On the Constructions of Nature of Man

Designing Health and Settling Nature at Richardson and Olmsted’s Buffalo State Hospital

Gray Golding


I use the phrase “psychopathology” to describe a nebulous, often-changing classification in Western medicine for afflictions generally understood as acting primarily in the mind or psyche. I use the phrase “psychiatric asylum” or just “asylum” to describe residential and carceral institutions designed to house and treat individuals who experience and/or are diagnosed with psychopathology. Additionally, I have omitted outdated terminology related to these experiences except for where it appears in the titles of locations or works that I cite.

I have chosen this terminology in order to descriptively capture a wide range of experiences and institutional environments, rather than in terms used at the time period in question, while also foregrounding the authority often imposed by medical practitioners to pathologize subjects of inquiry. In keeping with certain tenets of critical whiteness studies and the social model of disability, my interests lie in examining the intentionality in hegemonic structures of power, not in accepting these structures as an inherent premise.


Please be advised that the central topics in this paper include medical violence, psychopathology, incarceration, and settler colonialism.


Where I provide quotations in the original French, I have also provided my own translation of them in parentheticals directly following the original.


In broad strokes, the history of psychiatry and its institutions reached a major turning point in the late 18th century. Leading up to this point, asylums such as London’s Bethlem Royal Hospital and Paris’s Bicêtre and Salpêtrière Hospitals approached treatment for psychopathology most famously through confinement and corporal cruelty. As French philosopher Michel Foucault would later recount, this began to change in approximately 1790, when the physician Philippe Pinel removed the chains from the inmates at Bicêtre. [1] Although other contemporary scholars, such as sociologist Andrew Scull, dispute the factual nature of this event, Pinel’s removal of the chains at Bicêtre, and directly after at Salpêtrière, still constitute “the founding myths of modern psychiatry…” [2]

After this point, doctors—notably William Tuke of England and his fellow Quakers in the United States of America—began developing a proposition of “moral treatment” to replace the use of direct restraint in asylums and attempt to effect a cure for psychopathology. Hallmark components of this care model included exposure to light, air, and planted, unbuilt landscape; regularity of routine; and various forms of domestic labor, such as gardening and sewing. The buildings in which asylums were housed also came under scrutiny as the influence of environmental/impersonal determinants of wellbeing came to define a model of care. Adapting physician Thomas Story Kirkbride’s popular namesake asylum plan layout (Fig. 1), Frederick Law Olmsted and Henry Hobson Richardson collaborated on the design of the Buffalo State Hospital in Buffalo, New York, in the 1870s (Fig. 2). [3]

Although Foucault identifies the 1790s as marking “l’apparition d’une politique de santé” (the appearance of a politics of health), this is insufficient to fully describe asylum practices in the United States where the design and construction of medical institutions are further contextualized by settler colonial power. [4] Foucault describes a uniquely modern political configuration, differentiated from preceding political formations by:

…une intégration au moins partielle de la pratique médicale à une gestion économique et politique, qui vise à rationaliser la société. La médecine n’est plus simplement une technique importante dans cette vie et cette mort des individus… [E]lle devient, dans le cadre de décisions d’ensemble, un élément essentiel pour le maintien et le développement de la collectivité. [5]

(…at least a partial integration of medical practice to economic and political management, aimed at rationalizing society. Medicine is no longer simply an important technology in the life and death of individuals … it becomes, in the frame of collective decisions, an essential element for the maintenance and development of authority.)

Here a politics of health links the medicalized health of individual, corporeal bodies to the social health of the body politic, and furthermore designates governments responsible for the outcomes of both. Asylums in the 19th century United States, which were overwhelmingly commissioned and funded by state governments, concretized the economic and political mediation between any given individual person being treated for psychopathology and the community or society at large to which they belonged, conceptualized as a holistic entity. A politics of health construes both of these scales of intervention as a body in possession of health that requires medical upkeep entirely through interpersonal relations, as Foucault would go on to describe in Madness and Civilization: A History of Insanity in the Age of Reason (1961). If this were also the case in the United States, the location and design of asylum facilities would not need to be dictated with the specificity found in the late 19th century. By attributing curative properties to the environment, psychiatry in the United States exerted its medical authority over the body politic while also reifying the presence of a settler body politic. 

