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Robert Kirkbride specializes primarily in architecture and product design. But his thoughtful and steadfast commitment to exploring the full realm of design—including our relationship to what, how and why we design—makes the breadth of his work especially unique… Whether he’s contemplating historical artifacts, art works, commonplace (or arcane) objects, architectural spaces or natural landscapes, Kirkbride’s willingness to dig ever-more deeply into our personal and cultural understandings of what design means and what it can teach us provides an inherently multi-disciplinary approach we can use to consider any number of topics.

– Tack Magazine interview


This website presents a decade or so of my investigations on the interplay of memory and the constructed environment, through design, writing and teaching.

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About

I am Dean of Parsons School of Constructed Environments, and Associate Professor of Architecture and Product Design. I am also director of studio ‘patafisico, and Spokesperson and a founding Trustee for PreservationWorks, a national non-profit organization for the adaptive reuse of Kirkbride Plan Hospitals. I received my Ph.D. in the History and Theory of Architecture from McGill University, and a Master of Architecture and Bachelor of Arts in Design of the Environment from the University of Pennsylvania.


My work integrates scholarship and design practice. I have an abiding interest in forms of knowledge and know-how that don’t quite fit, things that have been lost or overlooked, including everyday habits and their impressions on the environment. My research on physical and mental infrastructures of memory, identity and learning has been recognized for its methodology and innovative use of digital media. Close readings of artifacts, buildings, texts and contexts drive my design practice, writing and teaching. My desire to understand how artifacts and buildings are used has offered insight to the physicality of thought and the roles of multisensorial perception in shaping our experience of the world.

Photographed by Melissa Grey

In addition to residential projects, furniture and a family of metaphoric objects, I’ve designed the Morbid Anatomy Museum, in Brooklyn, NY, with collaborator Anthony Cohn, AIA, and authored the multimedia online book, Architecture and Memory, which reconstructs pedagogical and rhetorical uses of two Renaissance memory chambers. Architecture and Memory was awarded the Gutenberg-e Prize, and a second version has been launched online by the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) as part of its Humanities E-Book series. I have continued to explore the interplay of architecture and memory in a chapter on architecture and rhetoric in the Renaissance for The Oxford Handbook of Rhetorical Studies, and the volume, Geometries of Rhetoric, which I guest-edited for the Nexus Network Journal. In addition to my ongoing contributions to the Memory Studies Group at The New School, I recently established the Giuseppe Zambonini Archive at the University’s Kellen Design Archives. This collection represents a unique convergence of architectural education and design practice in New York City in the 1970’s and 80’s, including a remarkable asset of online digitized lectures and research materials, and one of the earliest NYC exhibits of work by Venetian architect, Carlo Scarpa.

Photographed by Martin Seck

I have been a visiting scholar at the Canadian Centre for Architecture, architect-in-residence at the Bogliasco Foundation in Genoa, Italy, and recently received the Distinguished University Teaching Award at Parsons/The New School. I’ve also been an editorial board member of the Nexus Network Journal (Birkhäuser), and Alphabet City (MIT Press). I was a founding partner of the furniture design company, Studiolo, and the low-impact land planning company, Hawk Circle. My design and research projects have been featured in the film XX/XY, The National Academy of Science’s ISSUES magazine, Vogue, The Financial Times, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Chora 4, Mark Magazine, C3, Alphabet City’s FUEL, WATER, and AIR, among others. I’ve been a visiting critic at the University of Edinburgh, guest professor at the University of Montréal, and conducted design workshops at the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum.

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New PreservationWorks website is live!

I’m pleased to announce that PreservationWorks, a national 501c3 to preserve and adaptively reuse Kirkbride Hospitals for the Insane, has launched its new website, www.thepreservationworks.org The site provides data links, updates on the efforts of satellite chapters of our organization, and opportunities to get involved. As spokesperson for PreservationWorks, I’ll have my own page onsite, Kirkbride on Kirkbrides, where I’ll gather my thoughts about these extraordinary structures, their conflicted histories and their promise.




Architecture, War and the Erasure of Identity

  • Date: Thursday, March 9
  • Time: 6pm
  • Location: Starr Foundation Hall, UL102 | 63 Fifth Avenue, NY, NY 10003

The constructed environment equips us to be and become ourselves through products, furniture, interiors, lighting, buildings and cities. But the constructed environment does not stop at the tangible world, it is transported intangibly within us, in our minds and dreams, in our identities and memories.

