The Ideal Mental Hospital Designed Using LSD

Kiyoshi IzumiVia Motherboard, Brian Anderson explains how groundbreaking architect Kiyoshi Izumi employed LSD trips in order to create a more humane psyche ward:

Kiyoshi Izumi was part of a small, federally-granted team of visionaries tasked with developing a province-wide psychiatric hospital overhaul that addressed the affects that clinical environments had on patients. The trick? Get inside the heads of the mentally ill.

The success of the Saskatchewan Plan hinged on mimicking the psychomimetic experience. He’d have to conjure up not only hallucinations but also delusions and perceptual distortions distinct to psychoses. He’d have to eat acid.

It was a bold move. The insights he gleaned from levelling with patients and their surroundings, if we’re to take his word for it, found Izumi envisioning what’s gone on to be called “the ideal mental hospital”, the first of which was raised in Yorkton, Saskatchewan, in 1965.

To the untrained eye, Izumi’s final building likely appeared decidedly non psychedelic. But look closer and it becomes clear just how instrumental Izumi’s psychomimetic experiences proved in shaping the way he thought about the sort of feng shui of socio-psycho interaction.

It was not a mirrored warp. A cool, “flat” palette lightly colored the rooms and hallways. It was not a wormhole–rather than gaping closets there were large, mobile cabinets, each with an easily discernible back and front side. Nor was it a cage–this was a place of many windows, all low and unbarred. The beds sat low to the floor in individual rooms, each furnished so as to define the floor as close gound, not a distant pit. It was not a theatrical setting. Privacy was paramount. There were social spaces, sure, but the doorways and thresholds to those areas were specially designed to beat back the stock-still horror of feeling on stage.

It restored time. Clocks and calendars were plentiful, though never positioned as to appear instable, floating, or in defiance of gravity. And it was not synesthetic. Izumi took pains to dampen disorienting architectural minutia that for some patients kick up waves of mish-mashed senses. “Heat, light, and sound sources were designed to avoid creating confusion,” Izumi continued in LSD and Architectural Design, “as many of these sources became indistinguishable to a patient who is experiencing perceptual changes and distortions.” To wit: “The combined [light fixture] fittings that are used quite commonly in commercial buildings were not used in the psychiatric hospital. In selecting illumination type and distribution, we tried to avoid creating silhouettes of faces and bodies.”

Read the rest at Motherboard

7 Comments on "The Ideal Mental Hospital Designed Using LSD"

  1. This recalls Marie Balter. A former misdiagnosed 15 year patient at Danvers State Hospital. Who then returned to the same hospital, before it’s closing, as administration.

  2. lifobryan | Jul 24, 2013 at 4:25 pm |

    I’m profoundly intrigued with the idea of mental or psychic space made manifest in architecture. Particularly architecture associated with altered states of consciousness or mysticism … Teresa of Avila’s “Interior Castle” & Thomas Kirkbride’s theories of asylum-keeping come to mind.

    I spend a lot of time exploring abandoned asylums, and in fact, some years ago, Goethe’s idea that “architecture is frozen music” led me to create a short 16mm experimental film in one such place. The project explored the rhythms implicit in the architecture as well as its incremental decay, and used animation techniques in physical space. The reason for using animation techniques was to experience the space outside of “real time” – altering perception of time & motion, with odd fixations on details. I have to say it was one of the most mystical experiences I’ve ever had making a film project … many odd synchonicities emerged from it, and I’m convinced that had to do with a psychic (however you define that) relationship with the place, and a fusion of mental & physical space.

    Sorry for the shameless plug – but if anyone feels like checking out the short film, you can see it here:

    The article on Kiyoshi Izumi was fascinating – thank you so much for posting it, and I’m excited to research his ideas further.

  3. Jin The Ninja | Jul 24, 2013 at 4:55 pm |

    i think it is interesting, looking at his original blueprint, that it was so closely linked to MCM and ‘organic’ modernism- which is very scarce in canada as a whole (outside of vancouver and lower mainland BC)- we have quite a lot of brutalism, art deco and victorian architecture, but very much a scarcity in approachable, humanist modern design of the post-war era.

Comments are closed.