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Title: After the asylum : place, value and heritage in the redevelopment of historic former asylums
Authors: Gibbeson, Carolyn Fay
Issue Date: 2018
Publisher: Newcastle University
Abstract: Stigma has been seen as a barrier to the adaptation and reuse of buildings and for historic former asylums, the fear of the “madhouse” has been argued to have transferred to the buildings themselves. They are buildings which are both socially and historically challenging. However, as these sites have closed and have begun to be converted into residential accommodation, the negative perceptions of the asylum appear to have eased, to be replaced by an appreciation of their built form through their architectural and heritage features. Research into the reuse of historic former asylum sites is limited, as is research exploring the subjective or emotional influences on property development decisions. This research addressed this gap by investigating the phenomenon of reuse of historic former asylums. It did so through the examination of the intersecting factors involved in that process; the perceptions of the stakeholders in respect of place attachments, stigmas, and values ascribed to the sites. It also investigated the perceptions that stakeholders had of themselves, each other and the re-development process. Three historic former asylums in the North of England were identified to provide context to this research: St Mary’s in Stannington, Northumberland, St George’s in Morpeth, Northumberland and Lancaster Moor Hospital in Lancaster. Within the context of each of these sites, interviews were carried out with the different stakeholder groups involved in the redevelopment of these sites. These stakeholders were planners, developers, heritage bodies, former staff members and the owners of the sites. The public was also surveyed in Morpeth and Lancaster through questionnaires, as were new residents of converted former asylum sites. Through the analysis from this data collection, it was found that an acceptable level of stigma surrounding these sites persisted; any stigma that remained did not prevent the reuse and redevelopments from taking place. The buildings were viewed as heritage buildings but predominantly from an age or aesthetical value perspective rather than being valued for their specific history. However, this history was not simply forgotten or erased, it was often incorporated or used in subtle ways within the developments, the level to which depended on the individual developer and site concerned. This research brought together two areas of research in the built environment which are not often combined: heritage and real estate. The examination of the reuse of historic former asylum sites showed more fully the valorisation process of a historic iii building through the redevelopment and reuse process. In doing so, it highlighted that the reuse and redevelopment process of historic former asylum sites was a complex one. The valorisation of the sites through their age and aesthetics was connected to their perceived economic value which enabled the sites to be converted by developers; as the sites become reappraised as heritage and therefore valued as such, this consequently created a perception of economic value and therefore a demand for the properties. This research project also highlighted that as well as a perception of value, people were attached to these sites, including some of the professional stakeholders involved in the development process. Former staff members were strongly attached due to the length of time they had spent working and living on the sites. Some of the development professionals also expressed attachment or a sense of responsibility for sites that they worked on. This was an unexpected finding as they only worked on the sites for a relatively short time and were seen by themselves, as professionals, to be objective in their working lives. This revealed an interesting juxtaposition in that the professionals felt that they were objective experts in the process, unhindered by the emotions those non-development stakeholders were thought to feel. In fact, many of those non-development stakeholders held pragmatic views about the need for something to happen with the empty sites, something not anticipated by the development stakeholders.
Description: PhD Thesis
Appears in Collections:School of Arts and Cultures

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