On March 9, I co-hosted the screening of Tim Slade’s powerful film, The Destruction of Memory, which has only increased in relevance since its release in Spring 2016. Based on Robert Bevans’ book, Mr. Slade’s film reflects on the current plight of cultural heritage sites worldwide in the face of political and religious antagonism, and it also candidly reveals the surprising, deeper roots of the present dilemma. After the film, my co-host, Emily Moss, Director of the BFA Architectural Design and BS in Urban Design, moderated a conversation with Claudia Valentino, editor and chief of Archaeology magazine, myself and Mr. Slade. That conversation may be seen here.

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Greystone Park State Asylum nominated for NJSAA Award

Wonderful and unexpected news that Greystone Park State Asylum, to which I contributed the Introduction, has been nominated for an NJSAA Award, with all three of us – Rusty Tagliareni, Christina T Mathews and myself – listed as authors. Deepest compliments to my colleagues, for the heavy lifting.




This Could Save Your Life

  • Date: Thursday, February 23
  • Time: 6:30pm
  • Location: Starr Foundation Hall, UL102 | 63 Fifth Avenue, NY, NY 10003

On Thursday February 23rd I hosted This Could Save Your Life, a lecture on Disaster Preparedness by Professor Hirokazu Nagata. Professor Nagata’s talk is the first in a series of steppingstone events, design intensives and curricular activities leading up to the arrival of the traveling exhibit The Earth Manual Project, which will open at Parsons in Fall 2018. Professor Nagata will present the concepts behind this important project. Several Parsons colleagues, including Gyungju Chyon, Otto von Busch and Evren Uzer joined me in a brief free-think chat afterward to consider how the project might enter our curriculum and take shape in our Sheila Johnson Galleries.

Since 2006, Professor Nagata, founder of NPO Plus Arts and vice director of the Design Creative Center Kobe, have been working with designers, social innovators and architects to craft thoughtful and creative design to build awareness and prepare communities for disasters. Nagata will introduce his broad body of work, which includes collaborations with companies such as MUJI and AIG, preparing families though games and camps, pocket manuals for employees, and innovative emergency shelters.

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Montreal Architectural Review publishes That Dark Cabinet: Building the Morbid Anatomy Museum

Volume 3 of Montreal Architectural Review includes my article, That Dark Cabinet: Building the Morbid Anatomy Museum, which recounts the museum’s origins and creation. Designed with my collaborator, Anthony Cohn, the Morbid Anatomy Museum embodied a convergence of architecture and anatomy, creating opportunities to exhibit the innards of a building that are often obscured. My design practice and scholarship on cabinets of curiosities, reliquaries and memory chambers, meshed well with the research interests of Director Joanna Ebenstein. With the museum board, we conceived the Morbid Anatomy Museum as a building-as-cabinet that displayed a collection of anatomical curiosities and celebrated artifacts, histories and ideas that fall between the cracks of high and low culture, death and beauty, and disciplinary divides. The museum hosted the kind of temporary exhibitions that very few larger museums can produce, drawing on private and public collections and calling on the scholarship and expertise of the greater Morbid Anatomy community. During its brief and bright existence, the Morbid Anatomy Museum ranked among the top museums in New York City and became a defining feature in the Gowanus neighborhood. My essay retraces several roundabout yet interlacing stories that converge in the museum’s construction, and it considers how the close reading of artifacts, buildings, texts and contexts have fueled my practice and teaching, and my ideas about upstreaming.

[Photo: Melissa Grey]

For a downloadable pdf follow this link to the Montreal Architectural Review.


Deans’ Roundtable at AIANY/Center for Architecture

  • Date: Saturday, November 12
  • Time: 5:00pm
  • Location: Center for Architecture | 536 LaGuardia Place, New York, NY 10012

On 11.12.2016, I joined fellow deans and representatives from eleven schools of architecture at New York’s Center for Architecture for a remarkably candid and substantive roundtable discussion of current directions in architectural education and responses to a controversial letter from AIA National shortly following the 2016 U.S. National Election. Hosted by AIANY and the CFA, and moderated by Craig Barton, the conversation included Winka Dubbledam (UPenn), Urs Gauchat (NJIT), Gordon Gebert (City College of NY), Toni Griffin (Harvard), myself, Bimal Mendis (Yale), Maria Perbellini (NYIT), Robert Shibley (SUNY Buffalo), Nader Tehrani (Cooper Union) and Meejin Yoon (MIT).

