The well-ordered body: the quest for sanity through nineteenth-century asylum architecture

Can Bull Med Hist. 1994;11(2):375-86. doi: 10.3138/cbmh.11.2.375.


Nineteenth-century somatic theories of madness required specific types of treatment that focused on the body of the afflicted. This treatment stressed the primacy of caring for the body as a route to curing the mind. Treatment through environment would facilitate a transfer of the salubrious nature of a well-ordered place of treatment to the body and the mind of the lunatic. Therefore, the design of this environment became important as a method of treatment. The architect was to construct a facility ensuring the ordering, in detail, of placement, movement, and perception of the incarcerated. Also, this facility would act as a technology to facilitate the limits and types of bodily activities that would define a person as mad or sane. This article focuses on the architectural discourse of building for sanity.

Publication types

  • Historical Article

MeSH terms

  • Architecture / history*
  • Behavior Therapy / history
  • Environment, Controlled
  • History, 19th Century
  • Hospitals, Psychiatric / history*
  • Humans
  • Milieu Therapy / history*