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Descendant of Athens Asylum designer to speak on preservation


Architect Robert Kirkbride, a descendent of Philadelphia physician Thomas Kirkbride, whose design for mental asylums was used to build the Athens Asylum on The Ridges, will speak in The Ridges Auditorium on Saturday, the Southeast Ohio History Center announced.

Robert Kirkbride, the dean of Parsons School of Constructed Environments in New York City, is involved in efforts to preserve the remaining Kirkbride Buildings around the country. He will speak on “The Phantoms of the Kirkbride Hospitals for the Insane” at the Athens Asylum auditorium at 2 p.m. June 23, 2018. It is co-sponsored by Ohio University, the Southeast Ohio History Center, the Ohio Humanities Council, the Athens County Commisioners, the City of Athens Historic Preservation Commission, and BDT Architects.

Thomas Story Kirkbride released his plan for psychiatric hospitals in an 1854 publication, and many were built across the United States in the latter half of the 19th Century. He believed patients would greatly benefit from access to airy, spacious rooms with ample daylight, along with the opportunity to participate in farming, arts and crafts, plant therapy, and dancing.

Many of the buildings have since been demolished.

Robert Kirkbride is an associate professor of architecture and product design at Parsons School of Design. His work integrates scholarship and design practice, investigating the interplay of physical and mental infrastructures of memory and identity. Dr. Kirkbride directs the architectural design atelier, studio “patafisico,” and is also spokesperson and a founding Trustee for PreservationWorks, a national 501c3 organization advocating the preservation and adaptive reuse of Kirkbride Plan Hospitals. In addition to contributing the introduction for 2016’s Greystone Park Psychiatric Hospital, for which he and co-authors Rusty Tagliareni and Christina Mathews received Author Awards from the NJSAA, Dr. Kirkbride designed the Morbid Anatomy Museum with Anthony Cohn in Brooklyn, NY, and authored the award-winning multimedia online book Architecture and Memory, which reconstructs the educational and rhetorical uses of two memory chambers from the Italian Renaissance. Robert has been a visiting scholar at the Canadian Centre for Architecture, and architect-in-residence at the Bogliasco Foundation in Genoa, Italy.

For more information about Robert Kirkbride’s talk at the Athens Asylum Auditorium on June 23rd at 2pm contact the Southeast Ohio History Center at 740-592-2280 or visit the website at www.athenshistory.org.