The Dawn of Humane Leprosy Segregation: Transforming Leprosarium into Home


  • Jing Jing Lim Department of Architecture, Faculty of Built Environment, Universiti Teknologi Malaysia
  • Yong Long Lim Department of Architecture, Faculty of Built Environment, Universiti Teknologi Malaysia



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.


Allsopp, B. (1974). Towards a Humane Architecture. Frederick Muller Limited, Great Britain.

Bailey, W. (1899). The Lepers of Our Indian Empire: A Visit to Them in 1890-91. Darien Press.

Booth, W. (2008). In Darkest England and the Way Out. Book Jungle, Paperback 2008 Edition.

Buckingham, J. (2002). Leprosy in the Colonial South India: Medicine and Confinement. Palgrave Macmillan.

Fairchild, A. L. (2004). Public Health Chronicles. Public Health Reports, May-June 2004,119(3): 362-370.

Fowler, H. (1930). Leprosy in Korea. Leprosy Review, 1(1): 28-29.

Haggard, R. F. (2001). The Persistence of Victorian Liberalism: The Politics of Social Reform in Britain, 1870-1900. Greenwood Publishing Group.

Jackson, J. (1901). In Leper Land: Being a Record of My Tour of 7,000 Miles Among Indian, Marshall.

Jackson, J. (1910). Lepers: Thirty-six Years’ Work Among Them – Being the History of the Mission to Lepers in India and the East, 1874-1910. Marshall Brothers Ltd., London & Edinburgh.

Joseph, D. G. (2003). Essentially Christian, Eminently Philanthropic: The Mission to Lepers in British India. History Cience Saude-Manguinhos, 10(Suppl 1): 247-275.

Kakar, S. (1996). Leprosy in British India, 1886-1947: Colonial Politics and Missionary Medicine. Medical History, 40(2): 215-230.

Kennedy, D. K. (1996). The Magic Mountains: Hill Stations and the British Raj, University of California Press.

Lewis, M. J.; MacPherson, K. L. (2007). Public Health in Asia and the Pacific: Historical and Comparative Perspectives. Routledge.

Lim, J.J. and Lim, Y.L. (2013). The Making of Exclusive Territory: Leprosarium Model by BELRA. In Proceedings of 12th International Congress Asian Planning Schools Association (APSA), National Taiwan University, 1-3 November 2013.

Mission to Lepers Medical Report for 1929, Purulia (1931). Leprosy Review, 2(1):32-34.

Moran, M. T. (2012). Colonizing Leprosy: Imperialism and the Politics of Public Health in the United States. UNC Press Books.

News and Notes (1949). International Journal of Leprosy, 17(1&2):145-146.

Penner, P.A. (1920). The Best Type of Wards, Report of a Conference of Leper Asylum Superintendents and Others on the Leper Problem in India, held in the Town Hall, Calcutta, 3-6 February 1920, under the auspices of the Mission to Lepers, pp. 91-93.

Reports: Madras Leprosy Conference (1934). Leprosy Review, 5(5): 45-46.

Richards, P. (1977). The Medieval Leper. D. S. Brewer.

Robertson, J. (2003). The Leprosy Asylum in India: 1886-1947, Journal of History of Medicine and Allied Sciences, 64(4): 474-517.

Rogers, L. (1946). Progress in the Control of Leprosy in the British Empire, British Medical Journal, June 1, London, pp.825-828.

Sakaino, K. (2007). “Research on the Transition of Residential Environment and Facility Configuration of Leprosy Sanatorium” (in Japanese), Dissertation, Kyoto University, Japan.

This Spreading Tree: The Story of The Leprosy Mission in the second half of its hundred-years’ ministry (1974). The Leprosy Mission, Great Britain.

Wilson, R. M. (1930). Industrial Therapy in Leprosy. Leprosy review, 1(1): 24-27.




How to Cite

Lim, J. J., & Lim, Y. L. (2017). The Dawn of Humane Leprosy Segregation: Transforming Leprosarium into Home. International Journal of Built Environment and Sustainability, 4(1).