The Lindemann Center

David Horton

2014 - Ongoing

United States

In 1962, acclaimed architect, Paul Rudolph, began design work on the Erich Lindemann Mental Health Center, one of two buildings that comprise the Government Service Center in Boston. The entire complex occupies a superblock on the lowest slope of Beacon Hill in Boston’s historic West End. Construction began in 1966 and ceased in 1971. The building remains unfinished; the full design was never realized.

Rudolph believed that “[a]rchitecture is used space formed for psychological and symbolical reasons.” With the Lindemann Center, he had hoped to create an environment that would reflect the interior mental states of patients suffering from Alzheimer’s, dementia, and schizophrenia. With a romanticized view of mental illness, Rudolph made the building “insane” in order to express the insanity within.

In the winter of 2014, I started photographing and interviewing the residents of the Lindemann Center. I’m interested in documenting the people living within the walls of Rudolph’s creation. While I believe the design of the building was based on a misinformed, stereotypical understanding of mental illness, my primary purpose is not to criticize the architect or design. My intention is to raise awareness of both the building and the broader issues and misconceptions surrounding mental health. My hope is to inform, educate the public, and destigmatize those suffering from mental illness.

The people of the Lindemann Center have had a profound impact on my own life. Spending consistent and extended time with them has changed my own perception of mental illness. Through this project, I intend to give back at least some of what they’ve given me. Through my photography and writing, I aspire to give them a collective voice.

My goal is to create a book and a public exhibition at the completion of this project. An integral part of both will be to incorporate their personal stories among the images. My dream is that awareness from this project will contribute to a reimagining of the Lindemann Center into a healthier and more restorative environment for those suffering from mental illness.

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  • "My youngest brother, Billy, had a quadtrapolegic kid. He was sitting in the truck with my other brother. All he said was, 'I'm done,' and put a gun to his head and shot himself."

  • "No one eats in heaven, they only smoke."

  • "I was dodging bullets for my life in here last night. Someone snuck in with a gun and was shooting up the place. But they caught him. They scolded him and asked him to leave.”

  • "I'm a child of abuse. Up until the age of twelve. They say you don't remember these things when you get older but I remember. I remember everything."
    — Kewan

  • "I used to be a chef. I worked in the kitchen for over 20 years. I'm not sure why I did it but one day I just jumped through a big pane glass window. I've never been the same since. I got hurt really bad but when I got home my dad still gave me a beating. It said it was a really stupid thing to do."

  • "I'm feeling generous today. Sit down. Ask me anything you want to know about the universe and I'll tell you.” —George

  • "Which hand does your wedding ring go on—which finger? I'm getting married. If you promise not to say anything, I'll tell you. One of the staff members on my floor asked me to marry him. I'm so excited.” —Tanisha

  • "I'm manic. I go up and down. I drive some people crazy when I'm up cuz I talk too much, like I'm doing now. I'm probably the only one here that isn't on any meds. I just ride the wave. I found the meds just make it worse. When I'm down, I might be down for three months. But I always bounce back. My friends just know I don't return calls til I'm back." — Andre

  • "It's like there's an invisible wall around this place. People that live here walk right up to it but never beyond it. Like the world is just too big on the other side."

  • "Sometimes, I don't know where to hide." —Michael