Asylum Building Plan Sandbox

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I am creating this page to help us write out different plans in one area before we go onto adjusting/creating new plans.

Use this page as a blackboard/sandbox to sketch out your ideas outside the message boards. Do not hesitate to come up with an idea and run with it here.

Here is a link to the current conversation pertaining to this page: Special:AWCforum/st/id136/#post_927

Current/Old plan layout[edit]

Here is how the building plans are laid out as of now:

  • United States Congregate Style
    • Cottage Planned Institutions
    • Kirkbride Planned Institutions
  • United Kingdom Congregate Style
    • Corridor Plan Institutions
    • Echelon Plan Institutions
    • Pavilion Plan Institutions
    • Radial Plan Institutions
  • Single Building Institutions
  • Rambling Planned Institutions


American Timeline/new plans[edit]

  • Pre-1854 Plans: These are mental hospitals built before Kirbride had come out with his plan. This would include Utica State Hospital, Hartford Retreat, Eastern State Hospital, and probably a couple more that i cannot think of off the top of my mind.
  • 1854-1888 Kirkbride Plan: These are plans based on what Dr. Krikbride had laid out in his book. This not only includes building architecture, but ground layout and patient treatment.
    • Early Kirkbrides: These are small buildings laid out to the Kirkbride plan in it's early states. What might characterize these buildings would be their closeness/compactness. The wings are much closer together with the wards connected directly together.
    • Late Kirkbrides: These are Kirbrides that have attempted to improve on the design by spacing out the wards more with larger connecting hallways that are typically curving.
  • 1865 The Willard Plan was created as an offshoot in response to the ever increasing patient population of "incurables" that could not be worked with. These hospitals were more custodial the curative.
  • 1888 We see the Willard Plan supplanted by an early version of the cottage plan where cheaper buildings are created on existing hospital properties for patients classified as "incurable"
  • 1888 We also begin to see various Transition Plans, where superintendents/asylum designers are trying to come up with a new layout to help relieve the problems found/seen in the older Kirkbride planned hospitals. What marks these hospitals is their varying designs.
  • 1900 We see the clear establishment of a Cottage Plan as we have come to know it, separate patient cottages to separate by type, a medical building, administration, separate cafeteria buildings, etc. This is the model seen with Byberries E and C buildings, post kirk Harrisburg, Norwich, etc.
    • 1920's Utilitarian Cottage Plan eugenics had firmly planted itself in mental health care. Hospitals had become less places of healing and more places to warehouse societies unwanted. So hospital construction caught up with the trend. Building remained cottage plan but with larger utilitarian buildings, such as at Harlem Valley in NY at Byberry with its new N buildings.
    • 1930's Metropolitan Plan (Name change needed?) New York took a step away from other states in the 1930's by building their own super large buildings. Examples: Rockland State Hospital, Pilgrim State Hospital, Edgewood State Hospital, Hudson River State Hospital, Kings Park State Hospital.
    • 1950's Post Drug Cottage Plan hospital building slows as drugs become the primary treatment. Hospitals go back to smaller cottage type buildings, such as Haverford State Hospital.
  • 1970's and beyond we see the move to huge modern single buildings housing all the services of the hospital, while hospitals over all began to slowly decrease in size. Modern Plan

United Kingdom Plans Timeline[edit]

I wanted to add the UK timeline for both comparison and also to work on too.

