The Dawn of Humane Leprosy Segregation: Transforming Leprosarium into Home

Jing Jing Lim, Yong Long Lim

Abstract


Leprosarium or leprosy asylum has always been associated with cruel segregation of leprosy sufferers from the society. However, humane approach was suggested in the international arena in 1923 to reform the former unsympathetic compulsory segregation to make leprosy sufferers “human” again. Prior to this revelation that leprosarium should be attractive to persuade leprosy sufferers to admit themselves voluntarily, missionary organizations have been establishing humane leprosarium that mirrors a home rather than an institution. There are studies on the eminent Mission to Lepers, such as Kakar (1996), Buckingham (2002), Joseph (2003), and Robertson (2009). However, the architectural and planning idea of the missionary organizations, which is disparate from the conventional leprosy institutions established since the medieval time, has yet to be studied. The aim of this paper is to identify the idea and principles of humane segregation in leprosarium practiced by missionary organizations, especially the influential leprosarium model by Mission to Lepers. It is carried out through content analysis on missionary books, reports and biographies, leprosy journals, newspapers, drawings, and photographs. The analysis enables the identification of unique spatial planning and built form of missionary leprosarium model. The findings showed that missionary leprosarium model imitates the natural village to create a sense of home for leprosy sufferers, and self-sustainable in character. Missionary leprosaria are also community-driven and semi-autonomous. All this has accredited missionary leprosy organizations as the forerunner in humane leprosarium design that thrives in the 1920s to 1930s. This study would be able to help us to understand how architecture was utilized as a tool in disease prevention yet aspired to preserve the humanity among leprosy outcasts. Further research can be done to enhance the study such as human perception and psychology towards the architectural design of leprosarium and the socio-cultural impact on the residence as well as the society.


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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.11113/ijbes.v4.n1.153

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