To build a better psych ward, a space unshackled from the inhumanity and stigmas of the “insane asylum”, Kiyoshi Izumi would have to immerse himself in their world. He’d have to get on their level, the thinking went, to understand a patient’s struggles and, crucially, how those struggles could be inverted, blended, stretched, and exploded by various design quirks, ambient anomalies, temporal-spatial glitches, color schemes, light casts and any other features that to outsiders seemed mundane, but to whose grimmery existed only on wavelengths discernible to the afflicted. He’d have to conjure up not only hallucinations but also delusions and perceptual distortions distinct to psychoses. He’d have to eat acid. Or so he and Osmond and Hoffer thought.
It was a bold move. The insights he gleaned from levelling with patients and their surroundings, if we’re to take his word for it, found Izumi envisioning what’s gone on to be called “the ideal mental hospital”, the first of which was raised in Yorkton, Saskatchewan, in 1965. Five more so-called “LSD-inspired” mental health clinics would be built throughout Canada, as well one in Pennsylvania. It was then only a matter of time before Izumi earned praise for the apparent humanity within his acid architecture, and also skepticism, still aired today, over the alleged problem-solving potential of his mind-altering drug of choice and the true extent to which his hospital designs effectively put the mentally ill at ease, or even helped integrate them back into the outside world.
Image: The Weyburn Mental Hospital, – Weyburn, Saskatchewan -1960