by Christopher Payne
We now think of them as snakepits but state asylums were built on the premise of "moral treatment" in which patients were provided care, routine, entertainment, fresh air & enobling vistas. At one point, a half million Americans resided in asylums, leading to overcrowding & the desperate conditions that form our 21st century perspective on committed care. Legislation to end patient work programs allowed hospitals to fall into disrepair & they were ultimately rendered obsolete by neurological pharmacology. Captured here in their stark beauty, these unique, decaying structures remind us that, if unsupported, great ideas can lay waste to both the human spirit & to architectural expression.