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Buffalo takes center stage starting today with yet another major conference – this one for the Society of Architectural Historians.

Between 500 and 600 national and international architectural historians, architects, planners and preservationists are expected to participate in the five-day conference – and draw some comparisons to the National Preservation Conference in October 2010.

“This is a big deal for Buffalo because of the level of academic excellence that is coming into the community. These are people from around the world, and for them to bring this level of knowledge into our community is a rare opportunity,” said Tom Yots, executive director of Preservation Buffalo Niagara who is co-chairman of the conference.

Local experts, academics, policymakers and others will discuss such issues as Buffalo’s architectural legacy, historic preservation and urban sustainability, and historic tax credits. Presenters include architectural historians Martin Wachadlo, Jack Quinan and Jennifer Walkowski, as well as Paul McDonnell, chairman of the Buffalo Preservation Board, and Robert G. Shibley, dean of the University at Buffalo’s School of Architecture and Planning.

Chris Hawley of the city’s Office of Strategic Planning and Jason Wilson of Preservation Buffalo Niagara will talk about Buffalo’s groundbreaking Green Code, now nearing completion. Other Buffalonians taking part include University at Buffalo’s architectural historian Francis R. Kowsky and preservationist Catherine Schweitzer of the Baird Foundation.

There also will be numerous tours of Buffalo’s architectural sites. Among them, developer Rocco Termini will show off the recently restored Hotel @ the Lafayette; restoration consultant Doris Collins will lead a tour of Rapp & Rapp’s Shea’s Performing Arts Center; Denise Prince will take visitors through the Old Post Office that’s now part of Erie Community College; and Terry Robinson of Preservation Buffalo Niagara will guide a group through Buffalo’s abolition heritage.

The Darwin Martin House, the Richardson Olmsted Complex, the Guaranty Building and the Central Terminal are among the city’s architectural marvels that also will be open to attendees.

The keynote speaker Thursday evening will be Paul Goldberger, former architecture critic for The New Yorker, who holds the Joseph Urban Chair in Design and Architecture at The New School in New York City and is a contributing editor at Vanity Fair.

“This really is an opportunity for scholars to visit Buffalo and Western New York, and see some of these examples that come out of textbooks and architectural school,” said Jennifer Walkowski, an architectural historian at Clinton Brown Co., and acting president of the Louise Bethune chapter of the Society of Historic Architecture.

Walkowski said the conference will offer more of an academic view of historic preservation than the earlier National Trust Conference, with the biggest similarity being the tours.

“The other thing that’s similar is that people are going to come and be amazed at our city. For preservationists and architectural historians, Buffalo is nirvana because we have so much,” Walkowski said.

Yots said about 75 volunteers – many from Visit Buffalo Niagara – will be helping out through Sunday.

Some conference events are open to the public. For more information, go to the Society of Architectural Historians website at www.sah.org/conferences-and-programs/2013-conference-buffalo.

email: msommer@buffnews.com