The Buffalo State Hospital in Buffalo, New York, demonstrates the ways in which architectural, political, and medical histories build on and move beyond Foucault’s politics of health. The work of Olmsted and Richardson to design a contained, curative tract of natural space at Buffalo is contextualized not by medical history in isolation, but also by white supremacist settler colonialism, for which Foucault’s study of European history does not account.

At its broadest level, settler colonialism is, by definition, a practice that relies on spatial occupation. In the United States, white settlers “attach to the land” foremost through anti-Indigenous violence, genocide, and dispossession. [6] One such tool in this white supremacist violence is that of institutionalization, [7] such as residential schools and asylums like the Canton Asylum for Insane Indians, which began operating in the early 1900s. [8] This paper takes the Buffalo State Hospital as a case study in which settler colonial land dispossession acts through architecture and medicine, disciplines that a long lineage of white supremacist scholarship construct as neutral or objective. Bridging these topics at the site of Buffalo is a way to undermine and reject these harmful, false constructions. 

Additionally, following scholars such as American historian Leo Marx, the discursive, artistic, and political delineations of nature in Western societies have in part constituted settler colonialism in the United States. However, the Buffalo State Hospital does not wholly fit within these delineations, although they inform it. Rather, the building, landscape, and medical justifications of Buffalo State, designed as an environment to care for individual bodies and promote societal health, demonstrates a form of biobehavioral settler colonialism by weaving together architecture, colonial power, biological medicine, and social behavior.

This paper will examine three component environments of the Buffalo State Hospital—land, light, and air—to show the relationships between the asylum’s architecture and biobehavioral settler colonialism. “Land” focuses on the asylum’s design in terms of historical, stylistic references as well as in terms of the material with which it was constructed; the significance of the asylum’s siting at Scajaquada Creek; and Olmsted’s medicalized approach to site planning. “Light” addresses the daylight patterns resulting from the asylum building’s orientation as they correspond and fail to correspond with moral treatment. It will also consider light and treatment as they relate to visuality and patient experience. Finally, “Air” analyzes Olmsted’s theories and rhetoric of fresh air in comparison with his design at Buffalo and the asylum’s urban context, turning as well to more recent philosophical approaches to milieu and the atmosphere to guide this analysis.

Although this interpretive structure treats each environment to some extent as independent from the others, this is not the case—on the contrary, their inextricability is central to the overarching analysis. The paradigm of environmental determinism at the core of biobehavioral settler colonialism informs a closely interwoven relation between medical and architectural practitioners in which their imposition of professional authority serves to medicalize naturalistic, designed form and, conversely, assert the belonging of medical space as a component of biobehavioral settler colonialism.

Land: Siting, Grounding, and Materializing Health

To this day, Frederick Law Olmsted is known colloquially as the father of American landscape architecture for his far-reaching impact on the implementation, design, and social significance of government-designated park land in the United States. His most renowned undertakings include work on Central Park in Manhattan, Niagara Falls in upstate New York (the first state park in the United States), and Yosemite National Park in California. Henry Hobson Richardson, his personal friend and professional collaborator, lived only until the age of 48, and thus had a shorter career than Olmsted, but nonetheless plays a significant role in historiographies of architecture in the United States. Prior to Richardson and Olmsted’s first meeting in New York City in the mid-1860s, Richardson toured medieval Romanesque architecture in England and Normandy, then proceeded to Paris to study architecture at the École des Beaux-Arts. While there, he also worked in the office of Théodore Labrouste, the head architect for the city’s governmental arm that constructed hospitals. [9] Through this job, Richardson gained exposure to European design for residential and medical institutions, especially through his work on the design for L’Hospice des Incurables d’Ivry, a hospice facility near Paris. In the half century following Richardson’s death in 1886, historians and architects alike attributed a unique legacy of white, settler originality to his work and his namesake style, the Richardsonian Romanesque. [10]

Under the auspices of Olmsted, Vaux & Company, Frederick Law Olmsted and his collaborator, Calvert Vaux, began working for the city of Buffalo and resident private investors in 1868 with an initial commission to locate and design a public park. [11] By the year following Olmsted and Vaux’s commission, city officials selected part of their proposed park grounds for the construction of a new, state-funded psychiatric asylum; within another two years, Richardson had officially signed on to the asylum’s design team as the architect for its building. 

