ARC 331 Forum 02: Social Reform (Group 2)

ARC 331 Forum 02: Social Reform

Having engaged with the basic material provided for this lesson, study your assigned project (the Kirkbride plan or Eastern State Penitentiary). Each pair in the group will have different functions, all contributing to the forum as a whole.

  • Kirkbride 2: Done, Foster, Medina, Nickell, Okesson, Pelley

Blue names

  • by Saturday midnight, provide a brief (150-200 word) assessment on the subject. In short: did it work?  What impact did it have on the population housed within it? Make sure to provide a brief note explaining where you found your information.

Green names

  • by Monday at 1 PM, add to the conversation begun by your peers. How can you clarify or challenge their ideas? How do the ideas embedded in these nineteenth-century plans compare with more recent ideas you can find about architectural solutions to the initial problem (incarceration or treatment of mental illness)?

Purple names

  • by Wednesday at 1 PM, review the contributions of your colleagues and provide summative thoughts that draw the conversation to a conclusion, or, if appropriate, what new ideas or questions are raised in the forum?

15 Comments

  1. Reply
    Parker Done January 27, 2019

    The idea behind the Kirkbride design was of course to give all patients access to fresh air by staggering the segments of each wing. The concept of fresh air was actually pretty revolutionary at the time and, although the Kirkbride plan is considered obsolete, even modern healthcare facilities look to incorporate this principle. It is not necessarily this that caused these Kirkbride facilities to become obsolete, but rather further advancements in healthcare practices and the reduction of state-run hospitals. The plan allowed the patients to have better access in and out of the actual building to perform various maintenance tasks that were said to be therapeutic. Fundamentally, it seems to make some sense to keep the mind of a mentally ill patient occupied by activity rather than keeping them isolated. After reading some of the accounts on the forum of the Kirkbride Buildings website (http://www.kirkbridebuildings.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=24&t=422), it sounds like the labor of these patients was often exploited as they were forced to perform tasks that were counterproductive to their mental health, such as tending the slaughterhouse for example.

    • Reply
      Monica Medina January 27, 2019

      Really interesting points you are bringing up. I think the linear plan that Kirkbride created was very clever in it’s strategies and was a shame that the technological advances didn’t require structures as such. Do you think if different medical advancements were made, this type of linear plan would have been relevant?

      • Reply
        Parker Done February 8, 2019

        I think the linear plan itself isn’t necessarily negative. It was useful in getting light and ventilation into the rooms, but they may not have relied on this as their philosophy as much if they had more medical knowledge.

  2. Reply
    Aaron Foster January 27, 2019

    The Kirkbride plan was highly thought through which is evident throughout Kirkbride’s book. From sweeping the floors to natural lighting, many of the ideas of the plan were highly advanced in the time. With the inclusion of all these ideas from Kirkbride, including the inclusion of the farmland and natural light to the grounds, it was the most humane way that was derived to treat the ill residents. The reason that the system fell apart was mostly due to innovations of treatment or accusations about the workers in the facilities that eventually lead to the demise of the structures. Freud’s discoveries in the field lead to new forms of treatment that did not require the architecture in which Kirkbride designed. Also, with the accusations against inhumane treatment provided by those that worked in these facilities, they were eventually closed down. I feel the Kirkbride created this plan in good conscious, and if needed today, would still exist.

    • Reply
      Monica Medina January 27, 2019

      I agree with you when you say that Krikbride created his plan while being aware of the needs that needed to be addressed. It’s interesting to see how the linear plan really allowed the light to come in and privacy by the separation of the rooms and how this plan is still relevant in today’s structures. I thought it was also neat how activities other than isolation was available for the patients for rapid recovery. Do you think this plan would of completely succeeded if different medical advancements would have been available or discovered?

      • Reply
        Emma Okesson February 8, 2019

        Monica, you raise an interesting question of what could have happened if medical science had developed a different way. Ultimately, I’m not sure that’s a question that I’m qualified to answer, partly because I’m not familiar with Freud’s theories on mental health and partly because we still don’t know everything there is to know about mental health.
        The question about the success of the plan is what I want to focus on. You suggest that the plan did not completely succeed, which is fair based on the information Aaron and Parker provided. However, I’m not sure that the poor treatment of the patients or the eventual obsolescence of the plan is a lack of success on the part of the architect. Kirkbride created the plan to do the best he could in his current situation and he didn’t have control over the running of the mental hospital. I’m curious if you have an idea of how Kirkbride could have done a better job with his plan as it pertains to giving people quality care and dignity.

