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A Meditative Environment for the Mentally Ill

Part 2 Project 1998
Christine C H Lam
University of Hong Kong Hong Kong China
PASCAL: "Men are so necessarily mad, that not to be mad would amount to another form of madness."

DOSTOIEVSKY, in his Diary of a Writer:

"It is not by confining one's neighbour that one is convinced of one's own sanity."

Encyclopedie proposed its famous definition of madness to depart from reason "with confidence and in the firm conviction that one is following it - that, it seems to me, is what is called being mad." Error is the other element always present with the dream, in the classical definition of insanity. Madman is not abused; he deceives himself.

When the madman laughs, he already laughs with the laugh of death, incurable illness and the last resort, as famous for Ships of Fools. Now wisdom is denouncing madness everywhere, teaching men that they were no more than "incapable persons" who do not conform to the social order. It was to the degree that madness, become universal, would be one and the same with the social problem itself.

Influenced by theories of urban degeneration, psychiatry came to see in the embodiments of this burgeoning, collective problem that was brought before it the signs and expressions of a constitutional unfitness and of a relentless slide into degenerative insanity. Is our society now able to give people with mental illness hope for a better life? Ever since they created the Victorian asylums, have been a focus of controversy, but the current enthusiam for closing asylums and promoting policies of deinstitutionalization is likely to cause just as much conflict. How are people with long-term mental illness to be helped to find a place in social life? Can contemporary psychiatry overturn the legacy, inherited from the asylum of being the science of regulating paupers?

When insanity was considered part of everyday life and fools and crazies walked the streets freely, to the time when such people began to be considered a threat, and a wall was erected between the "insane" and the rest of humanity.


Christine C H Lam


First of all this student has picked a topic that is controversial; in so far the topic is one that is normally not discussed in depth or avoided in our local culture. The twist of the student's topic opens up for discusssion the idea of using meditation as an alternative and not as a challenge to the clinical approach. It is an approach which clinical psychiatrist as so far avoided.

She has also chosen a context where there is a past to act as a recollection for the presence, that is familiarity of the buildings that are certainly not institutional where those afflicted can live in small groups and can interact as normal a way as possible and get on with their daily lives.

No doubt she has chosen a fascinating site but it is mainly due to her perception of how meditation can be utilized as an 'alternative' to the clinical approach. In a city as dense as Hong Kong, mental illness is becoming alarming. I do believe this student is extremely daring in taking on such a difficult subject and to see if a resolution can be found in a small way through the contextual studies as well as the architecture, to see they would create a mediatative landscape and environment.

The thoughts are original, the architecture may not be necessarily so and why should it be. I would like to believe that we have reached a state of maturity in architecture that not everything we expect in a thesis has to be a block-buster.

It is for this alone that I nominate this thesis.

1998
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