Radial Plan Institutions

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The radial plan has it roots in the works of 18th century British social theorist Jeremy Bentham. His proposed "Panopticon" prison consisted of a large circular room with an central observation area. Around this on multiple levels would be multiple cells with bared doors and windows behind to allow the inmate to be seen at all times. Bentham specifically described this more for a prison but felt it could be beneficially used anywhere observation would be useful, such as workhouses, schools, hospital, or asylums. While a few Panopticon prison's were eventually built, such as Stateville Penitentiary in Illinois, and Presidio Modelo in Cuba, and even some factories, no asylum was constructed this way, however Betham's idea of central observation directly influenced development of the radial plan.

The radial plan maintains the central hub from which those in charge can observe the inmates/patients however rather than a single room multiple corridors branch from the center like spokes on a wheel. This allows for central observation and access to all wings. While this radial design became a popular in prison architecture due to the ease of observation it proved less popular for hospitals as the close nature proximity of the wings nearest the hub resulted in poor circulation of air and light to the buildings.

Few asylums are known to have ever used this plan with the only true radial plan being seen at the Glasgow Asylum (St. Lawrences Hospital), built in in 1814.