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Plague Hospitals: Public Health for the City in Early Modern Venice

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Writer Geoff Manaugh recommends a book by Jane L. Stevens Crawshaw to look at how architecture has been shaped by quarantine practices.

Published by Routledge in 2012.

Developed throughout early modern Europe, lazaretti, or plague hospitals, took on a central role in early modern responses to epidemic diseases, in particular the prevention and treatment of the plague. They served as isolation hospitals, quarantine centers, convalescent homes, cemeteries, and depots for the disinfection or destruction of infected goods. The first permanent example of this institution was established in Venice in 1423. Between the 15th and 18th centuries, tens of thousands of patients passed through its doors. Founded on lagoon islands, the lazaretti tell us about the relationship between the city and its natural environment. The plague hospitals also illustrate the way in which medical structures in Venice intersected with those of piety and poor relief, and provided a model for public health which was influential across Europe.

Geoff Manaugh, author of “A Burglar's Guide to the City,” creator of BLDGBLOG, and a faculty member of The New Normal program at Strelka Institute:

“It’s a history of plague hospital designs starting from Croatia in roughly the late 14th century all the way up to the Black Death. It examines the design and use of architecture to control medical outbreaks, looking both at quarantine and isolation. It traces how architects became aware of contagion and would design a space for people to recuperate or to die, but then also how it has carried out through today.”

You can purchase the book here .

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