The Asylum: Adaptive Reuse of Buffalo’s Richardson Olmsted Complex

Date: February 27, 2019 5:30pm
Location: SGH New York
Speaker(s): Rachel Shanley
SGH New York

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Simpson Gumpertz & Heger
550 Seventh Avenue, 10th Floor
New York, NY 10018

5:30 - 6:00 p.m. Registration & Refreshments
6:00 - 7:00 p.m. Presentation & Discussion
7:00 - 7:30 p.m. Cocktail Reception

Participants will earn 1.0 AIA CES Learning Unit (LU/HSW) for their attendance. Attendance is free and open to all; please invite colleagues. We will serve refreshments and hors d'oeuvres. Space is limited.



The Richardson Olmsted Complex (ROC), a National Historic Landmark, is one of the most iconic sites in Buffalo, NY. Henry Hobson Richardson designed the buildings as a state-of-the-art psychiatric hospital in the late 1800s, with site design by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux. As mental health treatment changed and resources dwindled through the second half of the 1900s, the buildings and grounds slowly deteriorated until the last building was abandoned in 1994. SGH became involved with a revitalization project in 2007 as part of a team of architects and preservationists who provided a historic structures report as a study of how to preserve the unique site. Renovation design began in 2012, and the upscale hotel, restaurant, and conference center opened in May 2017. In this presentation, we will describe this award-winning project and explore how these efforts restored a community gem and helped to bring new life to the Buffalo area. 

After attending this seminar, participants will be able to: 

  • Identify key qualities to document during a condition assessment to provide owners and developers with the information needed to determine how to best save and reuse an architecturally significant structure. 
  • Understand historic construction and the limitations it poses to large-scale renovations.  
  • Recognize the structural implications of large modifications to existing buildings.
  • Coordinate with a contractor to identify hidden conditions that may require repair. 


Rachel E. Shanley, P.E. | Senior Staff II – Structures
Rachel has extensive experience as part of SGH’s structural engineering practice. She has taken on many roles in different types of projects, including renovations of historic buildings, new building design, coordination with building enclosure teams, and full-time on-site construction administration. Rachel handled the day-to-day work overseeing adaptive reuse of the Richardson Olmsted Complex in Buffalo, NY.