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non-typological architecture

Le Banquet de Mesmer, Louis Figuier - Les Merveilles de la science, 1867 - 1891


Gout-stricken, the fourth Duke of Bedford sought relief and healing in frequent retreats from London to Bath. Late 18th-century London was riddled with crime and sickness, politically tumultuous and stirring with the emergence of industrialisation. Thus, when Bedford endeavoured a plan for the development of a new home and real-estate investment for himself in London, he set the task for Bedford Square’s future architects: to create a retreat from illness and unrest and imbue dense financial architecture with the kind of healing or therapeutic power he had experienced in the Georgian buildings of Bath. It only makes sense then, that the square became home to several medical practices in the 19th century, including the London Mesmeric Infirmary.


Mesmerism was an ‘art’ or set of techniques to orchestrate an altered state or trance in a sick patient – often one afflicted with melancholia or depression. The practice apparently influenced psychotherapy and gave rise to the idea of and search for a form of chemical anaesthesia, eventually found in ether. In one poignant example, while mesmerised by the Marquis of Puységur, a young man named Victor allegedly became highly articulate and was able to diagnose his own illness. In mesmerism, the initiation of the patient was apparently aimed at staging a confrontation or acceleration with the crisis of their illness, which might empower them to see and diagnose its causes. Mesmerism was villainised by scientific institutions and soon all but disappeared.

Brendon Carlin

AA Projects Review 21/22

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