Explore The Architecture of Mental Health

May 31, 2022

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Explore The Architecture of Mental Health

AIA Central New Jersey board member, Erin Sharp-Newton, M. Arch, Associate AIA, is an expert in the architecture of mental health. It is a topic that is not often presented in our industry. Here, we are pleased to share with you two programs developed by Erin and presented together with her colleagues on the subject. We look forward to taking a deeper dive as more content as it becomes available. 

Click here to view the pre-recorded program from May 2022 presented by AIA New York on Behavioral Health Design.

This event was put on by the Center for Architecture Design for Health Committee and had unique excerpts on New York’s history of psychiatric facilities (past), and current New York projects that are examples of works filling the gaps of need for Mental Health resources. National and NYC data for mental health statistics are also provided.

Click here to view the pre-recorded program from November 2021 presented by AIA Central New Jersey on Behavioral Health Design 

This recording provides an overview of the history (past), current focus & challenges (present) as well as trends & vision (future) for Behavioral Health Design. This version focused on New Jersey with historical content about psychiatric hospitals in NJ and with examples of a current behavioral health project that utilizes the design principles and safety guidelines that are presented. It had 2021 data on the mental health statistics for New Jersey. Speakers Erin Sharp-Newton, Elizabeth Sullivan and Kimberly McMurray educate viewers on how architecture and design can respond to behavioral health needs within a community.

Topics in both presentations include:

  1. HISTORY – Participants will learn about the architectural history of psychiatric facilities
  2. PRESENT – Participants will gain a better understanding of present-day unique challenges in designing for mental health facilities
  3. GUIDELINES – Participants will become familiar with patient safety, anti-ligature, and self-harm prevention methods with an overview of guidelines and best practices.
  4. PRINCIPLES – Participants will gain insight into the principles of biophilia, circadian lighting, and nature and how they can support a therapeutic environment.
  5. VISION – Participants will be shown ways to design healing environments while maintaining FGI requirements.
  6. TRENDS – Participants will learn about upcoming trends in this area of design

About the Presenters:

PROGRAM DEVELOPER AND SPEAKER: Erin Sharp-Newton, M. Arch, Associate AIA

Healthcare Design Director, Posen Architects, LLC

Erin is the Healthcare Design Director at Posen Architects and a UDMH Fellow. Sharp-Newton brings years of recognized local, national, and international design experience, with a special passion for how environments impact mental health. Her unique experience and advocacy contribute a sharp, intense, and humanistic approach to architecture, design, and culture. Supporting grassroots to global solutions, Sharp-Newton also serves as Chair for the Local Advisory Community on Drugs and Alcohol for the Department of Health & Human Services, member of the AIA NJ Equity In Architecture Committee, CNJ liaison for the AIA NJ Women in Architecture Committee, trustee for AIA CNJ, Vice-President of the Executive Board of the Hunterdon Drug Awareness Program, and on the Morristown Mayor’s Wellness Committee. She has received acknowledgments throughout her career such as the NJ Biz 50 Best Women in Business Award and recognition by the Charter High School of Architecture and Design. Sharp-Newton holds a Master’s Degree in Architecture from UCLA and a Master in Design from Domus Academy in Milan, Italy. She was a Creative Director with Cibic Workshop in Milan and has been active with major architecture/design schools such as the Domus Academy, Milan Polytecnico, and Venice Polytecnico, Sci-Arc, UCLA, Woodbury, the Art Institute, Drexel, Moore College of Art, Cornell University, and others. She is a regular contributor to Archinect.com.

Principal | Behavioral Health Facility Consulting, LLC

Kimberly, Principal of Behavioral Health Facility Consulting, LLC a 100% Woman-Owned Enterprise is an expert in behavioral health design, is a practicing healthcare planner and architect with over 35 years of leadership experience in healthcare on academic, non-profit, and private medical campus architecture.

She has a decade of experience from the owner’s perspective and collaborating with multidisciplinary user groups, thereby embracing a unique perspective and response to client needs; applying her knowledge of clinical operations, evidence-based design, and lean operational planning; to lead projects from programming, concept development through design.
Kimberly is a Registered Architect, National Council Architectural Registration Boards, and has her Evidence-Based Design Certification from the Center for Health Design. She holds a Bachelor of Architecture, from Arizona State University, and a Master of Business Administration, the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

SPEAKER: Elizabeth Sullivan, Associate AIA, LEED GA, EDAC
NK Architects, Healthcare Practice Leader

Elizabeth is a Healthcare Practice Leader at NK Architects in NYC, with headquarters in Morristown NJ. She has extensive management and medical planning experience. Elizabeth specializes in medical master planning, small- and large-scale facilities, and complex multi-phased projects as a healthcare planner. She manages and coordinates with leadership, reconciling key stakeholder and user requirements with applicable codes and guidelines to achieve design solutions that meet programmatic needs and translate into cohesive planning concepts.

Additionally, Elizabeth worked as both a Project Manager and later as a Director of Facilities and Real Estate Planning for Montefiore Health System in New York. She has unique inside experience working as the client and understands the entire project process from the owner’s perspective.

Elizabeth is the AIA Co-Chair for the Design for Health Committee at the Center for Architecture in New York, was an Associate Principal at Perkins Eastman. Elizabeth holds both her Masters and Bachelors degrees in Architecture from Tulane University. She is Evidence-Based Design Accreditation Certification (EDAC) from the Center for Health Design.


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