The Buffalo State Psychiatric Asylum for the Insane, as it was originally named (also known as the Buffalo State Hospital and finally the Richardson Olmsted Campus), is composed of a central administrative building with two towers (Fig. 2) flanked symmetrically by five residential wings, each at a diagonal stagger from the previous, making ten residential wings in total with short, curved hallways connecting each to their adjacent (Fig. 3). This complex of eleven consecutive buildings reaches close to 2,200 feet in total length. [12] Stylistic choices such as the use of stone, arched entrance ways and windows, and pitched roofs characterize the asylum as an early example of Richardsonian Romanesque.

At Buffalo State Hospital, Richardson’s design choices that specify and connect medieval Romanesque style elements to the asylum’s geographical context also serve to bridge the building’s form to biobehavioral settler colonialism. At the site of its production—Hulberton Quarry, within 100 miles of the building site—the use of Medina sandstone materially enacts settler colonial relations to land; not only is the land a surface upon which settlers build, but it is also a resource that settlers extract and literally shape. [13] The asylum building and its materiality act reciprocally, with the sandstone’s suitability to European construction methods justifying further building projects, and the use of the sandstone in the proposed asylum design justifying further extraction.

The Romanesque elements of the asylum evoke an architecture of defense; Buffalo State Hospital, like medieval, Romanesque castles, was built with a solidity intended to resist social and political upheaval. The walls of the asylum are approximately three and a half feet thick and constructed in random ashlar masonry with rusticated exterior facing. While the types of stone and methods of masonry construction in the medieval Romanesque vary between buildings, the exaggerated wall thickness and façade roughness that the asylum emulates are hallmarks of the style. In the Romanesque’s medieval origins, this wall thickness was in part related to structural considerations because walls acted as the primary load bearing element of buildings, especially in spaces (such as church naves) where designs sought to minimize interruption from columns. Moreover, wall thickness and rough stone on the façade served a practical, defensive role in a feudal context often historically defined by warfare and conquest. Richardson’s use of these elements, therefore, makes reference to an architecture of territorial protection.

In addition, the random ashlar and surface rustication use formal naturalism to convey settler presence. The descriptor of the masonry as “random” refers to constructions without a standard size or pattern, in contrast to “coursed” masonry, in which component stones are the same size and laid in a clearly delineated grid pattern (Fig. 4). The finished, visual effect is irregular, obfuscating human intervention into the material. Similarly, the rustication on the surface of the stones conveys formal naturalism; the name of this technique and the resulting texture reject formal rationalism and again obfuscate human intervention. Furthermore, unlike wall thickness, these features have no practical origins, and thus formal effects are central to interpretation. Using these strategies to transpose Romanesque elements to Buffalo, Richardson’s design demonstrates contextual considerations and allows for interpretations unique to the United States.

The asylum site’s boundary is partially formed by Scajaquada Creek, a boundary condition that reflects Olmsted’s attempts to integrate ecological features into his work and that demonstrates settler colonialism’s co-optation of Indigeneity in order to reinforce authority over stolen land. The creek’s namesake, Scajaquada, also known as Philip Kenjockety, was a member of the Seneca Nation, many of whom sought refuge in the Buffalo area in the wake of a genocidal, military campaign that George Washington organized against the Haudenosaunee Confederacy during the Revolutionary War. [14] Taken together, the origins of Scajaquada’s connection to the area and the timing of the settler government’s recognition of him with this nomenclature augment readings of the Buffalo State Hospital in significant ways. Specifically, Scajaquada, while Indigenous to part of the territory illegitimately claimed by the United States, became associated with an area other than his ancestral lands due to anti-Indigenous, settler colonial violence. This association erases nuance and complexity from Indigeneity as well as erases, or at least narratively supersedes, the violence that forced his migration. Doing so after Scajaquada’s 1866 death—i.e., once he represented “the past” and not “the present”—demonstrates a construction of narrative that both intertwines Indigenous and settler societies and presents the latter as the inevitable successor to the former. [15] The medical and design ideologies that the Buffalo State Hospital exemplifies relate to Indigeneity and reinforce settler colonial authority in similar ways and to similar effect.