For a full video recording of the conversation vimeo.com/194741238

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On Memory and Forgetting

  • Date: Thursday, November 10
  • Time: 12:30pm
  • Location: Klein Conference Room 510 | 66 West 12th Street

In two separate yet overlapping activities in early November, I focused on the tensions between Memory and Forgetting. First, I was invited to be a jurist for the flash competition, Memory, sponsored by ArchOutLoud, joined by Karsten Harries (Yale) and Ana Milijacki (MIT). As I evaluated those competition entries, on November 10th I presented a short lecture on Forgetting in the New Faculty Lecture Series New Talks, joined by colleagues John Bruce (Parsons SDS) and Soyoung Yoon (Lang).

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Ghostland Interview by Colin Dickey

In Colin Dickey’s book, Ghostland: An American History in Haunted Places (Viking: 2016), a chapter entitled “The Stain” focuses on Kirkbride Plan Hospitals for the Insane, including portions of an interview he conducted with me about my background and research on the subject.

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“Pumpkitecture: Architects live-carve pumpkins into gourd-geous iconic buildings,” Yuka Yoneda, inhabitat.com, 10/31/16

  • Date: Friday, October 28
  • Time: 6:00pm
  • Location: Center for Architecture | 536 LaGuardia Place, New York, NY 10012

In a more lighthearted (yet no less intense) endeavor, I was invited by AIANY to be a jurist for Pumpkitecture, the inaugural live architectural pumpkin-carving contest at the New York Center for Architecture.

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Greystone Remembered

“Greystone Park Psychiatric Hospital Remembered 1 Year After Demolition,” Robert Sciarrino, NJ.post, 10/23/16

“Approximately a hundred people marked the anniversary of Greystone Park Psychiatric Hospital's demolition on Saturday by attending an afternoon lecture at the Parsippany Library on Sunday [October 22, 2016] to both remember the demolition and to discuss the importance of preserving remaining Kirkbride structures. Heading the discussion was Robert Kirkbride, dean of the Parsons School of Constructed Environments and the spokesperson of Preservation Works, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the adaptive reuse of Kirkbride Plan Hospitals. Others who spoke were Phillip Buehler, author of ‘Woody Guthrie's Wardy Forty: Greystone Park State Hospital Revisited,’ John Huebner, president of Preserve Greystone, Rob Duffy, a founding member of the Greystone Park Memorial, who discussed the plans for the memorial made from the salvaged facade of Greystone to be constructed on the site, and finally Rusty Tagliareni and Christina Mathews, co-authors of ‘Greystone Park Psychiatric Hospital,’ and the documentary film ‘Greystone's Last Stand.’”

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Greystone Park Psychiatric Hospital Remembered: Its Architectural and Cultural Significance, Its Loss, and Implications for Other Historic Psychiatric Institutions

  • Date: Saturday, October 22
  • Time: 1pm
  • Location: 449 Halsey Rd, Parsippany-Troy Hills, NJ

October 2016 is the one year anniversary of the demolition of Greystone Psychiatric Hospital.

Why does Greystone remain so significant? As stated on the Facebook page Greystone's Last Stand: 'As it is with most preservation efforts — The driving reason why people wanted Greystone to be saved was to preserve not only the physical building, but the history contained within. In many cases once a building is razed most of the stories it once held fall with it. … In its final moments Greystone became a martyr, and through its loss communities across the country are now looking at their own Kirkbride asylums with renewed respect. Greystone no longer stands upon its Parsippany hilltop, it now exists in every asylum which has found salvation through its demise.”

SPEAKERS:
Robert Kirkbride
Dean, Parsons School of Constructed Environments, Associate Professor of Architecture and Product Design, Spokesperson of PreservationWorks, a non-profit organization dedicated to the adaptivereuse of Kirkbride Plan Hospitals.

Rusty Tagliareni and Christina Mathews
Authors of 'Antiquity Echoes:A Photographed Tour of Abandoned America', 'Greystone Park Psychiatric Hospital' and the documentary 'Greystone's Last Stand'.

Phillip Buehler
Photographer and author of 'Woody Gutherie's Wardy Forty' Greystone Park State Psychiatric Hospital Revisited'

John Huebner
President, Preserve Greystone Advocacy Group

Rob Duffy
Creator of Kirkbrides HD, founding member of Greystone Park Memorial

'After the Fall', a vignette from the film 'Greystone's Last Stand' will be shown.

