16 September 2007

Lecture: Carla Yanni on Insane Asylums

L A N D S C A P E . .A R C H I T E C T U R E
L E C T U R E . .S E R I E S -- F A L L 2 0 0 7

"The Architecture of Madness: Insane Asylums in the United States"

Carla Yanni, Associate Professor
Rutgers Department of Art History

Wednesday, September 19
Cook-Douglass Lecture Halls Room 110
4:00 - 5:15

Across the disciplines of environmental design, the issue of how the characteristics of a place can
influence physical and emotional well being is becoming increasingly important. Within the field
of landscape architecture, therapeutic gardens have become both a significant area of professional practice and locus for collaborative scholarly research. As the Department looks to help advance the discussion of this topic at Rutgers, we would be well served to also look back at moments of the past when design theory and medical practice came together. This week's talk will do just that as Rutgers Associate Professor of Art History Carla Yanni shares some of her ideas from her book, The Architecture of Madness: Insane Asylums in the United States. It examines the efforts of doctors and social reformers of the nineteenth century who believed that insanity was curable and, further, that the environment was an effective--and in some cases the most effective--form of treatment.

In addition to her appointment in the Art History Department, Carla Yanni is Assistant Vice President for Undergraduate Academic Affairs. Her area of scholarly expertise is nineteenth- and twentieth-century architecture; for her, architectural history is not the study of great monuments and architects, but rather the intellectual, social, and cultural meanings of buildings. She promotes the study of architectural history as a way of understanding a society’s values. In particular, her scholarship focuses on the relationship between architecture and the fields of science and medicine, in order to investigate the way that architecture participates in the social construction of knowledge.

During the academic year 2002-2003, Professor Yanni was a Senior Fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts at the National Gallery of Art, Washington DC, and from 2003 to 2007 she served on the Board of Directors of the Society of Architectural Historians. Her article "Divine Display or Secular Science: Defining Nature at the Natural History Museum in London," won the Founders’ Award from the Society of Architectural Historians in 1996. Her other scholarly interests include the historiography of American architecture and the architecture of universities. Carla Yanni received her doctorate in art history from the University of Pennsylvania in 1994. She is also the author of Nature's Museums: Victorian Science and the Architecture of Display.

For a complete list of departmental lectures, see

(The photo shows an institution from Binghamton, NY from the Library of Congress' American Memory collection.)

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