About the award
The Young Architects Award honors individuals who have demonstrated exceptional leadership and made significant contributions to the architecture profession early in their careers.
With a focus on projects that elevate behavioral health care across communities, Stephanie Vito, AIA, has made a tremendous impact on the lives of patients and their families through design excellence. Since the beginning of her career, Vito has brought this often-overlooked health care sector to the forefront by shaping cutting-edge facilities that improve outcomes, reduce the stigmas surrounding mental health, and bring a new level of dignity to patients.
Vito deeply understands how the delivery of behavioral health care, which is typically underfunded and lacks the straightforward approach found in other aspects of medicine, is supported by the environments that architects create. Her practice is grounded in empathy and an overwhelming desire to upend society’s preconceptions through design. As the behavioral health team at CannonDesign’s Buffalo office has grown, her contributions and knowledge have proven invaluable.
Currently, Vito focuses on delivering mental health care services to urban communities in the hopes they become more mainstream. Her approach is evident in projects such as the University of Kansas Strawberry Hill Behavioral Health Hospital in Kansas City. Before the project was completed, the community’s services were relegated to far-flung locations, but Strawberry Hill, with its unique hilltop site, makes them much more accessible. With ample daylight and views of nature, the hospital embraces new and emerging treatment models that support shorter treatment timelines and the resumption of productive lives in the community.
In pursuit of her ideals, Vito co-founded Save the 8s within her firm, an initiative that delivers better mental health care resources to children between the ages of 8 and 13 outside of traditional settings. She also led one of the first teams to enter Amp, CannonDesign’s internal incubator, with a product idea called SafeSink. Guided by Vito’s thought leadership, SafeSink is a system for health care facilities that reduces patients’ self-harm opportunities.
In addition to her design work and parenting, Vito has built a legacy as a gifted teacher, having served as an associate professor at University of Kansas, University at Buffalo, and Villa Maria College. Her students greatly benefit from her deep knowledge and her eagerness to equip them with an understanding of emerging opportunities in mental and behavioral health design. While at University of Kansas, Vito challenged students to create innovative spaces that could offer sustainable and efficient service in a major metropolitan area. One of the student projects was recognized by the Center for Health Design and received the top student award for graduate projects.
Fully committed to a typology that was once considered niche and infrequently celebrated by the profession, Vito has helped society embrace the idea that mental health should be prominent in our lives.