Steinhof: The Realization of the Asylum Term Paper by Klc

An examination of the reformation in the humane treatment of psychiatric patients and its expression in the Steinhof mental institution.
# 145398 | 1,406 words | 5 sources | MLA | 2010 | US
Published on Nov 07, 2010 in Architecture (Modern) , Medical and Health (General) , Ethics (General)

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This paper explores the implementation of reforms at the Lower Austrian Provincial Institution for the Care and Cure of the Mentally and Nervously Ill at Steinhof. The paper explains that this change was a culmination of the principles employed throughout the 19th century in the reformation of the built environment of insane asylums. The paper further defines this international movement toward humane treatment of psychiatric patients as a focus on the collaborative planning of areas including lighting, ventilation, aesthetics, surveillance, self-sufficiency, and classification of patients. The paper asserts that Steinhof is an exemplar of the architectural manifestation of psychiatric goals, and aims to present the architectural elements that made the facility so advanced and the medical reasoning that provided their basis.
The paper concludes that the positive transformation from warehousing the insane to providing a sanctum is dramatically represented in the success of Steinhof.

From the Paper:

"One such feature proposed by psychiatrists and exhibited at Steinhof is the integration of nature. The basis of this element is the emphasis doctors placed upon nature's psychological benefits. Gardens and tree lined paths, like those at Steinhof, were a staple of 19th century asylum landscaping. High priority was also placed upon optimizing patient views. In America, building types such as the E-shape and the U-shape that offered restricted views or views into the windows of other patients were replaced through time by The Kirkbride Plan. This linear asylum design created by American psychiatrist Thomas Story Kirkbride arranged pavilions in en echelon enabling each patient to see the scenery from his or her window (Yanni 34). Nature was also central in choosing a location. Countryside locations were essential so that institutions were far from centers of human civilization which provided "moral" causes for insanity such as poverty and overwork. The basic aim was to create a place "in which all problems of modernity could be reversed" (Topp 137). For this very reason, Steinhof was deliberately placed in the hills of Vienna. Isolation from society encouraged a simplistic lifestyle for patients and provided a calming change of pace."

Sample of Sources Used:

  • Bentham, Jeremy. "Panopticon or Inspection-House." Letter to a friend in England. 1787. CourseWeb/Blackboard. University of Pittsburgh, 2010. Web. 29 Sept. 2010. <>.
  • Foucault, Michel. "Panoticism." Discipline and Punish: the Birth of the Prison. New York: Pantheon, 1977. 195-228. CourseWeb/Blackboard. University of Pittsburgh, 2010. Web. 29 Sept. 2010. <>.
  • Topp, Leslie, "Otto Wagner and the Steinhof Psychiatric Hospital: Architecture as Misunderstanding," Art Bulletin, vol. 87, no. 1 (March 2005), 130-156
  • Vidler, Anthony. "Confinement and Cure." The Writing of the Walls: Architectural Theory in the Late Enlightenment. Princeton, NJ: Princeton Architectural, 1987. 51-72. CourseWeb/Blackboard. University of Pittsburgh, 2010. Web. 29 Sept. 2010. <>.
  • Yanni, Carla, "The Linear Plane for Insane Asylums in the United States before 1866," Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, vol. 62, no. 1 (March 2003), 24-49

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