Redevelopment Of The Centre For Addiction And Mental Health: Do Images Speak Louder Than Words?
Since the advent of modern medicine and the isolation of "disease of the mind" (Prichard, 1837), specialized institutions for psychiatric care have sought to aid in treating such debilitating conditions, often with an eye to the therapeutic benefits of a specific site, its design, physical form and environs beyond. Recent literature suggests prioritizing flexible, therapeutically minded design, which includes normalization through community integration. Though architecture that can promote psychosocial wellbeing has been studied extensively in the modern age, the civic planning of healthcare facilities as part of the texture of an urban environment and its private interests has seen limited scrutiny. In light of past focus on therapeutically minded architectural determinism, the physical environment, and its limitations as a treatment, planners should consider the value of a focus on vulnerable stakeholder empowerment over conceptualizations of therapeutic design. This paper highlights the ongoing historical legacy of top-down decision making for healthcare facilities. The way in which real estate and design imperatives obfuscate the need for human compassion through technocracy is a critical issue for planning to face up to. Realizing its limited scope in affecting behavior and instead its potentially significant role in empowering commonly ignored stakeholders is critical for planning to contribute towards the formation of a decision making environment that values justice and pursues commonly shared prosperity. This paper constitutes a critical analysis of the redevelopment of the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) on Queen Street (in Toronto) in light of the earliest history of the site's planning and use as an asylum. It seeks to assess whether normalizing and deinstitutionalizing psychiatric campuses and their clients through a focus on site design has provided developers with a carte blanche in terms of inserting their private residential and commercial projects into the psychiatric milieu. My research uncovers and demonstrates the ways in which a focus on site design and broad aspirational visions obfuscate planning?s communicative role, and weaken its potential for advocacy through an examination of the redevelopment of CAMH's Queen Street psychiatric facility.