crown CU Home > Libraries Home
Columbia University Libraries Archival CollectionsAvery Drawings & Archives Collections
 

Clyde Dorsett papers, 1940-1991, (bulk 1952-1982)

Download and Print CitationContact Bookmark Share

Preferred Citation

Clyde Dorsett papers, 1940-1991, (bulk 1952-1982), Department of Drawings & Archives, Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library, Columbia University.

COinS Metadata available (e.g., for Zotero).

Summary Information

Abstract

Clyde H. Dorsett (1925-2007) was an architectural consultant dedicated to mental healthcare design becoming the nation’s leading authority in the design and construction of such facilities. Working as lead architectural consultant for the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) from 1965 to 1982, he oversaw the federal government’s ambitious program to transform the nation’s monolithic state mental hospital structure into a wider variety of local and state facilities to address a spectrum of medical and social needs through more precisely tailored, yet humane and informal design approaches. Underpinning the work was the growing conviction that the built environment played a significant role in the healing process, and that such ‘scientifically’ derived design could be applied to social problems. Based at the institute’s offices in Washington D.C., he both advised on individual projects through drawings submitted by architects nation-wide, as well as developing guidelines and standards for the accreditation, certification and funding of construction projects by the federal government. It is of these documents that the present collection largely comprises. He continued advising in the field long after his early retirement from the institute in 1982.

At a Glance

CLIO record: View CLIO record
Creator(s):Dorsett, Clyde, 1925-2007
Title:Clyde Dorsett papers, 1940-1991, (bulk 1952-1982)
Physical description:approx. 20 linear feet, 1,695 drawings (in 20 archival boxes, 1 oversize box, 8 rolls, and 1 oversize folder).
Language(s):In English
Access: The bulk of this collection is stored in Columbia University Libraries' off-site storage facility. Materials will be recalled by request. This collection is available for use by appointment in the Department of Drawings & Archives, Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library, Columbia University. For further information and to make an appointment, please call (212) 854-4110 or email avery-drawings@libraries.columbia.edu.  More information »

Arrangement

Arrangement

This collection is made up of four series:

Return to top

Description

Scope and Content

This collection is composed primarily of project drawings, reports, letters and some photographs of general medical and specifically CMHC (Community Mental Health Centers) projects from across the United States received and commented upon by Dorsett while at the NIMH from 1963 to 1982. It also includes projects received and/or discussed by Dorsett after that date while acting as a private design consultant. The other, somewhat smaller portions of the collection, his reference material, professional and personal papers, comprise of studies, notes, articles, guidelines, private architectural projects, student design work, and various ephemera.

Series I: Project Records

By far the largest component of the collection, this principally covers the ‘raw material’ received by Clyde Dorsett throughout his architectural consultation work: projects undertaken by various architects for their medical authority clients across the United States, and sent to the NIMH for comment. These date from 1963 to 1982 – the period of Dorsett’s administration. There are also a number of further documents after that date sent to Dorsett during his extensive later period as a private consultant. Most work is related either directly or indirectly to hospital or CMHC design. A few of these contain hand-drawn or written comments by Dorsett, while a number contain letters of correspondence between the NIMH and other participants. The series comprises of drawings, files (written material) and photographs. The working and presentation drawings are mostly reproductions (blueprints, diazotypes, photostats) occasionally marked up by Dorsett or others. The files includes reports, correspondence letters, notes, often with their counterpart drawings. The project photographs form only a very small part of Series I. The Project Records Series is made up of three subseries: Drawings, Files, and Photographs. Projects are arranged alphabetically first by state and within each, by project name. A few projects are unidentifiable by either title or state and have been placed at the end of each subseries.

Series II: Professional Papers

This series comprises of his professional work outside of particular projects, including historical research, case studies, reports, guidelines, lecture notes, articles, and papers. The series is arranged alphabetically by title.

Series III: Reference Files

This series comprises of miscellaneous reference materials by others (or by Dorsett and others) gathered by Dorsett over the course of his career, with most in some way relating to his professional life at the NIMH and beyond. These include books, journal articles, pamphlets, case studies, guidelines, legal documents, and standards. The series is arranged alphabetically by title.