Olmsted and Vaux designed the layout of paths and roads in the Buffalo site plan (Fig. 5), formally and programmatically demonstrating Olmsted’s perspective on the interrelation between exterior space and various modalities of health. These paths functioned as promenades and carriageways where patients could receive the presumed medical benefits of the outdoors. As in many of their other park plans, Olmsted and Vaux employed “gracefully-curved lines, generous spaces, and the absence of sharp corners, the idea being to suggest and imply leisure, contemplativeness and happy tranquility.” [16] Amplifying these textual considerations, in the site plan itself, although rectilinear roads border three sides of the site, Olmsted immediately changes visitors’ path of travel to a curved one upon entrance to the asylum grounds, and the rest of the paths and roads are composed of curves. Thus, the angles at which the paths intersect each other are non-orthogonal. For a body or carriage, turns on obtuse angles such as these necessitate less disruption in velocity (and consequently, angular momentum) in comparison to turns at a right angle. In this way, Olmsted’s planimetric form materializes a coherence between disruption or abrupt change as it affects discrete, bodily experiences of moving through space and as it was presumed to affect psychiatric wellbeing.

Light: Constructing Visuality as Cure

The asylum building’s directional orientation—the overall structure runs along an approximately southwest-northeast axis—is attributed to Olmsted and Vaux (Fig. 3 and 5). Scholars such as architectural historian Francis Kowsky interpret the daylighting patterns that this orientation creates to be an aspect of moral treatment, but this interpretation belies a significant difference in daylight access between common areas and patient bedrooms. Kowsky asserts with minimal elaboration that the intention in the building orientation was “that the interiors of the wards would receive the maximum hours of daylight during the winter months.” [17]

Even if factually representative of sunlight patterns in the northern hemisphere, this standard interpretation overlooks many impacts of this choice. Other formal elements, as well as operational norms of patient life at asylums of this period, indicate these impacts. Each pavilion of the asylum has two primary “bars” in plan (Fig. 6). One bar, running along the same primary axis as the complex, is composed of individual patient bedrooms along the northwest face and a corridor along the southeast face. This corridor, to which “the ward” refers, is approximately ten  feet wide based on the floor plan, providing space both for circulation and communal inhabitation. Specifically, it is these multi-use, unpartitioned wards that “receive the maximum hours of daylight during the winter months.” The patient bedrooms along the opposite face, in contrast, receive minimal sunlight. Lack of sunlight within these patient bedrooms is further exacerbated by the design of the buildings’ elevations: each patient bedroom has one window that is approximately two feet wide, or approximately half the width of numerous windows in the wards. The other bar of each pavilion, perpendicular to the first, is a more traditional, double-loaded corridor. Individual patient bedrooms, which also receive very little winter sunlight due to window size and directional orientation, line the two longer building faces, separated by a corridor intended only for circulation. 

The interpretation that Kowsky provides is emblematic of scholarship perpetuating the erasure of asylum patient perspectives and the abuse to which institutional practitioners subjected patients. As architectural historian Carla Yanni establishes in The Architecture of Madness: Insane Asylums in the United States, surviving records of quotidian asylum life at this time primarily center around hypothetical propositions for care, such as the intention for patients to access sunlight. [18] The records that remain of asylum operations from within the institution are almost entirely from the standpoint of medical practitioners, generally not publicly available, and of dubious comprehensiveness and veracity, given the motivations for practitioners to obscure institutional abuse. Relying on Yanni’s investigation of materials produced by 19th century asylum patients, notably Ebenezer Haskell, Elizabeth Packard, and Francis Delilez, in which patients recount widespread institutional abuse, the disjuncture between patient and practitioner perspectives becomes clear. [19] Even if few in number, firsthand accounts of patient experiences make it clear that scholarly emphasis on the nominal goals and justifications of moral treatment erases and thus upholds medical and legal violence.