      • Reply
        Aaron Foster February 9, 2019

        With new technologies architecturally and medically would provide this building to have modern success. I feel that in plan, the natural ventilation and natural lighting incorporated are keys to treatment. I feel the most successful form of treatment to be containing the patient as minimally as is safe so that they are exposed to the natural world and not trapped within their own minds. Architecture cannot control the ways in which the doctors and nurses treat them, but architecture can provide humane containment.

    • Reply
      Brooke Nickell January 27, 2019

      Because psychiatric medicine has advanced far from the mid to late 1800’s it would stand to reason that modern psychiatric hospitals or hospital wings would look nothing like they did in the time of Kirkbride, however they share similar principles to Kirkbride’s plans. The Forensic Psychiatric Clinic of Stockholm Shares many similarities to Kirkbride’s plan. Though the plan of the clinic does not have far reaching arms that extend to either side, it has four arms that rotate around the building. Each a corridor with rooms to either side with windows. The plans share similar aspects because though medical treatments have advanced the principles of Kirkbride’s Moral Treatment are still important to medicine, especially medicine of the mind. Fresh air and natural light are incorporated in designs for hospitals today.

      https://www.archdaily.com/306960/helix-forensic-psychiatric-clinic-of-stockholm-bsk-arkitekter?ad_medium=gallery

      • Reply
        Parker Done February 10, 2019

        I wonder if when this was built did they actually look at a Kirkbride plan as a precedent or more advanced medical knowledge actually led to a similar conclusion.

  3. Reply
    Emma Okesson January 30, 2019

    To me, the most interesting feature of the Kirkbride plan was the dignity that it gave its patients. I think many of the features of that plan that have been discussed (access to the outdoors, natural light, privacy, a place to work) are all a part of basic human dignity. If these basic features were considered revolutionary, it really highlights how poorly mental health patients were treated before the Kirkbride plan.

    It’s ironic then that part of the later concerns with the Kirkbride plan was mistreatment of the patients. I suppose it goes to show that architecture is not a cure-all for social problems, like the devaluing of the mentally ill. Whatever social reform takes place in architecture has to be backed up by social reform in people, not just in buildings.

    • Reply
      Brooke Nickell February 9, 2019

      Emma that is a great point, that social reform in architecture needs to be backed up by reform in people. To bring the two conversations together, both kirkbride and Haviland were dealing with much the same architectural issue: how to make individual living spaces for people but to different ends. Kirkbride’s plan was making the best possible living conditions for people to live. Haviland’s end goal was to make the most efficient use of space while still providing all necessary amenities to live. Each man had the intentions of improving the lives of those who live in their building, weather giving the mentally unstable hope, or seeking to improve the lives of the criminals through solitude.

    • Reply
      Monica February 9, 2019

      It is interesting that you thought about how this would affect how patients were treated. Even though architecture is not a solution to all, it’s fascinating to see how it can still have an impact on the lives of the users and facilitate it as well.

    • Reply
      Aaron Foster February 9, 2019

      I think architecture can only do so much when in comes to humane treatment. I agree in that architecture cannot cure all the social problems and the way the patients are treated. The people must change in order for the architecture to work.

  4. Reply
    JhenniferAmundson February 1, 2019

    1. Good start to the discussion. I appreciate your contextualizing the problems, which are not inherently architectural (potential abuse of patients, changing approaches to therapy), rather than dismissing the plan as just not working, based on what we know about mental care today.
    2. Do you have answers to the questions you raise? Interesting comparison raised by that Swedish building!
    3. Emma, that’s a good way to summarize the considerations: there was a sense of dignity here that was definitely absent from other institutions that tried to offer some assistance in prior years. And yet I expect that Kirkbride’s ideas, sort of a medical theory manifest in a diagram, were of course left to people to enact. I anticipate that the treatment of patients could vary dramatically in relation to the views of the physician in charge. So yes, even when architecture embodies the great optimistic ideals of really great people, (1) they can be dead wrong to start with and (2) there’s no guarantee the people act in the future as you hope.

  5. Reply
    Brooke Nickell February 9, 2019

    Emma that is a great point, that social reform in architecture needs to be backed up by reform in people. To bring the two conversations together, both kirkbride and Haviland were dealing with much the same architectural issue: how to make individual living spaces for people but to different ends. Kirkbride’s plan was making the best possible living conditions for people to live. Haviland’s end goal was to make the most efficient use of space while still providing all necessary amenities to live. Each man had the intentions of improving the lives of those who live in their building, weather giving the mentally unstable hope, or seeking to improve the lives of the criminals through solitude.

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