Old "Ospedale psichiatrico provinciale di Genova Quarto"


The old “ospedale psichiatrico provinciale di Genova Quarto", (also called Manicomio di Quarto), is an old asylum located in Quarto dei Mille district in Genoa ,(Via Giovanni Maggio 4 ).
If on the one hand a part of the structure, after its closure, is still waiting to find its function and its future, there is a space that has instead found its way and opens up to the city every day. It is the main point of the nineteenth-century complex, in part still today a residence for psychiatric patients.

The Entrance



In 1895, when the structures of the old Provincial Manicomio of Genoa, which had its headquarters in via Galata, became insufficient, a new branch was built in the town of Quarto dei Mille, which also absorbed the treatment of previous branch offices , such as the Istituto of Bolzaneto, founded as a women's shelter in 1885.


old abandoned shelter building

The Quarto dei Mille office has the administrative autonomous body, as evidenced by the presence of an administrative archive containing documentation dating back to the year of foundation.
In the years 1911-1913 a part of the patients were transferred to the new asylum founded in 1909 in Pratozanino.


courtyard between buildings

On November 17, 1927 the "Special Regulations of the Provincial Psychiatric Hospital" was approved by the Provincial Administrative Council in Genoa, a name that replaced that of an asylum. The Provincial Psychiatric Hospital in Genoa is thus structured on two levels: that in Genova Quarto, with a temporary section in Genoa Paverano, and that of Cogoleto, which constituted "a single welfare organization", with staff that formed a single role and could be moved from one location to another according to management discretion. The management was based in Quarto.
In those years, in addition to "madhouse", other offensive terms like "demented", "stupid" or "alienated" disappear from official acts. These small revolutions testify to a progressive "humanization" of the sick.1


frescoed ceiling in the secondary building

The institute had a more appropriate "hospital" character than Cogoleto; in fact, all the infants coming from the provincial territory were welcomed, placed under observation and cured from acute forms; in Cogoleto, on the other hand, was produced as chronic and quiet patients.
After the "Basaglia's Law" ( also called law "180") promulgated in 1978 ,all asylums were closed,it was a rushed compromise of legislation that effectively ended the era of detention and repression for the mentally ill.

“Opening the Institution is not opening a door, but our head in front of “this” patient”

Franco Basaglia, 1979

The clinical activity of the Hospital of Quarto continued until the definitive closure in December 1999 with characteristics of "hospitalization-sanatorium".2


principal building currently sealed



miniature model of the asylum

Executed on the project of Vercelli Vincenzo Canetti, the new asylum has been built by the firm of Francesco Minorini who had already proceeded to build, in those years, the town hall and the cavalry barracks in Milan.
The project involved the construction of a group of different buildings, but very close together, connected by arcades.
The building is an architectural fusion of different monumental neoclassical structures.It is organized in a square plan, symmetrically divided into nine sections which are also square shaped. The criterion is the “castrum romano“, where the two transversal and longitudinal paths are rigorously orthogonal to each other.
All the parts are composed of a large planted courtyard bordered by buildings on each side, so that each building looks out onto two adjacent courtyards.3


floor with foundation date of the asylum

The offices and services were aligned along the meridian axis of the complex, leaving on the right the female sections and on the left, symmetrically the male ones. Subdivided according to the usual criteria based only on the behavior and the difficulty of management could thus find 280 quiet, 140 epileptics and mixed, 140 semi-agitated, 70 agitated, 70 infirm.


north west arcade

Overall, the building, once completed in 1893, would have had a capacity of 700 beds; so the president of the provincial deputation insisted that the asylum be enlarged, and gave the same architect Canetti the task of presenting a project for which the building under construction could host, instead of 700, 1300 infirm. The Council suspended all deliberations on the proposal for the enlargement of the Manicomio in Quarto.
In 1889 the flanking Villa Poggi Spinola was reconverted as a small appendix to the new hospital, which increased the number of hospitalized patients by only 50 beds, bringing the available places in Quarto from 700 to 750.
In 1900 the work on the internal structures was completed and the capacity was increased to 850 beds.


stairway of the secondary building


octagonal fenestretad span of the secondary building


"Of the old psychiatric hospital I remember the smell, acrid, repelling - he says - And then the confusion, the total lack of rights. Since the doors of the structure have been opened, here a little more life is conquered every day"

Testimony of Pietro Ciliberti, psychiatrist. He arrived in Quarto in 1988, he lived prior to and after Basaglia law.

"In that room, down there, they were electroshocked, which is where users get the middle license.These spaces are full of history, they are a wealth of culture that should not be destroyed but preserved. And these structures can still be useful and lived by the citizens »

Testimony of Roberto Manfredi, health worker. He has been working in Quarto since 1980: he has lived the psychiatric hospital before, and what was left of it since then. (From the article: Fourth Yesterday and Today: history of the former asylum, Repubblica.it)


fresco of the Trinity


Today there are many projects that are in progress in the old asylum of Quarto, which involves the redevelopment of three pavilions of the former psychiatric hospital, in full protection of the bounded monumental asset,directed by Marco Macchi; a structure able to respond to the demand for health and where primary care services are integrated with those of the specialist, hospital, public health, mental health and social services.4


artistic works made by patients on the read of recovery nowadays

The former psychiatric hospital of Quarto carries an important historical heritage. It’s a place that puts together multiple perspectives, able to stimulate the collective imagination in search of new meanings.
Together with Im-fi and Basaglia centre, what is called "Quarto Pianeta" has been developed. It increasingly aims to become more and more a meeting place, where the past meets the present in a perfect combination. The chosen medium is above all art. This has over time attracted many artists to work with patients. Here there is a heritage of at least 1,000 works.


sculpted bust of a woman

Today it is another world, not only for the implementation of the Basaglia law, but because in this place a good synthesis has been created between medical care and integration. Numerous street art works have been created on white and peeling walls that open this space more and more to the public, even the younger one.


rapresentation of the human desolation

Comune di Genova, Ex Ospedale Psichiatrico di Quarto, relazione storica : DOCUMENTO E601R0GU003; Giugno 2015

Ex ospedale psichiatrico di Quarto, comune di Genova
La voce di Genova.it
Mentelocale Genova
Sistema Informativo Unificato per le Soprintendenze Archivistice

  • Photos and main text by Sara Majidi Fardmoc.liamg|89drafidijamaras#| and Annalisa Mazzone ti.orebil|reverof.asilanna#|(December 2018)
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