The formal analysis of daylighting above can be combined with Yanni’s archival work to further undermine the medical validity of moral treatment that scholars still uphold. The stark division in potential for winter daylighting between the wards and bedrooms implies a system of spatial occupation in which patients must ideally only reside in their bedrooms at night—if sunlight is a desirable component of moral treatment, presumably patients benefit from spending daytime in asylum spaces with the most access to sunlight. However, doctors and nurses wielded the authority to confine patients to their bedrooms on the supposed basis of safety concerns and medical judgment. As Yanni’s readings of Haskell, Packard, and Delilez show, these judgments often reflected punitive control. Effectively, then, patients experiencing the severest degree of psychopathology and/or those most punished by figures of authority—those who, within the logic of the asylum, have the greatest need for treatment—have the least spatial access to care. 

These considerations of daylight and institutional hierarchy allow for an understanding of ways that moral treatment purports to function beyond what Foucault proposes in Madness and Civilization. Foucault details the different means of treatment that Pinel introduced to asylums, all of which affect the patient through the medium of social relations, for example by depriving patients of social contact. The absence in Foucault of the material medicalization of light and other environmental features demonstrates asylums in the United States as a specific, spatial component of biobehavioral settler colonialism.

Air: Breathing in a Milieu of Power

Although Olmsted’s work on the Buffalo State Hospital is often overlooked in scholarship on his oeuvre, this is not for lack of conceptual continuity. Olmsted espoused the power of fresh air in public parks, much as in asylums, to convey morally and biologically curative benefits to residents of industrial, urban areas. Nearly medicalizing the general presence of urban parks, he cast them in a lens of public health, a stance to which his service during the Civil War as General Secretary of the United States Sanitary Commission lent credence. Presenting this public health position to the American Social Science Association in 1870, Olmsted informed his audience that:

[U]nder ordinary circumstances, in the interior parts of large and closely built towns, a given quantity of air contains considerably less of the elements which we require to receive through the lungs than the air of the country…and that instead of them it carries in to the lungs highly corrupt and irritating matters, the action of which tends strongly to vitiate all our sources of vigor… The irritation and waste of the physical powers which result from the same cause, doubtless indirectly affect and very seriously affect the mind and the moral strength… [20]

Olmsted essentializes harmful air quality to urban space in counterpoint to his essentialization of health-giving air quality to naturalistic space. His prescription of the fundamental qualities of spaces simultaneously construes the areas’ inhabitants as passively vulnerable to these qualities. Beyond viewing air quality as inherent to a type of place, Olmsted views it as a unilateral determinant of moral and medical health. Moral treatment viewed light as innately curative, serving to justify the asylum and biobehavioral settler colonialism more broadly; Olmsted viewed air in effectively the same way, even explicitly extending this well beyond the space of the asylum.

As Olmsted described, one of the ways that parks, and specifically this way of designing paths, promote “happy tranquility” is to “secure pure and wholesome air, to act through the lungs.” [21] By invoking the biological processes of respiration, he draws a parallel between the movement of an individual body through designed landscapes and the movement of “air” through the circulatory system. Beyond Olmsted’s invocations of human biology in his justification for parks, a common phrase at that time referring to parks as “the lungs of the city” illustrates a layered metaphor in which the city stands in for the body politic, and the individual body stands in for the city. [22] Following this holistic logic, cities and the societies they house cannot survive without designated park space.

Theorization on the notion of “milieu” will help demonstrate the relationship between power and this holistic integration of air with health. Georges Canguilhem, a French philosopher who also trained and worked as a medical doctor during World War II, traces the uses of milieu through Western, scientific discourse. His work reveals imprecision in the definition of the term. It generally refers to an object or body containing fluid or environment, but does so differently according to prevailing scientific knowledge and which objects or bodies are under consideration. Canguilhem finds coherence in the use of milieu as a structure, writing: “The milieu is really a pure system of relationships without supports.” [23] He then elaborates the relationality of “milieu” in such a way that directly connects to the organic metaphor of the asylum:

[B]etween organism and environment there is the same relationship that exists between the parts and the whole within the organism itself. […]The cell is a milieu for intracellular elements; it lives in an interior milieu that is either on the scale of the organ or the organism, which organism itself lives in a milieu that is for it, in a sense, what the organism is for its component parts. [24]

