n De Arte - The influence of moral therapy on the landscape design of lunatic asylums built in the nineteenth century : research




There is a need to diminish the dominance of the panopticon as a model for investigating the design of nineteenth-century lunatic asylums. In particular, this need is justified by a number of theorists who argue that the 'panopticon principles' of observation and seclusion were not significant tenets of asylum design and visual culture. Instead, there was an emphasis on deliberately overcoming such aspects in favour of bringing patients together in large open spaces and using non-prisonlike architecture. Such ideals and design features are hallmarks of moral therapy that postulate the curative potential of the asylum through the placement of patients in a carefully designed environment. Consequently, the landscaping of an asylum's external environment was paramount in ensuring therapeutic possibilities. This importance was expressed through a number of design features that nearly all asylum landscapes contained. The author aims primarily to identify such design features by discussing renowned international exemplars of moral therapy. Following from this identification, a secondary aim is to examine the influence of moral therapy in several South African asylums.


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