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Wakefield Asylum (Fig. 9) is shaped like an ‘H’ because this was

From Top Left to Bottom

deemed the most functional model for the asylum as it allowed for maximum social control. As well as ensuring that male and female

Fig. 9 Model of Kew Lunatic

patients remained separated, the ‘H’ design used for the Wakefield

Asylum (1818)

Asylum and Kew Lunatic Asylum, means that any attendant can

Fig. 10 Kew Lunatic Asylum

keep an eye on patients from all angles of observation. In accor-



dance with Conolly’s theories on the treatment of insanity this allowed attendants to observe the insane rather than restrain them. However, modern psychiatric nurses do not approve of the ‘H’ design, believing it is an unsuitable environment for mobile patients. Furthermore, the ‘H’ design indicates that the asylum is still a place of imprisonment, which is deemed unacceptable today.31 In fact, contemporary accounts of Wakefield Asylum illustrate how the building’s function changed over time:

…In later years, the line of sight has been interrupted by the erection of glazed partitions, which subdivide each corridor into distinctly separate wards, so that you would have had to pass through several other wards on the way to the one you wanted. At Christmas this could be a delightful journey, as each ward would be decorated in its own fashion by the patients and staff. The long central corridor, barrel-vaulted like the rest of the hospital, seemed like a succession of Aladdin’s caves, each more fascinating and exotic than the one you were in and the journey developed from staging post to staging post, each new length of corridor a fresh unveiling - not at all what the architect had in mind.32

30 Roberts, A., (2016). Notes on asylum architecture. Retrieved 15 Nov 2016 from: asyarc.htm

31 Ibid.

Despite this, as Churchill & Smith explained, it is important to consider the design of asylums within the context in which they were built.33 For example, the Kew Lunatic Asylum was condemned as a failure in 1876, only five years after it was built because the Australian government failed to provide sufficient funding leading to overcrowding and staff shortages.34 For these reasons, moral treatment

32 Grainger, R., (1996). Asylum: memories of a local institution. Wakefield: Eastmoor Books.

33 Churchill, L., & Smith, D., Eds., (2015). Occupation: ruin, repudiation, revolution—constructed space conceptualised. Abingdon:

was never properly implemented at Kew Lunatic Asylum.


34 Willsmere, (2014). Kew

The legacy of nineteenth century asylum design then had

impact on mental health care well into twentieth century. From this research, it is clear that the design of the York Retreat and moral treatment of insanity has inspired modern therapeutic innovations intended to mitigate and cure mental illness.


Lunatic Asylum. Retrieved 16 Nov 2016 from: http://www. html

Profile for Andreas Haliman

Architecture Dissertation - The Modern Asylum  

Architecture Dissertation - The Modern Asylum