Renowned 19th-century architect H.H. Richardson, the initials standing for Henry Hobson, has lent his first name to this tour de force of adaptive reuse. Interior Design Hall of Fame member Deborah Berke’s firm has reinvented the central part of Richardson’s imposing Buffalo State Asylum for the Insane as a hospitality and conference destination. A turreted Romanesque revival sandstone behemoth inside a Frederick Law Olmsted park, the 1880 landmark had sat abandoned for decades.
“What you see is how we found it,” senior principal Stephen Brockman notes. “There’s a plainness to it.” That certainly jibes with the firm’s penchant for minimalism. Dingy hospital colors got repainted, of course, mostly white. “We minimized any connection with existing blues and greens,” Brockman says. He also aggregated the tiny bedrooms for patients into 88 more generous guest rooms and suites. Larger guest bathrooms were made possible by allowing them to bump out into the corridors—extra-wide, as they once served as day rooms for patients. The bathroom enclosures are cleverly disguised as armoires. Overhead, hoop chandeliers with classic glass globes come in two diameters, the bigger sizes reserved for correspondingly larger spaces. Furnishings are a minimal version of cozy, again for contrast with the history.
Project Team: Gunnar Burke; Virginia Gray; Brendan Lee; John Midgette; Alessandro Preda; Alexandra Tailer; Yasemin Tarhan.