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25 October 2023 - 25 October 2023

12:00PM - 1:00PM

Ustinov Room, Van Mildert College, Durham City

  • Free

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Part of the Wolfson Research Institute for Health and Wellbeing Guest Lecture Series 2023/24 Although mental health features prominently in contemporary discourse about human health and wellbeing, there are still critical gaps in historical accounts of twentieth-century psychiatry, related disciplines that led to the adoption of the broader concept of “mental healthcare”, as well as the spaces and places that supported these.

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Within this context, this research examines the design of specialist buildings for mental healthcare in England in the post-World War II period, including the critical transition to de-institutionalisation, as well as connections to earlier and later periods of the twentieth century.

Despite its virtual absence from associated historiography, building activity relating to mental healthcare in England was extensive throughout the twentieth century and also varied considerably: from interior reconfigurations of existing structures, to additions of nondescript buildings and wartime temporary structures, as well as new building types and flagship commissions that attracted higher funding and prestigious architectural designers. Out of this wide range, the discussion in this presentation focuses on a new building type that emerged as a variation of earlier asylum typologies at the turn of the century, yet continued to develop to its late decades; that is, what became known at different times as Reception, Admission, or Early Treatment Hospitals and effectively became a connecting thread across a series of critical policy and practice changes. Some comparisons will also be made to the earliest known applications of the preferred approach from the 1960s onwards, following the gradual abandonment of mental hospitals; namely, the incorporation of psychiatric wards within district general hospitals. Although the research falls primarily within the field of architectural history, one of its primary aims is to decipher connections to “social” interpretations of human nature and how parallel studies grounded in other disciplines that linked space and society may have also infiltrated specialist guidance for healthcare architecture.

An Abstract Booklet featuring all events in this series is available here. 


Malathouni, Christina (2023): ‘The general atmosphere of this admission unit is reassuring and optimistic’. Modernism, architectural research and evolving psychiatric reforms in post-war England. In: Gundula Gahlen, Volker Hess, Marianna Scarfone & Henriette Voelker (eds.), Doing Psychiatry in Postwar Europe. Practices, Routines and Experiences, Manchester (in press).

Malathouni, Christina (2023): ‘In line with the modern conception of much mental illness’. Architectural design contributions to psychiatric reforms in post-war Britain. In: Tara Hipwood & Seyeon Lee (eds.), Historical Narratives of Public Health in the Built Environment (Special issue of Architecture_MPS 24.1,

Malathouni, Christina (2020): Beyond the asylum and before the ‘care in the community’ model. Exploring an overlooked early NHS mental health facility. In: History of Psychiatry 31, 455–469.