Refreshments, book signing, and networking after the program.

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Chains, Whips and Misery: Studying and Preserving Old “Lunatic” Asylums

"Preservationists have been calling for other restorations and reuses of the often stigmatized 19th-century buildings, many of which have long corridors, airy rooms and large windows advocated by the Quaker physician Thomas Story Kirkbride. One of his descendants, the architect Robert Kirkbride, who is based in New York, has been working to draw attention to abandoned hospitals based on his forebear’s idealistic plans."

"Mr. Kirkbride wrote the introduction for a new book, “Greystone Park Psychiatric Hospital,” by Rusty Tagliareni and Christina Mathews, who document abandoned buildings for a website, antiquityechoes.com. Greystone, an 1870s complex in Morris Plains, N.J., was razed last fall."

"Mr. Kirkbride said that the hospitals, which have been abandoned and demolished by the dozens, were blamed for overcrowding and other flaws in mental health care. But the original architects of the building, he said, “really believed in providing a place for the placeless.”

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Kirkbride Hospitals for the Insane: Part 2 – A Book Launch, Panel Discussion and Video Screenings with Robert Kirkbride, Rusty Tagliareni and Christina Mathews

  • Date: Monday, September 19th
  • Time: 7pm
  • Admission: $8
  • Location: Morbid Anatomy Museum, 424 Third Avenue, 11215 Brooklyn.

In this follow-up to his sold-out lecture in March, Dr. Kirkbride will summarize recent developments in preserving and transforming Kirkbride Hospitals for the Insane and the related efforts of PreservationWorks, a non-profit committed to this work. Dr. Kirkbride will be joined by Rusty Tagliareni and Christina Mathews to celebrate and discuss the launch of their new book, Greystone Park Psychiatric Hospital, and will screen several related video projects, including samplings from a documentary-in- process, Greystones Last Stand, and Greystone Rising (Jody Johnson, Lisa Marie Blohm, C. Mathews), which won Best of Architecture category at the 2016 New York City Drone Film Festival. Copies of Greystone Park Psychiatric Hospital will be available for purchase and the event will include a book signing.

Throughout the second half of the nineteenth century, seventy-five “Kirkbride Plan” Asylums were constructed across the United States, Canada and Australia according to the vision of Dr. Thomas Story Kirkbride, a pivotal figure in the development of Psychiatry in the United States and a forebear of Robert Kirkbride. Although conceived under the Enlightenment belief in the therapeutic powers of beauty, and despite egalitarian ideals to provide a dignified place of care for the placeless, these asylums offer cautionary reminders of the frailties of human infrastructures and bureaucratization in the name of efficiency.

There are complex and conflicting views toward the preservation or destruction of Kirkbride Hospitals. Embracing this complexity is critical to the imaginative reuse of these immense structures, which average hundreds of thousands of square feet and offer remarkable examples of architectural know-how, embodied energy and memory, personal and communal. They also offer remarkable opportunity. Recently, in the wake of the needless and highly contested demolition of Greystone Park State Asylum, in Parsippany, N.J., a national organization has emerged to advocate the preservation and adaptive reuse of the remaining 34 Kirkbride Hospitals.

Robert Kirkbride is spokesperson for PreservationWorks, a new 501c3 committed to preserving Kirkbride Plan hospitals by sharing knowledge and resources to support local efforts and educate the public on the historic and global significance of these irreplaceable structures. Their revitalization is commonsense and achievable, strengthening economic growth and cultural identity in their respective communities. Robert Kirkbride, Ph.D., is Dean of Parsons School of Constructed Environments and Associate Professor of Architecture and Product Design at Parsons School of Design, in New York City.

He is also director of studio patafisico and Spokesperson and founding Trustee for PreservationWorks, a national 501c3 organization committed to the adaptive reuse of remaining Kirkbride Plan Hospitals. Dr. Kirkbride designed the Morbid Anatomy Museum with collaborator Anthony Cohn, and authored the award-winning multimedia online book, Architecture and Memory, which focuses on two Renaissance memory chambers. Kirkbride has been a visiting scholar at the Canadian Centre for Architecture, architect-in- residence at the Bogliasco Foundation in Genoa, Italy, and established the Giuseppe Zambonini Archive at Parsons/The New School. Robert received his Ph.D. in the History and Theory of Architecture from McGill University, and a Master of Architecture and Bachelor of Arts in Design of the Environment from the University of Pennsylvania.

