Lifesaving Design: Healing Empowerment Center

At The New School, many of us think of design as a reason to live. Does that mean that design can also be a lifesaver?

The New School community is invited to explore this question at a presentation on Wednesday, February 2, 2011, to introduce a new model for the design of therapeutic environments. In tribute to the late Sam Hanser, a Parsons alumnus who passed away at the age of 27 in 2010, a panel of architects, interior designers, and creative arts therapists will consider the Healing Empowerment Center, an unbuilt work Hanser conceived while an interior design student at Parsons.

Hanser’s vision recognized the interconnections of sustainable design, Eastern and Western healing practices, mind-body linkages, somatic therapy, and spirituality. His design for the center addresses a question faced by designers and therapists alike: Can environments serve as vital components of therapeutic treatment?

Hanser, like a growing number of practitioners from across the disciplines, understood that spaces can be designed to facilitate healing. It’s hard to feel free and possible inside a body without relaxed muscles, easy breathing, and a balanced system,, wrote Hanser in 2009. He sought balance in the design of the Healing Empowerment Center as well, incorporating elements such as colors and surface treatments chosen for their ability to soothe. The resulting building, Hanser hoped, would support the work of going inward and working with therapists that could meet clients at the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual levels of their being.,

The program will take place in Wollman Hall at 8:00 p.m. Suzanne Hanser, Sam Hanser’s mother who chairs the Berklee College of Music -Music Therapy Department, will present her son’s vision for the Healing Empowerment Center. Panelists considering ideas inspired by Hanser’s work include Jean Gardner, associate professor of social-ecological history and design at Parsons; Robert Norwood, senior associate/designer at NBBJ Architecture & Planning in Seattle. Louise Montello, director of the Arts Therapy Program at The New School, will serve as the program’s moderator.

The Healing Empowerment Center discussion is the kick-off event to Mind-Body Healing Through the Arts, a spring series sponsored by the Creative Arts Therapy Program.

The Healing Empowerment Center was a response to the hegemony of allopathic medicine,, wrote Sam Hanser of this project. I decided it was time we reclaimed our power to heal ourselves.,