Women in Architecture Series
Mary Witt Shares "Why Interior Design?"
Mary Witt knew that she wanted to be an interior designer from a young age. Growing up in New Jersey just outside New York City, she enrolled in a number of art classes and programs in the city, where, as she fondly recalls, she would spend long summer days exploring her artistic talents. Mary considered herself an “artsy” kid early on, and by the time she was a freshman in high school she had decided on pursuing a career in interior design.
During her high school years, Mary witnessed several family members endure health complications from being hospitalized. They were subject to HAIs, healthcare-associated infections that result from simply being cared for in a healthcare environment – illnesses that could be avoided if facilities apply effective design choice and cleaning practices. These experiences helped Mary to realize her own potential to impact the nature of good healthcare design, and she felt driven towards this area of specialty.
Mary chose to get her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Interior Design from Rochester Institute of Technology because the chair of the program, Nancy Chwiecko, was a healthcare designer, and Mary wanted to embrace the opportunity to be mentored by a leader in her desired field. While in college, Mary interned at an architecture firm where she worked on her first healthcare project for Massachusetts Eye & Ear Institute at Massachusetts General Hospital. After that, she spent her entire senior year working on the design of a healthcare facility. Mary remembers her mentor Nancy telling her at graduation that she possessed a unique “compassionate talent” that she could use to change the world. To this day, Mary embraces this notion, and she considers her personal motto to be the same: “Interior design can change the world, one room at a time.”
For Mary, working in the specialized field of healthcare design has been a highly rewarding and challenging task. Like many who work in this area, she feels passionately about the way her work affects people’s real-life experiences. One of her favorite projects in her early career was helping to design a newly-expanded psychiatric ED for Connecticut Children’s Medical Center. Her initial visit to the existing site was an eye-opening one: there were only six patient rooms, but patient numbers had well surpassed that capacity. “They had eleven kids, all under the age of 10,” Mary recalls, “and they were strapped to chairs because they simply had no place to put them. It was heartbreaking. So to be a part of the design team that could deliver 11 new patient rooms and a more soothing overall environment for the hospital was a truly rewarding experience.”
A self-described “super bookworm,” Mary finds that her design work is often inspired by her avid reading. These days, she finds herself attracted to concepts of bio-mimicry and sustainability, and she relishes reading about these advancements in architecture and design publications. Since innovations in healthcare design are not always in spaces accessible to the public, reading helps Mary stay informed about the latest developments and inspirations in the field.
Mary is still a new addition to the SBA team, and she’s looking forward to working with healthcare architects, interior designers, and planners to keep learning more about this industry and practice that she is so passionate about. Mary sought a job at SBA because she wanted to locate a female mentor early in her career development. After interviewing with Linda Haggerty, Lynn Drover, and Victoria Gebrian, Mary knew that SBA was where she wanted to be. Since coming onboard, Mary has been working on designs for the University of Connecticut Health Center, which is exactly the kind of big-project experience she was hoping to find. Collaborating daily with powerful interior designers, Mary feels inspired by the teamwork and mentorship she gets to experience daily while working in the field and specialty she loves. “It’s been a happy challenge,” she says.