Transposing these totalizing logics of relation in which nearly any given environment is both a milieu and within a milieu to the Buffalo State Hospital elaborates further the model of authority in biobehavioral settler colonialism and undermines Olmsted’s ideals of fresh air. In this model, the industrial city of Buffalo is a milieu for the asylum site. Within the asylum site, the area that Olmsted designates as naturalistic space is a milieu for the asylum building, and the building’s interior is a milieu for the body of the patient. In this frame, assumptions that justify moral treatment about the atmosphere and its action as a milieu take shape. That is, if doctors of this time period cast the asylum type that employed moral treatment as “a haven, a refuge from the ills of society” and sought to reinforce this image with the promotion of “fresh air,” then it must be the case that the atmosphere itself of asylums was differentiated from that of the urban environment. [25] Many asylums were located at a geographic remove from industrial city centers; however, this is not the case for the Buffalo State Hospital (Fig. 7). Thus, the seemingly straightforward assumption of separability between the asylum and the city doubly belies physical properties of air and the built, contextual reality of numerous asylums.

German philosopher Peter Sloterdijk’s work to synthesize physical properties of chemical warfare with their political, historical interpretations can be applied to help situate the asylum’s specific ideological approaches to health and the body in modern history. Sloterdijk’s Terror from the Air focuses on the 20th century, yet his analysis of manipulations of the air itself are not necessarily limited to this time frame or to his focus on weaponized atmospheres. His proposition of “atmoterrorism” as a form of attack “on the human organism’s most immediate environmental resource: the air he breathes,” equally allows for a reading of a form of medicine in the same environmental medium. [26] The logics of moral treatment mirror atmoterrorism from an earlier standpoint: asylums sought to construct a healthy body politic according to a rhetorical collapse of illness and immorality, using healthy air to justify space dedicated to pathological, corporeal bodies.


These environments—land, light, and air—at Olmsted and Richardson’s Buffalo State Hospital demonstrate the core undertaking identified to form a proposition for biobehavioral settler colonialism: reconciling the individual body with the body politic, and consolidating power at both scales. Critical examination of each environment through the case study of the Buffalo asylum also problematizes the medical and spatial presuppositions upon which this form of settler colonialism rests. From the perspective of architectural theory, historian Robin Evans offers a basis to examine the complexity and permeability of physical boundaries when he writes:

[Walls] are not simple barriers to energy-transfer, but barricades that prevent entropy of meaning and preserve the holistic and unitary concept of our dream world, be it a personal or a universal dream, by eliminating that part of the other more disparate world which fails to conform to it. Walls are the armoury [sic] that preserves our personal integrity against the inroads of the rest of humanity and nature. [27]

The purpose of this paper in its simplest form has been to bring relatively recent, theoretical explorations of the body, space, and health into conversation with a rare historical case study in which canonical architectural figures in the United States intentionally formulated space for psychopathologized subjects. At once, theoretical work elaborates upon the built environment in opposition to the frequent, false evacuation of its political relevance and tangible, architectural productions elaborate upon theoretical abstractions of medicine, settler colonialism, and power.

Figure 1. Samuel Sloan, Hospital on the linear plan. 1854. Drawing. In Thomas S. Kirkbride, On the Construction, Organization, and General Arrangements of Hospitals for the Insane (Philadelphia, 1854). Public domain.
Figure 2. Andre Carrotflower, Hotel Henry – Richardson-Olmsted Complex, 2017, digital photograph. This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license. Public domain.
Figure 2. Andre Carrotflower, Hotel Henry – Richardson-Olmsted Complex, 2017, digital photograph. This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license. Public domain.
Figure 3. Henry Hobson Richardson, Buffalo State Hospital for the Insane floor plan, 1872, drawing. In Carla Yanni, The Architecture of Madness (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2007). Note: Compass north is upper left.
Figure 4, top. Daderot, H. H. Richardson Complex, 2010, digital photograph. Public domain.
Figure 4, bottom. Chris Light, Masonry Detail, 2019, digital photograph. This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license. Note: Left image illustrates random ashlar; right is an example of coursed masonry.
Figure 5. Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, Buffalo State Hospital for the Insane site plan, 1872, drawing. In Carla Yanni, The Architecture of Madness (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2007). Note: Compass north is top.
Figure 6. Henry Hobson Richardson, detail of typical pavilion floor plan from Figure 3, 1872, drawing. In Carla Yanni, The Architecture of Madness (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2007). Note: Annotations by author.
Figure 7. Buffalo, NY, 1892, atlas map. This work is licensed under a creative commons license, courtesy David Rumsey Map Collection, David Rumsey Map Center, Stanford Libraries. Note: Annotation by author indicates location of Buffalo State Hospital.


