Marketing the asylum
Gentrification and rising real estate prices will lead to many kinds of capital conversion. Here is Mind Hacks:
Regular readers will know of my ongoing fascination with the fate of the old psychiatric asylums and how they’re often turned into luxury apartments with not a whisper of their previous life.
It turns out, a 2003 article in The Psychiatrist looked at exactly this in 71 former asylum care hospitals.
It’s cheekily called ‘The Executives Have Taken Over the Asylum’ and notes how almost all have been turned into luxury developments. Have a look at Table 1 for a summary.
The authors also had a look at the marketing material for these new developments and wrote a cutting commentary on how the glossy brochures deal with the institutions mixed legacies.
The estate agents want to play on the often genuinely beautiful architecture and, more oddly, the security of the sites, while papering over the fact the buildings had anything to do with mental illness.
Here is the article, here is the original 2003 piece (pdf). Here is one summary from Chaplin and Peters:
The only reminders of the former inhabitants found by the authors at any of the 32 redeveloped sites were a memorial garden dedicated to the patients of Cell Barnes and Hill End Hospitals, St Albans, a plaque at Littlemore Hospital, Oxford, and photographs of the former Bethlem Hospital at the Imperial War Museum.
Former mental hospital buildings appear to be undergoing a metamorphosis from containing the most disadvantaged and least-valued members of society to providing homes with character at a high market price. Paradoxically, asylum can now be bought in an ideal self-contained community, with security to keep society out.