This paper reports the objectives and results of a research project entitled ‘Mental Hospitals in Italy in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. A map of the historical and architectural heritage to acquire knowledge and to make use of them’. Financed by the Ministry of Universities and Research as part of the 2008 Prin Programme. It highlights the problems of ‘constructing the history’ of the architecture of mental hospitals (starting with the choice of the preliminary methods concerning the period in time and the particular nature of the subject studied) and it underlines the role of critical knowledge as an indispensible condition for making proposals to develop and make use of former mental hospitals. The general questions addressed are framed in examples taken mainly from the history and the conditions of mental hospitals on mainland southern Italy, set in a comparison with the national and European scene.
Keywords: Mental hospitals; history; valorisation