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The Architecture of Madness: Insane Asylums in the United States (Architecture, Landscape and Amer Culture) Paperback – April 12, 2007

ISBN-13: 978-0816649402 ISBN-10: 0816649405 Edition: 1st

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The Architecture of Madness: Insane Asylums in the United States (Architecture, Landscape and Amer Culture) + Asylum: Inside the Closed World of State Mental Hospitals + The Lives They Left Behind: Suitcases from a State Hospital Attic
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Product Details

  • Series: Architecture, Landscape and Amer Culture
  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Univ Of Minnesota Press; 1 edition (April 12, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0816649405
  • ISBN-13: 978-0816649402
  • Product Dimensions: 11 x 8.7 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #243,418 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By R. M. Burns on July 12, 2009
Format: Paperback
Carla Yanni's history of mental assylums in the United States is well-written and full of great information on the subject. The text is academic enough to effectively tie architecture, history, and psychological theory together neatly without becoming cumbersome. The book also contains excellent illustrations and photographs which really help bring the subject to life.

My only complaint with the book is that it left me wanting more. I would like to have seen more interior photographs on some of the surviving buildings as they are today (like those you can find at [...]). I also wish the author had devoted a little space to Danvers State Hospital, the fascinating building best known from the film "Session 9." There were also a number of cases where the floor plans for various buildings either lacked the key that explained what each room was, or where the key was effectively too small to read.

That said, I found this book to be a very good source of detailed information about the history and philosophy of assylums in the US.
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Music Lover. on November 9, 2009
Format: Paperback
I thought this item was going to be a book primarily concentrating on the architectural study of these buildings. Given the title of the book, one is being led to believe that this would be so. Therefore it was very surprising, and disappointing, to see no colour photographs at all included, and even more surprising and disappointing to find no mention of, or pictures featuring the Danvers State Mental Hospital, which was one of the most impressive and classic examples of Kirkbride's vision. Also, some of the plans shown, do not seem to have precise information and so did not seem complete.
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Anne Cotterill on June 30, 2007
Format: Paperback
The Architecture of Madness is a thoughtful, important, and visually stunning book, which, for the first time, studies the relations between architecture and theories of treating the insane in public institutions in nineteenth-century America. The author is an architecture historian who is interested in relations among architecture, science, and social and cultural history and whose wide-ranging intellect is drawn to topics that open up the importance of architecture within the intellectual culture of early modernity. Like her previous book, Nature's Museums: Victorian Science and the Architecture of Display, this new volume is beautifully produced with text and accompanying drawings, graphics, and photography arranged on spacious, larger-than-usual pages which are inviting to the eye and also inviting to be read. Moreover, what characterizes this book, as it characterized Nature's Museums, is the author's clear, exact, highly readable prose. Yanni is a first-rate scholar and writes precisely, but she wears her learning lightly, eschews scholarly jargon. The extensive bibliography and notes are there, at the back, but this is a book designed to interest general reader and scholar alike--anyone who wants to know more about the movement for moral treatment of the mentally ill and the effect on institutional care of early ideas of environmental determinism. Her care and humility as a scholar are evident in what she perceives as the "respectful distance" her subject required: "if I have not performed feats of scholarly acrobatics, that is intentional, and, I believe, appropriate, for this is a book about places that witnessed a great deal of suffering.Read more ›
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Susan Solomon on June 25, 2007
Format: Paperback
Carla Yanni's book will be the classic text on
19th century insane asylums. She has done
a masterful job of blending meticulous research
and superb analysis with well crafted writing.
Yanni, who is well versed in the history of architecture
and the history of science, tells a compelling,
accessible story.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By TVM on November 4, 2010
Format: Paperback
This is a visually fascinating account on American asylums. I have to say that I found the imagery more interesting than the scholarly pursuits of the author. Overall the scope of the book never became clear to me. I was confused whether this was supposed to be an architectural study, or more of an overview of the asylum system in general, or somewhere in between.

The book is a visual treat, and it features numerous pictures of old asylum plans, and photos. Regardless of the lack of coherency in the text, the book is a must-read (or more of a must-look-at) to anyone interested in the asylums of the United States.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Pam Hasekll on April 4, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Carla Yanni was able to explain more than architecture in this book. She helped me understand the prevailing views on insanity and treatment of such in the time period. Powerful and thought provoking.
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By Gwendolyn on June 2, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The research that was completed for this book is so detailed as to capture a different time in our history and in the history of the insane asylum. She asks and answers such good questions and captures why these buildings were built in such a purposeful way. I loved it.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Gotta be read. Verbal review just can't do the subject justice. It's got to be picture too --
so a reader should go online and search "Historic mental institutions" etc. etc .
There once was a "kingdom of confinement" that was big, big business. The population
was that much smaller . . . yet there were that many committed to fill the nation-wide
"asylum-chain" extent of institutionalization!?!?!?!?
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