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Title: Going Soft: Architecture and the Human Sciences in Search of New Institutional Forms (1963-1974)
Authors: Knoblauch, Joy Ruth
Advisors: Boyer, Christine
Contributors: Architecture Department
Keywords: government
mental health
social science
Subjects: Architecture
American history
History of science
Issue Date: 2012
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: Michel Foucault, Thomas Mann, and more recently, Sven-Olov Wallenstein have argued that the modern European hospital of the early twentieth century acted as a research laboratory for a new way of governing human populations. This dissertation studies a subsequent phase of biopolitical research fostered by federal, state, and local initiatives of the United States government between 1963 and 1974. During these years, architects developed an expanded knowledge of the relation between architecture and its heterogeneous occupants, through collaborative research projects undertaken by architects working with psychologists and sociologists. These collaborations resulted from government-funded, Great Society social programs that sought to redesign psychiatric facilities, prisons, and public housing in order to promote the welfare of all Americans, including those members of the population deemed "deviant." The goal was to humanize, soften and dissolve the imposing and inflexible architecture of large residential institutions. These projects used the growing field of environmental psychology to reduce the limitations to individual enterprise, a trend that would continue with neoliberalism. Under the new mode, rigid controls were replaced by "permeable institutions" that hoped to govern through an environment, carefully embedded with incentives, that would elicit desired behaviors from the population. Using quantitative methods, behavioral models, and population data, architects and social scientists tried to soften the exertion of control, displacing more of the control onto the environment in what they hoped would be a more humane solution. The new designs deployed complex articulated forms that sought to dissolve the monolithic forms favored by mid-century modern institutional design; similarly, architects chose malleable or natural materials such as rusticated concrete and wood in place of the sleek steel and glass of the previous generation of modern buildings. Moreover, the researchers developed new techniques of diagramming to visualize interpersonal forces, enabling the transmission of their theories of social interaction to future generations of architects. In this way, the Great Society-era architectural research on institutional domestic environments acted as a laboratory, experimenting with strategies for governing populations through the designed environment. The dissertation traces psychological expertise as manifested in a series of institutional environments. The first chapter studies architect Clyde Dorsett and his work on Community Mental Health Centers at the National Institute of Mental Health. The second chronicles a series of experiments with therapeutic penology by architects such as Sim Van der Ryn, and Constantine Karalis. The third chapter presents Oscar Newman and his work with the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration (LEAA) and New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) on crime prevention through environmental design. And finally, the dissertation presents a survey of government-funded research using social science to study the environment, focusing on a study by Peter Eisenman funded by the NIMH.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Architecture

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