Series IV: Personal Papers

This series, the shortest, comprise generally of work and personal miscellany conducted outside of his life at the NIMH and later consulting life. It includes student work, referral letters, certificates, awards, and various ephemera. The series is arranged alphabetically by title.

Return to top

Using the Collection

Access Restrictions

 The bulk of this collection is stored in Columbia University Libraries' off-site storage facility. Materials will be recalled by request. This collection is available for use by appointment in the Department of Drawings & Archives, Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library, Columbia University. For further information and to make an appointment, please call (212) 854-4110 or email avery-drawings@libraries.columbia.edu.

Restrictions on Use

Columbia University is providing access to the materials in the Library's collections solely for noncommercial educational and research purposes. The unauthorized use, including, but not limited to, publication of the materials without the prior written permission of Columbia University is strictly prohibited. All inquiries regarding permission to publish should be submitted in writing to the Director, Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library, Columbia University. For additional guidance, see Columbia University Libraries' publication policy.

In addition to permission from Columbia University, permission of the copyright owner (if not Columbia University) and/or any holder of other rights (such as publicity and/or privacy rights) may also be required for reproduction, publication, distributions, and other uses. Responsibility for making an independent legal assessment of any item and securing any necessary permissions rests with the persons desiring to publish the item. Columbia University makes no warranties as to the accuracy of the materials or their fitness for a particular purpose.

Preferred Citation

Clyde Dorsett papers, 1940-1991, (bulk 1952-1982), Department of Drawings & Archives, Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library, Columbia University.

For Further Information

For more information about using the collections and conducting research in the Department of Drawings & Archives, please see our FAQ.

Return to top

About the Finding Aid / Processing Information

Columbia University Libraries. Avery Architecture and Fine Arts Library. Department of Drawings and Archives; machine readable finding aid created by Columbia University Libraries Digital Library Program Division

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Christopher Cowell (Graduate Intern) under the supervision of Shelley Hayreh, Avery Archivist, in 2012. Allison Carafa (Bibliographic Assistant) completed the final arrangement of the collection.

Machine readable finding aid generated from MARC-AMC source via XSLT conversion May 18, 2012 Finding aid written in English.
    2012-05-18 File created.

CLIO ID: 9439962 View CLIO record

Return to top

Index Terms

The names and terms listed below are represented in this collection. Links below allow searches at Columbia University through the Archival Collections Portal and through CLIO, the catalog for Columbia University Libraries, as well as ArchiveGRID, a consortial/union catalog offered by OCLC that allows users to search the holdings of multiple archives and libraries.

All links open new windows.

Subjects (Corporate Names)

HeadingCUL Archives:
Portal
CUL Collections:
CLIO
Nat'l / Int'l Archives:
ArchiveGRID
Hawaii State Hospital.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
National Institute of Mental Health (U.S.)PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Washington Hospital Center.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID

Subjects (Personal Names)

HeadingCUL Archives:
Portal
CUL Collections:
CLIO
Nat'l / Int'l Archives:
ArchiveGRID
Alexander, Christopher, 1936-PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Fuller, R. Buckminster (Richard Buckminster), 1895-1983PortalCLIOArchiveGRID

Topics

HeadingCUL Archives:
Portal
CUL Collections:
CLIO
Nat'l / Int'l Archives:
ArchiveGRID
Architecture--Human factors.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Architecture--Psychological aspects.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Architecture--United States--Designs and plans.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Environment Design.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Environmental psychology.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Facility Design and Construction.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Health Facility Environment.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Hospital architecture--Psychological aspects.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Mental health facilities--Design and construction.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Psychiatric clinics--Design and construction.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Psychiatric hosptials--Design and contruction.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID

Return to top

History / Biographical Note

Biography

Clyde H. Dorsett was born in Burlington, North Carolina in 1925. While still in his teens, he took part in the Allied Invasion of Normandy in 1944 receiving the Bronze Star Medal.[1] Clyde Dorsett’s first experience in medical design began soon after his return, in 1946: an apprentice at the offices of Louis Jallade in New York City where he worked on a 200-bed hospital project. Dorsett went on to receive his bachelor’s degree in architecture from the School of Design, North Carolina State University in 1953, part of which time he studied under Buckminster Fuller. He was noted for his unusual skill in mastering detail design both in terms of construction and program – later put to good use in his diagnostic work at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) from 1965. Between this period he co-established the short-lived partnership Dorsett & Smyre Architects. Though working on a number of project types, Dorsett again found himself engaged in hospital design and construction, this time for the Department of Health, Education and Welfare, Washington D.C., when he began to realize that there were growing design opportunities in the field.[2]

