Ospedale Psichiatrico Provinciale

The Construction

The Psychiatric Hospital was founded at the beginning of the twentieth century as Frenocomio Civico ed Ospizio for the mentally ill. It is located on the slope of a hill in the district of San Giovanni at the outskirts of Trieste (via Giovanni Sai, 1). The architect Ludovico Bariotti won the international competition at the end of the nineteenth century with his innovative design. The construction began in 1903 and ended in 1908. The large complex was built over an area of 240 thousand square meters on land owned by prominent families of Trieste. Its cost in today's currency is estimated at 300 million euros.


The structure

"Frenocomio" is one of the most obvious expressions of positivism in the Austrian social and healthcare field: it provided a distinction between the chronically ill and those only in need of hospital care. As you can see from the photos and the layout of the site, buildings and pavilions follow a precise organizational system: the central avenue that divides them into two complexes allowed the separation of male and female patients. Indeed, to the right we have the male infastructure, to the left that of the female sex.
Furthermore, one must point out how an additional subdivision can be recognized: based upon severity of disease, this ulterior separation can be described as follows: at the foot of the hill we had those in need of less care ( severity of pathology being quite reasonable) and on top the patients more agitated were hospitalized.


The complex included about forty buildings in Art Nouveau style. However, it shouldn't be considered a simple hospital complex: in fact, in addition to the places for the care and hospitalization of patients, there were many other locations: first of all, buildings occupied by the administrative staff and services were present, along with four cottages that were reserved for relatively calm patients who had paid to enter; and finally, there were some free apartments for other, calmer residents (who couldn't pay).


Social life in the frenocomio

The top of the hill was designed for the undertaking of social life. In fact, around the Church of "Buon Pastore" there are some buildings (some of which still work) specifically built for the act of public relation : the bar of the frenocomio "Il posto delle fragole" (which during the Basaglia administration was run by the patients) some workshops designed to accommodate crafts (woodworking and others), vegetable gardens, and especially a theater. The theater was equipped with a rare and sophisticated mechanism of complete rotation of the stage in order to attend open air shows during the summer.


The decline of the frenocomioand the reformation of Franco Basaglia

In the second half of the thirties began a process of degradation of the complex which was further accentuated during the war: thus, with time, the frenocomio turned into a mental hospital no different from the others in Europe. The application of grating on windows and meshworks on the terraces and open spaces is a clear sign of the decline and degradation of the positivistic idea that the building had initially given birth to.


Franco Basaglia took the direction in August 1971. Under his direction the situation changed again: in the winter of '71 some departments were opened to allow the free movement of patients in almost all areas of the hospital. With this newly-regained dignity of patients, one also witnessed the amelioration of the surroundings: indeed, the halls of public meetings were once again reactivated and the area around the church became a meeting place not only for patients but also for young people of Trieste.
The symbol of this newfound dignity is certainly Marco Cavallo, a papier-mache statue made by patients with the help of Vittorio Basaglia (painter and sculptor) and Giuliano Scabia (writer, director and professor of drama).


After the approval of Law 180 ( also known as the Basaglia law), which included the closure of all mental hospitals, one started to witness a new period of decline for the O.p.p. of Trieste . In fact, the owners of that area were not able to reach an agreement upon what to do with the land at their disposal: they only managed to reach a conclusion in the 90's, as they decided to sell the sites for public use.
Some buildings have been bought and renovated by the university in order to accommodate inter alia, the university psychiatric clinic and two departments of the faculty of sciences. Some buildings have also been reconstrucuted so as to accomodate ex-patients, an academy for sea captains and the headquarters of the n.1 health. Another important building which demonstrates the international scope of the project Basaglia is the Collaborating Centre in Mental Health of the WHO (World Health Organization). In fact, during the period of Basaglia's reform, the conference room was always full of many doctors, psychiatrists, and clinical trainees ( especially of German and American nationality ).


Related items:

  • Photos by Francesco Valentini ti.orebil|znarfinitnelav#| (December 2010)


  • F. Parmegiani, M. Zanetti, Basaglia, una biografia, LINT editoriale, Udine 2007, pag 74-80.

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