Dean Kirkbride to give two lectures on the Kirkbride Hospitals for the Insane

National Building Museum, Washington D.C.

Museum exhibit: Architecture of an Asylum: St. Elizabeths 1852-2017

October 26, 2017: Event details


Columbia University GSAPP, NY, NY

Preservation Lecture Series

November 2, 2017: Event details


How many ghosts can haunt a building at once? When the building at question is one of the Kirkbride Hospitals for the Insane, which share the burden of a troubled and tragic past, the answer is not simple. There are many ghosts, of various sorts. Despite the noble intent of their creators and generosity of their designs, the asylums often devolved into horrifying dystopias; given their stigmatizing histories, they are easy targets for demolition.

Can we decouple the physical asylums from their phantoms, to promote adaptive reuse rather than repressive and wasteful erasure? Is it possible to resuscitate these remarkable structures, which offer tangible lessons of architectural know-how, sustainability and embodied energy?

There are two upcoming opportunities to hear Dean Robert Kirkbride speak to the perils and promise of these remarkable nineteenth century hospitals for the mentally ill. As Spokesperson of the national 501c3 PreservationWorks, Dean Kirkbride represents a passionate and growing network of preservationists, urban explorers and paranormalists committed to the preservation of Kirkbride Hospitals. In these often-intimidating mental health facilities they see potential opportunities for adaptive reuse, and they support the creation of appropriate memorials to the many thousands who lived, died, and were often cremated or buried there.

At the National Building Museum, on October 26th, Dr. Kirkbride’s lecture complements the Museum’s exhibition Architecture of an Asylum: St. Elizabeths 1852-2017, curated by Sarah A. Leavitt, which will be on view prior to the program. The lecture at Columbia University, on November 2nd, is part of the GSAPP’s fall 2017 Preservation Lecture Series.