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For the last half a century, vast mental hospitals were a prominent feature of the American landscape. From the mid-nineteenth century to the early twentieth, over 250 institutions for the insane were built throughout the United States; by 1948, they housed more than a half million patients. The belief was held that well-designed buildings and grounds, a peaceful environment, a regimen of fresh air, and places for work, exercise, and cultural activities would heal mental illness. But in the second half of the twentieth century, many of these beautiful, massive buildings, and the patients who lived in them, were left neglected and abandoned. Architect and photographer Christopher Payne spent six years documenting the decay of state mental hospitals like these, visiting seventy institutions in thirty states.

The images in this book provided great sources for me to respond to location and set design ideas. I attempted to experiment in this area through my collages. Towards the end of the book there were a number of photos of genuine straitjackets and restrictive garments which I presented on a washing line in my sketchbook. I will take the silhouettes from them into preliminary designs. I also noticed how there is a lot of striped fabrics used, something to explore.

© Timothy Gibbons, all rights reserved