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Architecture Of Kirkbride Buildings; Lunatic Asylums In The 19th Century

992 words - 4 pages

Can architecture and layout of a building really “cure” mental illness? Dr. Thomas Story Kirkbride thought so. Before 1844 the mentally ill were stashed away in prisons, jails, private homes and basements of public buildings. There were a lot of reasons people did get diagnosed with mental illness but many of which were not reality as we know it today. People were diagnosed with mental illness because of disagreements, lack of knowing a language and the weirdest thing I found was that women would be deemed insane from menstruation and teenage boys because of masturbation. The “insane” were treated without rights, starved, lost and forgotten while being hidden away from society. ...view middle of the document...

However, it was also criticized for blaming and oppressing individuals according to the standards of social class or religion.
The typical floor plan of a Kirkbride building started with a main administration building. Attached to each side of the building, staggered back was another building, and another…..and another. These formed what is typically described as “batwing” buildings. From an aerial view it literally looked like a bat. Each staggered wing was created in a way so that it received the most amount of sunlight and fresh air. These were the first buildings that used windows in different places than for an actual purpose. The buildings themselves were meant to promote privacy to the insane and comfort to their patients. It was supposed to have a curative effect, a building that would have a total care for lunacy. These asylums tended to be extremely large and imposing. They used Victorian era architecture and had extensive surrounding grounds. The buildings were built in areas that were totally away from society. They seemed to be little towns in themselves. Dr. Kirkbride used his “linear plan” that facilitated a hierarchy for residents based on sex and the nature of their disorders. Males were housed in one wing, females in the other. More excited patients were far from the administration structure and the better behaved patients were housed closer to the administration. This arrangement, he believed would make the patient’s experience more comfortable and soothing.
According to Dr. Kirkbride, it was crucial to have these buildings in a more natural environment away from the pollutants and hectic energies of the city. This promoted a more natural and cheerful atmosphere. He used extensive grounds with parks and farmland. The landscapes served to stimulate and calm patient’s minds. It used natural beauty to improve and enhance the overall aspect of the asylums. Farmland served by making the asylum more self sufficient and provided available food and other farm products like meat and dairy at a minimal cost to the state. Patients worked in the farms and helped keep...

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