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Call for Papers: 20th-Century Built Heritage of Health: Challenges and Opportunities

Guest Editor

Christina Malathouni, School of Architecture, University of Liverpool, United Kingdom

Submission deadline for extended abstracts: 30th September 2023

Submission deadline for full papers: 31st May 2024

Aims and scope

Purpose-built healthcare buildings provide us with obvious connections between the built environment and health. Correspondingly, lists of designated built heritage assets often include health centres, hospitals or asylum buildings. However, connections between health and our physical environment, including built heritage, are far from limited to such spatial and programmatic connections. Increasingly complex scientific and technological developments feed into health-related activities in numerous ways that are not always evident and often take place in separate spaces and places. For example, the production of continuously advancing medical technologies or pharmacological research are accommodated in organisations, locations, and built structures that can be distinct from healthcare environments. In fact, as the recent pandemic of Covid-19 has brought to the foreground, there are omnipresent associations between physical and mental health and virtually any open space, building, rural settlement or urban environment, all of which may comprise elements that could relate to built heritage.

This special issue further reflects on the recent experience of the Covid-19 pandemic in that this has brought the significance of physical and mental health to the foreground of all human experience, including personal and community heritage, as also evidenced in diverse reactions to the illness itself, to medical responses, and to variable public measures imposed by health and state authorities.  Within this context, this special issue invites articles that explore connections between health and built heritage from the twentieth century onwards. When focusing on recent times, certain particularities can be noted due to accelerated developments, both within architecture and building construction and within medicine, psychiatry and other health-related fields, that further impact on heritage values or criteria, such as aesthetic value, or intactness. For example, advancing medical technologies have imposed a faster pace of alterations or replacement of healthcare buildings which, in turn, impose additional challenges to their survival and potential for heritage protection.

Contributions to this Special Issue are, therefore, expected to be open to a re-examination of accepted boundaries of the topic and reflect on ways in which its particularities can encourage us to re-think limitations imposed by existing heritage philosophies, policies and practices. The potential of retention and re-use in support of sustainability targets further validates and invites such a perspective. We are very much interested in studies, especially multi-disciplinary, that cover either physical or mental health, or both. We particularly encourage papers that engage with thematic approaches by analysing historical contexts and linkages; one example being the recently published Mardsen and Spearritt‘s Twentieth-Century Historic Thematic Framework (2021). We also welcome investigations that seek to highlight the potential of diverse stakeholders’ input and/or hidden or overt contradictions across cultural or identity divides. In relation to mental health, we welcome perspectives that debate radical advances in the field throughout the twentieth-century and juxtapose these to earlier associations to asylums or similar built structures that are often perceived as “dark”, “uncomfortable”, or “difficult” heritage. Consideration of various scales, as expressed, for example, in urban studies or planning, and research on areas often neglected, such as interiors, are also encouraged. In sum, far from restricted to the few examples listed here, we are open-minded towards any topic as long as there are clear connections to our special theme and the journal’s primary focus: Built Heritage.

The Special Issue builds on a regional seminar titled “Heritage of Health” that took place in December 2022. The event was part of the online seminar series "Exploring the Twentieth-Century Historic Thematic Framework in European Context", organised by ICOMOS’s International Scientific Committee on 20th-Century heritage (ICOMOS-ISC20C) and the Getty Conservation Institute (GCI). The seminar was hosted by the University of Liverpool’s School of Architecture and initiated and chaired by Dr. Christina Malathouni, and a recording is due to be available online via ICCOMOS-ISC20C and/or the GCI. Despite the initial focus of the online seminar on Europe, this Special Issue aims to a pluralist widening of the discussion with contributions of global perspectives from any geographical region.

Proposed Timeline

Abstracts (500-800 words) due: 30th September 2023

Acceptance decision and invitations: 31st October 2023

Author Workshop: week commencing 27th November 2023

Draft submission and start of peer review: 31st May 2024

Final feedback from peer review: 31st July 2024

Final version due: 30th October 2024

Publication (paper issue): 31st December 2024

All submissions to this collection will go through rigorous peer review. Reviewers will follow Springer Nature's and the journal's more detailed Peer-Review Policy. Accepted articles will first be published online. The print issue is scheduled to be published in the fourth quarter of 2024.

Extended abstracts (500-800 words) should contain the title of the paper, research question(s) and how the paper responds to the Special Issue theme, methodology, main findings, and conclusions. Abstracts should be submitted to: with the subject line: Special Issue on 20th-Century Built Heritage of Health.

Further Information

Questions may be addressed by email to the Editorial Office of Built Heritage:, or Dr. Christina Malathouni, Guest Editor of the Special Issue: