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Mental health, Architectural theory, Prison architecture, Insane asylum, Canada, Ethics, Essays

A Silent Profession
Asylums, Prisons and Architects
by Arthur Allen

If the words "beautiful prison" are hard to say, does that explain why architects seldom, if ever, talk or write about the artistic merits and functional failures of asylum and prison design? In an attempt to understand this silence, and the absence of asylums and prisons in competitions seeking honors for excellence in design, the papers in this book examine what may be architects' most difficult field of work.

In North America architects are required by law to design institutional buildings, but with political change, their clients often change their minds, demanding civilized or brutal confinement in turn. When brutality or indifferent treatment is required that aggravates crime or madness, to do the work an architect must defy his/her code of ethics which demands service in the public interest.

Architects are not alone with this quandary. This book concludes that resolution of this discussion requires that when a client and an architect know the intentions and consequences of a buildings design and operations, they must share the moral and functional responsibilities of the work.

Arthur Allen photo

Arthur Allen is now a retired architect and a writer, with a record of experience in design of mental health facilities, leading to a lifetime interest in the architecture of human confinement.


Arthur Allen

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