  • 1815 Corridor Plan was first identifiable plan to arise in the UK. It is typified by a central admin block with patient blocks to either side and long corridors running through it all. Typically, the corridors ran straight through the wards so you literally had to walk from one ward to another to head somewhere.
  • 1865 the first Pavilion Plan hospital was built. Typically a pavilion plan is identified most often by separate buildings connected by corridors. It should also be noted that early pavilion plans were more like corridor plan hospitals then something separate.
    • 1870 to 1907 Standard Pavilion is a hugely widespread type, and essentially the first common hospital plan and greatly advocated by Florence Nightingale, but little used within asylum design. The principles of it seem to have been utilized in the echelon plan. The standard pavilion usually consisting of a long linear corridor with individual ward blocks to allow free passage of air and light. Central admin block. Hall and services could be central or remote.
    • Corridor Pavilion Corridor plan hospitals typically consist of a long thin hallway connecting ward blocks together in a long line. Because of the plans vague definition, the hospitals that used the corridor plan can differ in appearance from each other to some degree. Some examples of this plan in the United States are: Ypsilanti State Hospital, Foxboro State Hospital, and Terrell State Hospital.
    • Dual Pavilion Axial services and facilities flanked on either side by long corridors with individual blocks. The sheer size of these complexes blocks made them operationally difficult and they were initially intended as somewhere to segregate incurables and chronic cases away from other patients. One example is: Selinsgrove Center
    • Radial Pavilion An oddity, and intermediate between the standard pavilion and the development towards the echeon plan. Individual ward blocks arranged around a semi circular corridor with axial office and service accommodation.
    • Irregular Pavilion The Manor Certified Institution (at Epsom for London CC) was a large structure consisting of temporary pavilions arranged around an L- shaped corridor, with a pre-existing mansion as its hub and offices. Darenth Park 2nd Annexe consisted of two groups of five y-shaped pavilions linked by corridors
  • 1880 - 1932 Echelon Plan Largely superseded the Pavilion plan of Asylums in all but the Metropolitan and Lancashire Asylums Boards. Its sudden rise in popularity being the arrangement of wards, offices and services within easy reach of each other by a network of interconnecting corridors. Typically forming a triangular, trapezium or semi-circular format. (Note: this plan is very similar to Kirkbride Plan, but not the same. Yet, there may have been one or two hospitals built at this time in the UK as Kirkbride Plan, but these are very rare.)
    • 1880 - 1890 Broad Arrow The earlier form of echelon plan consisting of the typical layout with services and wards (segregated by sex) located on a wide spreading complex. Broad Arrow wards were essentially detached pavilion blocks linked by stubby corridors to the main corridor network. One example: Norristown State Hospital
    • 1890 - 1932 Compact Arrow This plan revolutionized the construction of Asylums and Mental Hospitals and was probably the most practical type devised. The linking corridors of the Broad Arrow were retained, but instead the ward blocks 'hugged' the main corridors rather than being placed away from them. Ward blocks could be either interconnecting or distinct from each other. Typically these wards would give the appearance of a zig zag as they were stepped along the main corridor. As in previous designs, male and female workplaces would be located on their respective sides with shared services and offices occupying the center.
  • Radial Plan Long wings radiating from a central (often semi circular) hub. Considered inhumane even in its own time and only really implemented in the south-west (other than prisons). The close nature of the wings at the point nearest the hub would allow little access for air and light to the buildings and airing courts between them. One source suggests this plan offered a deterrent to potential admissions as asylum care would have been preferable (and more expensive) to the workhouse.
  • 1930's the UK adopts the cottage plan, but they call it the Colony Plan


Pre-1854 Plans[edit]

  • These are Asylums built in the united States before Dr. Kirkbride had written and pushed his own mental hospital layout plans that included both architecture, grounds, and the treatment of patients within mental hospitals.
  • Some of these hospitals are based on early European ideas, regional ideas, and reformer ideas.
  • Early hospitals usually started out with single or few buildings with no discernible beginning layout that was replicated by other hospitals of the time.

Kirkbride Plan[edit]

The Kirkbride Plan is a 19th century building style that is the direct result of Dr. Thomas Story Kirkbride. Early in his career as superintendent of the Institute of the Pennsylvania Hospital he wrote a book titled: On the Construction, Organization and General Arrangements of Hospitals for the Insane. Within his book he espoused an architectural design for the hospital, administration of said asylum, placement of the hospital, and how the hospital grounds should be created and maintained.

A Kirkbride Plan building consists of a center section for the hospital administration and (in the early days) a living area for the superintendant and his family. Behind and to either side of the administration section are "wings" that contain patient wards. The patient wards staggered out and back from the administration section. From the air the building would look like a "V" or a "bat wing". Chapels, auditoriums, libraries, and kitchens were often built directly onto the rear of the administration section as this was a convenient, central location for these facilities since the male and female patients resided on opposite sides of the building. The Kirkbride Plan allowed for many other advantages over previous building styles. It allowed for maximum amounts of light and ventilation into the patient wards. It allowed for easier arranging of patients by type, typically the noisier and more uncontrollable patients were placed in the wards farthest from the administration section. It also allowed for easy expansion of the hospital, additional wards could be built onto the ends of the existing building without disrupting daily life at the hospital. Kirkbride Plan buildings tended to become large, imposing, Victorian-era institutions, between 3-5 stories tall, built on large extensively manicured grounds which often included farmland.

Completed in 1854, the Taunton State Hospital in Massachusetts became the first hospital built following the kirkbride plan. The slow demise of these institutions came about with a combination of the death of Dr. Kirkbride in the late 1880's and a shift in popular treatment methods for the insane. Around 1900 most new hospitals were moving away from the Kirkbride Plan in favor of smaller and more segregated styles of asylum construction. Many kirkbride buildings were lost in the 20th century due to fires, others were abandoned or demolished when newer buildings were constructed. Some have been modified so heavily that they no longer look like a kirkbride building. There are however, still a few Kirkbride buildings that have survived into the 21st century, some are still being used for their original purpose, others have been renovated for other uses like residential housing.


