Catherine Purple Cherry
Cathy Purple Cherry, AIA, LEED AP is Principal and Owner of Purple Cherry Architects, a wholly-integrated design firm started in 1994 and located in Annapolis, Maryland. Cathy and her staff apply their talents to “Purposeful Architecture” – the design of spaces and buildings for children and adults with special needs. The firm provides their clients with a full range of architectural, interior design and planning services, from initial design through construction administration, as well as graphic support for marketing and fundraising including 3-D rendering.
Cathy knew from the time she was 12 that she wanted to be an architect. By the time she was a teenager, she knew she would adopt a child. And by her late thirties, having accomplished both goals, she discovered a new one: to design buildings and spaces for individuals with special needs. Thus, Purposeful Architecture was born.
Her adoptive son, Matthew, now 18, is multiply-challenged with autism and other special needs. Over the years of observing the environmental issues that have had an impact on his successes and failures in his relationships with his siblings, parents and friends, she became committed to having a positive impact on the environments of individuals with special needs. She further realized that her own childhood with her older brother, who has Down syndrome, had prepared her for the formation of Purposeful Architecture. Her understanding of the challenges he faced on a daily basis, coupled with her experiences while raising Matthew, has given her the gift of heightened sensitivity and an increased cognitive ability to absorb patterns in the actions and behaviors of children and adults with special needs. The passion and the mission work hand-in-hand.
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 have great purpose serving others in need of support.
So what drives her to pursue this type of work? It is where her heart is. It is her calling. She firmly believes every person has a gift that they should share with others. In being intimately and emotionally connected to a life situation, the gift of Cathy as an architect is to take her experiences and translate them into successful designs that gives back to the community exciting and supporting spaces. Behind Purposeful Architecture is the heart for giving, nurturing and supporting others with needs.
As an advocate for individuals with special needs, Cathy serves on two Boards of Directors — for The Summit School, which serves students with dyslexia and other learning differences, and for Opportunity Builders, Inc., which provides a motivational environment offering vocational training, employment opportunities, recreational activities and support services to adults with developmental disabilities.
The same tenacity that propels her to vocally and forcefully advocate for her oldest child benefits our clients. There are core needs for individuals with challenges. Through architecture, she can provide for those needs in a wonderfully inspiring way through the use of light, color, shape, spatial relationships and so on.
Cathy’s compassion is a key element enabling her to powerfully convey a group’s mission and goals from marketing tools she creates for them — all the way through meeting the needs of that group, and the individuals and families it serves, in the final project design. As a member of the two mission-driven boards as noted above, she also understands the reality of capital campaigns, endowments and budgets.
Purple Cherry Architects was awarded its first Purposeful project with 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. Since then the firm has gone on to transform 20,000 square feet of commercial office space in Millersville, MD 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 the planning and design of a brand new 42,000 square foot facility on a 14.5 acre parcel, also in Millersville.
Building strong relationships with her clients, and having the ability to help them embrace solutions that give their thoughts about a project much deeper meaning, is a very rewarding aspect to her work. Her proudest accomplishment as a business owner is her ability to “give back” to the community of children and adults with special needs, through support to her clients and their missions, as well as through volunteer work. She has built a firm dedicated to “Purposeful Architecture” — designing special buildings that will have a life-long positive effect on children and adults with disabilities – the mission and passion of Cathy Purple Cherry. Her drive is contagious, her energy boundless, and her devotion to the mission selfless. For all that she does for our community of children and adults with special needs, I believe Cathy Purple Cherry, — mother, advocate, business owner, leader and compassionate woman, is a hero.
Nominated by Terri Bartos Eckert
Catherine Purple Cherry, AIA, LEED AP
Maryland, District of Columbia, New Jersey, Virginia, Pennsylvania, West Virginia
Cathy Purple Cherry, AIA, LEED AP has donated the services of her firm to various non-profit groups and supports many of their charitable events. In addition, she serves on two Boards of Directors and has been a speaker at several annual conferences for trade associations in the education field, several directly related to children with special needs.
Volunteer, Ronald McDonald House, Baltimore, MD (The staff of Purple Cherry Architects prepares dinner for residents on a regular basis)
Wellness House, Annapolis, MD: Provide pro bono architectural services for Wellness House, which provides respite for cancer patients and their families.
Habitat Arundel: Provide pro bono architectural services for Habitat Arundel, which provides housing to low income families in Anne Arundel County (Clay Street project in Annapolis, MD)
Board Member, Summit School, Edgewater, MD
Board Member, Opportunity Builders, Inc., Millersville, MD
Presenter – Creative Women of Annapolis, MD Hall for the Creative Arts 2003
Presenter — Association of School Board Officials, Fall 2008 Conference, “Purposeful Architecture: The Ultimate Design Guide for Special Education in the 21st Century”
Presenter — National Association of Private Special Education Centers Annual Leadership Conference, Winter 2009, “Purposeful Architecture: The Ultimate Design Guide for Special Education in the 21st Century and Incorporating Sustainable Design”
Presenter — ASAH New Jersey Board of Directors Meeting, April 2009, “Purposeful Architecture: Eight Key Issues for Special Needs Environmental Design”
Presenter – 33rd Annual Conference of ASAH New Jersey, “Purposeful Architecture – Self-Assessing Your Special Education School Facilities for Optimum Teaching”
Presenter – 58th Annual Fall Conference for the MD & DC Association of School Board Officials, “What is BIM? (Building Information Modeling”)
The Arundel Lodge, Inc., Edgewater, MD
Executive Citation from John Leopold, County Executive
2007 Anne Arundel County Commission on Disability Accessibility Award
The Shining Light Award from Arundel Lodge, Inc.
For Contributions to Arundel Lodge, Inc.
November 6, 2008
Cathy Purple Cherry, AIA, LEED AP was recognized for her contribution as the architect who envisioned a facility that supports and embraces the special needs of Arundel Lodge members while at the same time meeting the pragmatic needs of the facility and its employees.
Opportunity Builders, Inc., Millersville, MD
June 2009 Excellence in Design Award for a Green Facility
American Buildings Company
Opportunity Builders, Inc., Millersville, MD
2009 Excellence in Construction
American Builders and Contractors –Chesapeake Shores
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