He studied at Columbia University from 1962-63 where he completed his master’s degree in architecture majoring in hospital and public health facilities planning and design. The timing could not have been more fortunate. Following the passing of the Community Mental Health Centers (CMHC) Act of 1963, the NIMH suddenly found itself responsible for overseeing the wholesale transformation of the nation’s medical health built infrastructure. To achieve this, Dorsett was brought in to establish its architectural consultation section of which he became chief. He would go on to develop most of the regulations, policies and programs related to architectural aspects of the Act. The new section was staffed by architects with backgrounds as diverse as anthropology, psychology, management, programming, mental health, and general hospital planning, while Dorsett foresaw this expanding into other related expertise such as in corrective services, children’s programs and total health services.

During his time at the NIMH Dorsett also worked closely with a team of medical experts, believing that the medical program and the actual facility should be inseparable, that “they are the same thing.”[3] Together they helped develop national policy and provided project-by-project consultation across each state for the relevant health care bodies and their private architects – with each project given a unique code comprising of state, project type and number. Site visits across the country were frequent, regional workshops not infrequent, with a constant stream of planning drawings and written advice flowing through the NIMH offices.[4] Dorsett’s overriding belief was that good healthcare design should provide a humane, welcoming environment as opposed to the institutional character that normally felt with such building types. To this aim he sponsored a large body of research in environmental psychology. Among his early collaborators were Sim Van der Ryn and Christopher Alexander, the latter for whom he contributed some sections to his “pattern language.” By 1978 Dorsett was finally able to take his theories to their ultimate conclusion – the total breaking down of monolithic institutional design and the re-empowering of patients in the healing process – with his consultation work for the Hawaii State Hospital. Here the “village system” approach was adopted: clustered buildings broken down into discreet housing units in a semi-urban setting. This and others like it at the time, reflected new ideas of the needs of patients and of medical support staff to be cognizant of their interactions and social relations across various scales: from the individual to the group, to the multiple, to the neighborhood or village – a direct influence of Alexander’s thinking.

Dorsett often fussed over both the details and the wider aims of a project, yet was described as having a “smooth, low key approach.”[5] Indeed so well-known was his technical support in linking facilities to programs that the process was once dubbed as “Dorsetting.”[6] His frequent travel across the various states and the personal sacrifices this entailed also earned him the praise of his director, Dr. Frank M. Ochberg, who described him as “my ambassador-at-large.”[7]

Dorsett took early retirement from the institute in 1982, possibly as a consequence of cutbacks in consultation services by the NIMH that Dorsett was beginning to forewarn his clients of as early as 1979.[8] He was now working in a partnership with Constantine Karalis, as senior partner to the practice Dorsett and Karalis, Associates. Dorsett’s old projects continued to be utilized by him as pattern touchstones for his new and existing clients right up until the 1990s. His expertise now earned him a wider international audience, consulting for health authorities in the West Indies, and advising the World Health Organization and the State Department. He died at his home at Queenstown, Maryland, in 2007.

Sources:

1. Adam Bernstein, Clyde H. Dorsett; Architectural Consultant, The Washington Post, Aug. 11, 2007.

2. Sam A. Kimble [Department of Health, Education and Welfare] to Dorsett, March 23, 1962.

3. “Community Mental Health Centers Team: Everyone’s in a Different Game,” Phs World, May 1966, p.25.

4. Clyde H. Dorsett, “Broader Goals for the Architect and Government in Community Planning,” AIA Governmental Affairs Review (undated, c. 1970).

5. Thomas W. Carey (Department of Health & Human Services) to Dorsett, Nov. 7, 1980.

6. Jack A. Bartleson (ADAMH Branch) to Steven Sharfstein, M.D. (DMHSB), July 27, 1976.

7. Frank M. Ochberg [Division of Mental Health Services Program, NIMH] to Dorsett, May 30, 1975.

8. Ian Osborn [Pennsylvania State Hospital] to Dorsett, Oct. 24, 1979.

Return to top