Traditional Kirkbride[edit]

  • Tightly grouped wards
  • No exterior porches
  • Compact over all design
  • Influenced by AMASII/Kirkbride patient limitations of only 250 patients
  • Proper ventilation and design in accordance to the building plan by Dr. Thomas Kirkbride
  • Continuous foundation and roof line

Modified Kirkbride[edit]

  • Wards are spaced farther apart
  • Wards are connected by single or multistory hallways
  • Buildings have become more ornate
  • Open air porches attached to wards
  • AMASII had changed the maximum limit of patients allowed in a mental hospital from 250 to 600 (in 1866)
  • Buildings are over all larger and more spaced out
  • Buildings don't conform completely to the building plans specified by Dr. Thomas Kirkbride
  • Buildings might only be half built, or modified to allow for building constraints of the area or land


Willard Plan[edit]

There is no architectural standard to hospital built on the Willard Plan. Many were established in previously established buildings, architecture and design were less important as no treatment would take place at those institutions. Willard State Hospital was originally opened in a former four story agricultural college building and later a large kirkbride, followed by a series of two story "mini kirks" scattered around the campus. The Binghamton Asylum for the Chronic Insane was opened in what was the New York Inebriate Asylum, a single linear building. Tewkburry in Massachusetts and the State Asylum for the Incurable Insane in Rhode Island were two custodial asylums which grew out of almshouses. Meanwhile the State Asylum for the Chronic Insane of Pennsylvania at Wernersville was purpose built on a popular asylum plan.

Transition Plan[edit]

The Transition Plan refers to a building plan period between the end of the Kirkbride Plan around 1888 and the start to the Cottage Plan around 1900. The Transition Plan typically reflects element of both the Kirkbride and Cottage plan. With the death of Dr. Thomas Story Kirkbride in December of 1883, the AMSAII and hosptial trustees were quick to look for alternatives to the Kirkbride Plan which by 1883 was beginning to be widely discredited due to it's inability to properly segregate noisy and violent patients from those that were thought to have a better change for being cured. A common example of the Transition Plan would be Norristown State Hospital in Pennsylvania. Construction on Norristown began in 1878 and consisted of a central Administration Building flanked at the rear on both sides by patient wards. The ward buildings were staggered out and back from the Administration Building, resembling the wings of a Kirkbride Building. However the ward buildings were connected by partially submerged tunnels rather than above ground hallways.



Cottage Plan[edit]

The Cottage Plan (also known as the colony plan in England) is a style of asylum planning that gained popularity at the very end of the 19th century and continued to be very popular well into the 20th century. Prior to the cottage plan, most institutions were built using the Kirkbride Plan which housed all patients and administration into one large building. It was found that the Kirkbride Plan lacked the proper facilities for noisy and violent patients. Cottage Plan institutions usually consisted of a multitude of individual buildings that housed a specific patient type. The buildings were normally two stories tall or less and were often connected to each other with a series of tunnels that were either half or fully submerged underground. Cottage Plan institutions would often be segregated by sex as well as patient type. For example there would be two individual buildings for convalescent patients, one for men and one for women. The two buildings would usually be located on opposite sides of the hospital complex. An administration building would typically be near the front and center of the complex and communal buildings, like a chapel, kitchen, gymnasium, or auditorium were often in the center.


Early Cottage plan[edit]

Early cottage plan buildings, typically built between 1900 and 1920, retained many of the ornate appearances and treatment methods of the Kirkbride Plan era. Early cottage plan buildings were typically no more than two stories tall, they were typically built of fireproof materials such as brick, stone, and slate. They were purpose built for a single type of patient and there were typically two sets of buildings for each, one for women and one for men. Hospital campuses usually resembles that of a college with large, well manicured lawns, flower beds, trees, fountains, and other decorative items. Typically an administration building was located at the front of the campus, patient buildings would encircle the campus with communal buildings such as a kitchen, chapel, or auditorium in the center. Power plans, laundry facilities, and farms were often located to the rear of the campus.

Utilitarian Cottage Plan[edit]

1920's Utilitarian Cottage Plan eugenics had firmly planted itself in mental health care. Hospitals had become less places of healing and more places to warehouse societies unwanted. So hospital construction caught up with the trend. Building remained cottage plan but with larger utilitarian buildings, such as at Harlem Valley in NY at Byberry with its new N buildings.

Metropolitan Plan[edit]

1930's Metropolitan Plan (Name change needed?) New York took a step away from other states in the 1930's by building their own super large buildings. Examples: Rockland State Hospital, Pilgrim State Hospital, Edgewood State Hospital, Hudson River State Hospital, Kings Park State Hospital.

Post Drug Cottage Plan[edit]

1950's Post Drug Cottage Plan hospital building slows as drugs become the primary treatment. Hospitals go back to smaller cottage type buildings, such as Haverford State Hospital.

Modern Plan[edit]

1970's and beyond we see the move to huge modern single buildings housing all the services of the hospital, while hospitals over all began to slowly decrease in size. Modern Plan


New Infobox Layout[edit]

St Elizabeths Hospital
St Elizabeths Hospital
Established 1852
Construction Began 1852
Construction Ended 1855
Opened 1855
Current Status Active
Building Style

1852-Present

1899-Present

1950-Present

2006-Present
Architect(s) Thomas U. Walter; Shepley, Rutan & Coolidge
Location Washington, DC
Architecture Style Gothic Revival, Gothic
Peak Patient Population 7,000
Alternate Names
  • Government Hospital for the Insane
  • United States Government Hospital for the Insane