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The Kirkbride Plan

Calling for a large building with a central section for administration and two wings for housing patients, the Kirkbride Plan is a collection of rules for mental asylum design and management advocated by Dr Thomas Story Kirkbride.  Dr. Kirkbride’s ideas were described in his book “On the Construction, Organization and General Arrangements of Hospitals for the Insane” first published in 1854.

Many asylum buildings constructed in the second half of the 19th century were based on the Kirkbride Plan.  Dr. Kirkbride called for a large central administration building flanked by segmented wings arranged en echelon. This pattern facilitated the separation of various classes of patients, and provided the maximum amount of fresh air, sunlight and privacy possible – core elements of his philosophy of Moral Treatment.  As treatment for people with mental illnesses advanced, Dr. Kirkbride’s plan eventually fell out of favor to modern medicine.

Many asylum buildings constructed in the second half of the 19th century were based on the Kirkbride Plan. The system was very popular for a few decades, but fell out of favor as treatment for people with mental illness advanced – Ethan McElroy (www.kirkbridebuildings.com)