• The Architecture of Deafness: Two-Hundred Years of the Deaf School as an Architectural Type in the United States, 1817–2017
    Jeffrey Mansfield

Krusmark + Krusmark, AIA, Wyoming School for the Deaf, 1963, Casper, WY. Photo: Jeffrey Mansfield.

Deaf schools are architecturally and spatially ambiguous. Featuring elements of campus and asylum architecture, their intentions are unclear: Are they to educate or exclude? Through welfare, assimilation, and resistance, the architectural forms and vocabularies of deaf schools tell a broader story of evolving attitudes towards deafness, disability, and normalcy, as well as civic virtue, modernity, and national growth and identity. Their story is one of industry, biology, pathology, politics, and power. Though physically and cognitively separated from society, the deaf school is the site of earliest interactions among deaf people, resulting in subversive cultural behaviors and outcomes. Architectural discourse tend to focus on more visible structures like prisons, factories, and hospitals, and although the story of the deaf school remains largely untold, it is inscribed into the bricks and mortar and onto the grounds of deaf schools throughout America, with much to offer in architectural, educational, and psychological discourse.

Jeffrey Mansfield is a design director at MASS Design Group, whose work explores the relationships between architecture, power, and society. Mansfield leads MASS Design Group’s Restorative Justice Design Lab and coedited the firm’s first monograph, Justice is Beauty (The Monacelli Press, 2019). His work has been published in the Cooper Hewitt Design Journal, AD, Tacet, and exhibited at MoMA PS1, Bergen Assembly, Sao Paulo Biennale, the Sharjah Biennial, and Tallinn Art Hall. Mansfield holds a master's of architecture at Harvard University's Graduate School of Design and an AB in Aarchitecture from Princeton University and has been deaf since birth, attending a deaf school in Massachusetts, where his earliest intuitions about the relationship between architecture, power, and society emerged.