‘Architecture of Insanity’

Jack Yates recently shared with me an article entitled the ‘Architecture of Insanity: Boston Government Service Center’ by Michelle Koh and Gwen Lee. Located in Massachusetts (US), the Government Service Center has two parts, one of which is the Erich Lindemann Mental Health Center. The photos and description of the Lindemann Center are particularly relevant to Social Role Valorization and PASSING.

From the article: “When Rudolph designed the Lindemann Center, he had hoped to create a landscape that would reflect the interior mental states of inmates suffering from Alzheimer’s, dementia or schizophrenia. Armed with his theory of psychology, Rudolph tried to recreate the hallucinogenic or exaggerated mental and emotional states of the insane with never ending inchoate corridors, a chapel with a dismal atmosphere and macabre twisting stairways, one of which, like an oubliette in a medieval keep, leads nowhere. The building’s dramatic structures and subliminal imagery (there is a thinly veiled frog’s head looking out from the building’s facade) make the Lindemann Center very expressive, but also foreboding and dangerous. With a romanticised view of mental illness, Rudolph made the building “insane” in the hope that it would sooth those who dwell in it by reflecting the insanity they feel within. Unfortunately, the outcome is not what the architect had hoped for.”

This is a dramatic example, though probably not a unique one, yet can still teach us quite a bit when we consider the Lindemann Center in terms of SRV and PASSING training and implementation. A few questions to consider while reading the article:

• What were the conscious assumptions of the architect?

• What messages would the exterior and interior of this setting communicate about adults with mental disorder? What devalued roles are communicated by the setting? (Wolfensberger, SRV monograph, pp. 64, 107; Wolfensberger & Thomas, PASSING manual–Service-Neighborhood Harmony, Setting Aesthetics, Setting Appearance Congruity with Culturally Valued Analogue, Miscellaneous Image Aspects of the Physical Setting)

• What competency impacts might living in such a building have on adults with mental disorder? (Wolfensberger & Thomas, PASSING manual–Physical Comfort of Setting, Challenge/Safety Features of Setting)

And so on.

Marc Tumeinski

Posted on January 4, 2013 at 10:52 am by MTumeinski · Permalink
In: Uncategorized · Tagged with: , , , , , ,

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