Deborah Berke Partners transforms Buffalo asylum into resort and conference center
Thursday, September 28, 2017 | Eva Leonard, The Architect's Newspaper
For a psychiatric hospital built in the late 19th century, the Buffalo State Asylum for the Insane in Buffalo, New York, was remarkably ahead of its time. At the request of physician Thomas Story Kirkbride, who helmed the hospital’s design, emphasis was placed on access to natural light, fresh air, and pastoral views to benefit patient well-being. It was originally completed in 1880, combining Victorian and Romanesque elements.
Deborah Berke Partners (DBP) recently completed the asylum’s metamorphosis into the Hotel Henry Urban Resort and Conference Center. “The intentions for this building were about it being a welcoming and safe space,” said Stephen Brockman, senior principal of DBP. “The graciousness of the space is what’s fascinating. You open these doors, and it’s breathtaking,”
That said, converting the former asylum – located in the central portion of the sprawling National Historic Landmark Richardson Olmsted Campus – into a 191,000-square-foot luxury boutique hotel and conference center without losing its character was not without its challenges.
During early presentations of the project to the local community, conversations with the relatives of people who had spent time at the hospital and felt a close relationship with it created a desire “to make it feel like it was still theirs,” Brockman said. “Our interventions were subtle.”