At Home in the Institution? Asylum, School and Lodging House Interiors in London and South East England, 1845-1914

Project: Research

Project Details


This two-year research project examines the impact of the design, decoration and furnishing of nineteenth-century residential institutional spaces on the experiences of their inmates. Foucault's seminal analysis of the prison and asylum has inspired scholars to explore the role of architectural planning in discipline. This project, however, takes a new approach by assessing the role of institutional interiors in shaping the experiences of their inhabitants, and will therefore consider spatial arrangements, furnishings and material and visual culture, in addition to the architectural features of the institution. The first aim of the project is to explore the role of government legislation and recommendation in fashioning institutional life, while exploring the limits of this power. Visual iconography could be used to create a unified institutional identity and material culture could impose contemporary ideas of class and gender. Yet inmates could resist institutional control through the negotiation and manipulation of the material world. Secondly, the project assesses the relationship between institutional spaces and contemporary domesticity, that is, the ideals and practices of the family home. Were domestic spaces, such as parlours and drawing rooms, recreated within the institution? To what extent were inmates able to achieve privacy and could the inhabitants of a nineteenth-century institution ever hope to feel "at home"?

For more details of our research and activities see our project website.

Effective start/end date1/01/101/01/12


  • Economic & Social Res Coun ESRC: £229,792.00

UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This project contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 11 - Sustainable Cities and Communities
  • SDG 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions


  • residential institutional spaces, government legislation, interior decoration, furnishing