The Impacts Our Environments Have On Us

Many studies have shown we are largely affected by our environments. Often we are subconsciously molded by the spaces we frequent. For the patients admitted to asylums, they are surrounded by calming colors to subconsciously assist with their moods. Those colors include pastels, such as blues, yellows, pinks and of course "institutional green." This asylum day room is much different. It contains white tile, very little color, no artwork or ambiance. 

This building is the forensic building at Weston State Hospital in West Virginia. For those of you not familiar, forensic buildings are designed to house the criminally insane, those deemed "not guilty by reason of insanity." For all intents and purposes, the forensic building was a prison, with the sole difference being that some mental health care was provided. 

Many of these patients were diagnosed as "incurable" and would spend their lives institutionalized in a building such as this, so I would like you to think about the sort of feelings one might experience in this stark, cold, and lonely environment. It is certainly not as conducive for healing as the colorful, decorated wards of the asylums that held the less dangerous patients. 


Photo: "Solitary Confinement Cells"

Weston State Hospital operated from 1864 to 1994 in Weston, West Virginia and is recognized as the largest hand-cut masonry building in North America. This Kirkbride was originally designed to house 250 patients, but by the 1950's patient count reached 2,400. Corridors and day rooms became home to patient beds and the conditions were very poor. The hospital closed its doors in 1994 due to changes in the treatment of the mentally ill. 

Photo: "Guarded"

Last night, I found an old iPhone image ( of this beautiful asylum's exterior lost in fog. It got me thinking about the DSLR images I took at this location and I couldn't remember publishing many, so I went back through the set and found a few I liked.  

This is a secure entrance to the Forensic Building at Weston State Hospital. This building housed the criminally insane, patients who may have been deemed "not guilty by reason of insanity." 

Photo: "Caged"

Inside the isolation cells at Weston State Hospital. 

In 1858, when plans to construct a mental hospital in West Virginia began, the state called upon two experts in the treatment of the mentally ill: Francis T. Striblin of Eastern Virginia and Dr. Thomas Kirkbride, Superintendent of the Pennsylvania Hospital for the Insane. They designed a plan for a hospital that would house 250 patients and architect R. Snowden Andrews executed the concept. The proposal, based on the Kirkbride Plan, was estimated to cost $395,000.