Ireland was not unique in creating and perpetuating an institutional response to insanity, but did enjoy the dubious distinction of having, by 1950s, the world’s highest number of psychiatric beds per capita. Social and medical historians have posited various theories for this, but to date none have examined the spaces and landscapes created to facilitate this spectacular expansion in institutional provision. The research on which this book is based reveals the meaning and significance of the architectural and landscape legacy from the inception of the asylum system to its extinction, in the context of an evolving political, social, medical and economic climate.
The research reveals a rich typology – from the earliest structures which embodied Enlightenment theories and pioneering approaches to treatment within their very fabric, through impressive architectural set-pieces designed by the leading architects of the era, to enormous receptacles of the hopeless which demonstrated technical ingenuity in addressing the challenges of accommodating historically unprecedented numbers of people in a single building. Most were set within designed landscapes which attest to the original curative aspirations of the institution.