1. Michel Foucault, Madness and Civilization: A History of Insanity in the Age of Reason (New York: Random House, 1988), 242.

2. Andrew Scull, “Psychiatry and Social Control in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries” in The Insanity of Place/The Place of Insanity: Essays on the History of Psychiatry (New York: Routledge, 2006), 114.

3. Francis Kowsky, The Best Planned City in the World: Olmsted, Vaux, and the Buffalo Park System (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2013), 140.

4. Michel Foucault et al, Les machines à guérir: aux origins de l’hôpital modern (Brussels: Solédi-Liège, 1979), 9.

5. Foucault et al., Les machines à guérir, 8.

6. Lorenzo Veracini, “Understanding Colonialism and Settler Colonialism as Distinct Formations,” Interventions 16, no. 5 (2014): 623.

7. For an example of scholarship on settler institutions in colonization, see Sarah E. K. Fong, “Racial-Settler Capitalism: Character Building and the Accumulation of Land and Labor in the Late Nineteenth Century,” American Indian Culture and Research Journal 43, no 2 (2019): 25–48.

8. Susan Burch, Committed: Remembering Native Kinship in and Beyond Institutions (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2021), 3.

9. Hugh Howard, Architects of an American Landscape: Henry Hobson Richardson, Frederick Law Olmsted, and the Reimagining of America’s Public and Private Spaces (New York: Grove Atlantic, 2022), 66.

10. For an example of this historiographical construction, see Lewis Mumford, The Brown Decades: A Study of the Arts in America, 1865-1895 (New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1932).

11. Howard, Architects of an American Landscape, 114.

12. Carla Yanni, The Architecture of Madness: Insane Asylums in the United States (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2007), 129.

13. Yanni, The Architecture of Madness, 135.

14. For more on the “Sullivan-Clinton Campaign” and its role in narratives of settler colonialism, see Rhiannon Koehler, “Hostile Nations: Quantifying the Destruction of the Sullivan-Clinton Genocide of 1779,” The American Indian Quarterly. 42, no. 4 (2018): 427-453.

15. “Death of Philip Kenjockety,” The New York Times, 15 April 1866.  https://nyti.ms/3O4ITun.

16. Olmsted, Vaux & Co. quoted in Albert Fein, Frederick Law Olmsted and the American Environmental Tradition (New York: George Braziller, 1972), 35.

17. Kowsky, The Best Planned City in the World, 142.

18. Yanni, The Architecture of Madness, 64.

19. Ibid., 65.

20. Frederick Law Olmsted, “Public Parks and the Enlargement of Towns,” in Frederick Law Olmsted: Writings on Landscape, Culture, and Society, ed. Charles E. Beveridge (New York: Literary Classics of the United States, 2015), 470.

21. Frederick Law Olmsted, “A Review of Recent Changes, and Changes Which Have Been Projected, in the Plans of the Central Park,” in American Earth: Environmental Writing Since Thoreau, ed. Bill McKibben (New York: Literary Classics of the U.S., 2008), 121.

22. Sources vary on whether Olmsted himself coined this term. For an instance where he uses similar language, but appears to be quoting others, see: Frederick Law Olmsted, “Trees in Streets and in Parks,” in Frederick Law Olmsted: Writings on Landscape, Culture, and Society, ed. Charles E. Beveridge (New York: Literary Classics of the United States, 2015), 587-595.

23. Georges Canguilhem, trans. John Savage, “The Living and its Milieu,” Grey Room, no. 3, 2001, 6-31, 11.

24. Canguilhem, 19.

25. Yanni, The Architecture of Madness, 27.

26. Peter Sloterdijk, Terror from the Air (Los Angeles: Semiotext(e), 2009), 29.

27. Robin Evans, “The Rights to Retreat and the Rites of Exclusion: Notes Towards the Definition of Wall” in Translations from Drawing to Building and Other Essays (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 1997), 45.


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