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Public Health

Of the three overarching sets of conditions that have shaped Agincourt—Forces, Factors, and Faces—matters of public health are reflected in all three. Consider the question of an epidemic like tuberculosis or influenza.

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Tuberculosis was a force at the turn of the 20th century, a disease that was indiscriminate, no respecter of class; something over which we had little understanding and even less control. At a time when “germ theory” was precisely that, there was little government could do but sponsor the construction of sanitaria in places thought to be beneficial to those suffering from the disease and the be relatively free of it for those who were already healthy; rural places of high altitude. The factor of government intervention was minimal here in the U.S. and exercised primarily at the state level. Faces entered into the mix in the person of wealthy individuals who had been touched by the disease: among the most prominent was a member of Chicago’s McCormick family (of International Harvester fame) whose child had died from it.

There are dozens of state and private tuberculosis santoria across the U.S. North Dakota’s was situated in the Turtle Mountains near Dunseith; it was called San Haven and is now derelict. European examples may be more architecturally sophisticated and “stylish” but they all reflect developments in public health policy and innovations in materials, design and construction that inhibited the presence of germs and facilitated cleanliness. Alvar Aalto’s design for Paimio, Finland and Duiker & Bijvoet’s example at Zonnestraal are landmarks of early Modernism, unduly overshadowed by better known Bauhaus characters.

All of this will soon come to bear on Nick Braaksma’s project for Agincourt. I’m excited.

 


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