year: 2016

Project Architect: Timothy Ung

Project Team: Billy Baptiste and Sophia Cao

Project Brief:

One of the most talked about stories in Buffalo, NY for some time now has been the One Seneca Tower building, which is located downtown in the business district. One Seneca Tower has been nearly vacant for several years now and its owners faced financial difficulties. It’s the tallest skyscraper in the city with a brutalist façade of sand colored concrete panels.

With a solid steel structure in place, the building requires major building system renovations, an updated interior layout, and a mixed use programmatic distribution throughout the building. With 1,200,000 square feet of space available, it currently isn’t possible to fill the building with office tenants. Based on reactions from the locals in Buffalo, it’s clear that the façade of One Seneca Tower will also need to be redesigned.

History of One Seneca Tower

As one of the first modern skyscrapers in Buffalo, NY, One Seneca Tower stands at 40 stories and is the tallest building in the city. Designed by Skidmore Owings and Merrill (SOM), the tower is a steel framed structure clad in sand colored concrete panels and has an “L” shaped high rise structure at its base that was leased to shops and restaurants.

After construction of the building was complete in 1972, it was named the Marine Midland Center and was the headquarters of Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC). Over time, HSBC began moving its offices elsewhere and vacating the building. In 1999, HSBC was rebranded and the building became known as One HSBC Center. By 2013, the building was nearly vacant, sold, and became known as One Seneca Tower. With only a few tenants left in place, the owners faced a financial crisis and the building was listed for sale on the market. In 2016, the building was purchased by Douglas Development from Washington DC.

Renovation Proposal for One Seneca Tower

Our vision is to renovate the high rise “L” shaped structure adjacent to the tower of the building and reprogram the spaces as boutique shops, boutique restaurants, and a museum. These public programs would also be spread throughout the lower 3 stories of the tower. The plaza would be renovated and turned into a park setting with natural shrubs, trees, seating areas, and gathering spaces.

We envision floors 4 to 20 to be leased offices, floors 21 to 28 to be one and two bedroom luxury condominiums, floors 29 to 33 to be two and three bedroom luxury condominiums, floors 34 to 35 to be three and four bedroom luxury condominiums, and floor 36 to be two penthouse luxury condominiums. All building systems will be updated to be high efficiency to reduce the building’s energy use and all condominiums will have a balcony space that could be fully enclosed in the colder weather. This will allow the balconies to become a thermally buffered space and reduce the amount of heating and cooling within each unit.

Lastly, we envision the façade of One Seneca Tower to be clad in prefabricated faceted white glazed terracotta panels. These panels will be clipped onto brackets that are mounted to the existing concrete panels. The white glazed faceted panels will create a dynamic aesthetic that will reflect some colors from around the site, but will be solid enough to allow birds to see and avoid the building.


Learn more about the design process of this project by clicking any of the images below.