Purposeful Architecture


Designs create nurturing environments for special needs

Purpose— goal, reason, idea, principle. At the age of 12, I knew I wanted to be an architect. By the time I was a teenager, I knew I would adopt a child. And by my late thirties, having accomplished both goals, I discovered a new aim: to design buildings and spaces for individuals with special needs. Thus, Purposeful Architecture was born.

Our adoptive son, Matthew, now 18, is multiply challenged. Over the years of observing the environmental issues that have affected his successes and failures in his relationships with siblings, parents and friends, I became committed to having a positive impact on the environments of individuals with special needs. I further realized that my own childhood with my older Down syndrome brother had prepared me for the formation of Purposeful Architecture.

Purposeful Architecture, a studio of Purple Cherry Architects, was created to embrace the design work of organizations supporting individuals with special needs. Born from a desire to create nurturing environments for adults and children with mental and physical challenges, Purposeful Architecture supports projects that serve those in need of support.

So what drives me to pursue this type of work? It is where my heart is. It is my calling. I firmly believe every person has a gift that they should share with others. As architects, we can take our experiences and translate them into successful designs that give back to the community in the form of exciting and supporting spaces. Behind Purposeful Architecture is the heart for giving, nurturing and supporting others with special needs.

The same tenacity that propels me to vocally and forcefully advocate for my oldest child benefits our clients. There are core needs for individuals with challenges. Through architecture, we can provide for those needs in a wonderfully inspiring way through the use of light, color, shape, spatial relationships and so on.

At the time I created Purposeful Architecture, Purple Cherry Architects, an architectural firm in Annapolis, had been practicing for approximately 10 years. When I saw a request for proposal for a $4.5 million outpatient facility for adults with mental health disorders, I knew it was something I had to pursue, even though the project was far removed from our usual line of work At that time, with limited commercial experience in our portfolio, armed with not so much as a PowerPoint slide show, I marched into an interview alone and through the sheer depth of my conviction and life experiences, I was awarded the job.

The resulting project is Arundel Lodge, a 28,000-square-foot, two-story facility completed in 2005 that today provides rehabilitation services to more than 140 men and women with psychiatric disabilities.

I credit my personal compassion as key to allowing me to powerfully convey a group’s mission and goals from marketing all the way through meeting the needs of that group and the individuals and families it serves in the final project design. I am involved on two mission-driven boards and also understand the reality of capital campaigns, endowments and budgets.

Since Purple Cherry Architects was awarded its first purposeful project with Arundel Lodge, the firm has gone on to transform 20,000 square feet of commercial office space in Millersville into the Providence Center, which provides transportation, basic care, counseling, employment and other services to 500 adults with developmental disabilities. In addition, the firm has completed assessments and concept designs for special needs schools and the design for a major renovation of the Providence Center headquarters.

The firm’s latest purposeful project is the new headquarters for Opportunity Builders, Inc., a group that offers transportation and vocational training to adults with disabilities. The $7.5 million project included planning and design of a brand-new, 42,000- square-foot facility on a 14.5-acre parcel, also in Millersville.

Purple Cherry Architects continues to practice a variety of design work with a specialty in nonprofit projects, high-end residential waterfront homes and restaurant designs. All of our clients are aware of our passion and compassion for great causes and our desire to create functional, nurturing spaces for people to live, work and play.