Rusty Tagliareni and Christina Mathews have spent years traveling the country documenting forlorn locations throughout the United States, sharing their deep passion for history and preservation in an effort that has helped generate alliances with many historic societies and preservation organizations. Together, theyve created a website, Antiquity Echoes, that archives these documentarian efforts, and an eponymously titled book offers a guided tour of some of our nation’s most compelling abandoned locations. Antiquity Echoes is far more than a collection of photography and text; its an adventure storyone that is enhanced by QR codes linking to videos of these incredible locations.

Tickets are non-refundable unless the event is canceled.

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Distinguished Teaching Award presented to Robert Kirkbride

Every year, the university recognizes a group of faculty members who have been nominated by their students and colleagues as Distinguished University Teachers. These faculty members embody the highest standards for teaching and advancing The New School’s mission and vision through their remarkable capacity to inspire critical engagement with ideas and with the world.

Recipients of the Distinguished Teaching Award demonstrate recent and sustained excellence in teaching. Their teaching exemplifies The New School’s mission: to prepare students to understand, contribute to, and succeed in a rapidly changing society, and thus make the world a better and more just place. Robert Kirkbride has continuously supported the School of Constructed Environments and university’s goals through clear pedagogical practices, assignments and assessment methods, and supporting students’ success.

SCE is extremely proud and excited to share this wonderful accomplishment with Robert.

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Kirkbride Hospitals for the Insane: Then, Now and ? An Illustrated Lecture with Architect Robert Kirkbride

  • Date: Wednesday, March 30th
  • Time: 7pm
  • Admission: $8
  • Location: Morbid Anatomy Museum, 424 Third Avenue, 11215 Brooklyn.

In this illustrated lecture, Dr. Kirkbride will discuss the remarkable origins, difficult histories and the current plight and promise of Kirkbride Hospitals for the Insane. Throughout the second half of the nineteenth century, seventy-five "Kirkbride Plan" Asylums were constructed across the United States, Canada and Australia according to the vision of Dr. Thomas Story Kirkbride, a pivotal figure in the development of Psychiatry in the United States and a forebear of Robert Kirkbride.

Although conceived under the Enlightenment belief in the therapeutic powers of beauty, and despite egalitarian ideals to provide a dignified place of care for the placeless, these asylums offer cautionary reminders of the frailties of human infrastructures and bureaucratization in the name of efficiency. There are complex and conflicting views toward the preservation or destruction of Kirkbride Hospitals. Embracing this complexity is critical to the imaginative reuse of these immense structures, which average hundreds of thousands of square feet and offer remarkable examples of architectural know-how, embodied energy and memory, personal and communal. They also offer remarkable opportunity. Recently, in the wake of the needless and highly contested demolition of Greystone Park State Asylum, in Parsippany, N.J., a national organization has emerged to advocate the preservation and adaptive reuse of the remaining 34 Kirkbride Hospitals. Robert Kirkbride is spokesperson for PreservationWorks, a new 501c3 committed to preserving Kirkbride Plan hospitals by sharing knowledge and resources to support local efforts and educate the public on the historic and global significance of these irreplaceable structures. Their revitalization is commonsense and achievable, strengthening economic growth and cultural identity in their respective communities.

Robert Kirkbride, Ph.D., is Associate Dean and Associate Professor of Architecture and Product Design at Parsons School of Design and director of studio 'patafisico, in New York City. He is also Spokesperson and a founding Trustee for PreservationWorks, a national 501c3 organization committed to the adaptive reuse of remaining Kirkbride Plan Hospitals. Dr. Kirkbride designed the Morbid Anatomy Museum with collaborator Anthony Cohn, and authored the award-winning multimedia online book, Architecture and Memory, which focuses on two Renaissance memory chambers. Kirkbride has been a visiting scholar at the Canadian Centre for Architecture, architect-in-residence at the Bogliasco Foundation in Genoa, Italy, and established the Giuseppe Zambonini Archive at Parsons/The New School. Robert received his Ph.D. in the History and Theory of Architecture from McGill University, and a Master of Architecture and Bachelor of Arts in Design of the Environment from the University of Pennsylvania.

Tickets are non-refundable unless the event is canceled.

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