Utilitarianism, reform, and architecture - Edinburgh as exemplar
Although the utilitarian character of modern architecture has been widely recognized, the relationship between Utilitarianism and architectural practice has not been adequately discussed. This thesis intends to contribute to this area with a historical study of the interaction of Utilitarianism and architectural practice in the social reforms of 18th and 19th century Britain. Edinburgh is used as an example to illuminate this historical process in more detail. From three angles: prison, poor relief and elementary education, this thesis discusses how Utilitarians influenced the reform process and how architecture was used as significant instruments to promote the reform schemes designed by Bentham and his followers. In prison reform, Bentham created the architectural model of the Panopticon to build a new punishment system based on disciplined prisons which could harmoniously align individual interest and public interest. He later introduced the same ideology and the Panopticon model into poor relief reform. Through the works of his followers, especially Edwin Chadwick, these Utilitarian ideas largely shaped the new poor relief system in Britain. Similar steps were later followed in elementary education reform. Together with the establishment of the national systems of poor relief and elementary education, a large volume of institutional buildings such as workhouses and board schools came into being, and many of them are still affecting our modern life. Based on these examples, this thesis ends with a theoretical discussion of the inadequacy of Utilitarianism as a complete ethical theory. Contrary to the optimism of Bentham and his 19th century followers, Utilitarianism is insufficient to be a practical guidance for everyday life. This inadequacy determines that Utilitarianism cannot provide a firm ethical foundation for architecture.