(keywords: Henry Hobson Richardson, Frederick Law Olmsted, Thomas Kirkbride, Romanesque architecture, Buffalo State Asylum for the Insane, 19th century English design reformers, Richardsonian Romanesque, motif, psychology of pattern, pattern design, architectural ornament, place-branding, Buffalo, NY) Motif design and repeat patterns have been used to decorate, communicate and imbue surface with meaning across cultures and eras. It is also evident that pattern satisfies a fundamental psychological need in humans for order and beauty. Motifs are a well-suited graphic design basis from which to create an effective branding strategy with potential to communicate with a subliminal power and in a way that people are innately drawn to. And for an architectural subject where its very ornament is embedded with rich historic and symbolic meaning, the basis of a place-branding strategy can be found. The former Buffalo State Asylum for the Insane is a national landmark of uncommon significance. It is a 19th century American masterpiece designed by the architect Henry Hobson Richardson, landscape designer Frederick Law Olmsted, and influenced by Thomas Kirkbride's progressive philosophy towards treatment of the mentally ill. It has been out of operation since 1973 and is currently in varying degrees of degraded physical condition. In a master plan set forth by the Richardson Center Corporation in 2009, a multi-use center will be developed beginning with four core spaces: architecture center, visitor center, hotel and conference center. Plans are underway and stabilization and aesbestoes abatement have begun. A place-branding problem arises out of the vision to rehabilitate the complex into a multi-use civic campus and tourist destination. How can such an initiative be unified in a branding strategy that synthesizes the building's 19th century Richardson Romanesque aesthetics, the personality of individual buildings and spaces within, and the contemporizing forces that a rehabilitation project of such scope would entail? How does a graphic designer approach such an assignment &ndash one that requires an overarching thematic consistency, but with enough variety and depth to consider brand extensions as future needs sprout and functional reuse continues to become a reality? The formal aspects of HH Richardson's architecture, his influences and inspirations, pattern design and theory of pattern primarily from 19th century sources, and the contemporary goals of the adaptive reuse initiative were key to developing an approach with enough depth, flexibility, and formal strength to successfully solve its place-branding problem. Unique to my study is the use of architecturally inspired motifs as the graphic underpinning, although precedents in packaging, product design, advertising, and retail storefront design served as inspiration.
Library of Congress Subject Headings
Buffalo State Hospital--Remodeling; Buildings--Remodeling for other use--New York (State)--Buffalo; Repetitive patterns (Decorative arts); Place marketing
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Department, Program, or Center
School of Design (CIAS)
Mauro, Lisa, "A Sense of place: Branding the Richardson Olmsted complex through architectural motif" (2011). Thesis. Rochester Institute of Technology. Accessed from
RIT – Main Campus