KeywordsSocial Sciences, Humanities and Arts - General (220000)
History of the Built Environment (310105)
New South Wales
History - Australian (430101)
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AbstractJeremy Bentham has to be the ultimate believer in the literal and sacramental power of architecture. His famous panopticon design of 1791 would, he claimed, cure virtually all social ills. Although primarily intended as a penitentiary, the panopticon would be an equally appropriate architectural solution for madhouses, lazarettos, workhouses, factories, hospitals, orphanages, schools, nurseries - even a chicken coop, "the Ptenotrophium". The design and implementation of his circular iron and glass building with its stone cylindrical core from which the inmate in his/her/its cell could be continually observed by an unseen and omnipresent authority obsessed Bentham for twenty years, during which time he continually argued the benefits of his private enterprise, profit-making scheme: "Morals reformed - health preserved - industry invigorated - instruction diffused - public burdens lightened - economy seated as it were upon a rock - the gordian knot of the Poor Laws not cut but untied - all by a simple Idea in Architecture!"' His is one of the most extreme claims for the power of architecture ever made, although belief in its role in social improvement has always been with us.