Joy Knoblauch connects psyche and form to examine a growing tendency to govern behavior through the environment. The result is an original contribution to the history of institutional architecture in postwar America with significant implications for our understanding of the power of architecture in an expanded field of government and expertise.
Inspired by the rise of environmental psychology and increasing support for behavioral research after the Second World War, new initiatives at the federal, state, and local level looked to influence the human psyche through form, or elicit desired behaviors with environmental incentives, implementing what Joy Knoblauch calls “psychological functionalism.” Recruited by federal construction and research programs for institutional reform and expansion—which included hospitals, mental health centers, prisons, and public housing—architects theorized new ways to control behavior and make it more functional by exercising soft power, or power through persuasion, with their designs. In the 1960s–70s era of anti-institutional sentiment, they hoped to offer an enlightened, palatable, more humane solution to larger social problems related to health, mental health, justice, and security of the population by applying psychological expertise to institutional design. In turn, Knoblauch argues, architects gained new roles as researchers, organizers, and writers while theories of confinement, territory, and surveillance proliferated. The Architecture of Good Behavior explores psychological functionalism as a political tool and the architectural projects funded by a postwar nation in its efforts to govern, exert control over, and ultimately pacify its patients, prisoners, and residents.
Joy Knoblauch's detailed and carefully reasoned book on post–World War II federal construction programs takes a penetrating and critically important look at the relationship between design and psychology. At stake is not just the history of community hospitals, prisons, and housing projects, but the changing attitudes to expertise in the new world of psycho-bureaucracy.