Engineering Earth

pp 1425-1439


Land Marks in the Cure of Madness: The Shaping of 19th Century Asylum Sites in Melbourne, Australia

  • Anne BourkeAffiliated withFaculty of Architecture, Building and Planning, University of Melbourne Email author 

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Lunatic asylum sites in the nineteenth century developed a recognisable form that was distinguished by rural location, expansive grounds, farm areas, ornamental gardens, airing yards and an emphasis on a ‘picturesque’ aesthetic. It could be found in England, across Europe, America and Australia. Its dominance was influenced by firmly held medical beliefs of the period, in the power of ‘nature’ and immersion in rural life as a cure for mental illness. The asylum site was engineered according to these ideas which were discussed in government reports, medical journals and architectural texts. It was the importance of the medical opinion however, that drove the construction of these sites and accounts for the uniformity of the asylum model across the world. As such, these sites can be interpreted as land that was highly engineered according to medical and scientific ideas of the period. This paper examines two sites in Melbourne, Australia in order to examine the ways the land! was formed and interpreted to represent an English pastoral idyll as a way of curing madness.