Preliminary map showing hospitals in late fifteenth-century Venice.

Preliminary map showing hospitals in late fifteenth-century Venice. Image: Danielle Abdon, 2017

Danielle Abdon is investigating the architecture of Renaissance hospitals in global port cities such as Lisbon, Seville, Venice, Santos, and Santo Domingo as part of her graduate internship at the Getty this year. This research is for her PhD dissertation in art history at Temple University.

Hospitals established after the fifteenth century have been well researched, with scholars attempting to identify the origins of the cruciform plan of these buildings and the importance of the design for religious ceremonies taking place inside these institutions. However, through further research and after study trips to Lisbon and Seville, Danielle hopes to demonstrate that concerns for public health and social welfare impacted the architecture of hospitals in port cities around the world. Her research thus far shows that hospitals in global port cities have more in common with each other than with hospitals in the areas that directly surround them.

Hospital architecture has interested Danielle since her time as an undergrad, when she originally pursued the topic for her honors thesis at Rollins College. Since then, her approach to the subject has become more interdisciplinary and global, combining her interest in Venice, art and architectural history, and the fields of public health, history of medicine, and social welfare, with her background growing up in Brazil.

In her dissertation, Danielle is using digital humanities techniques to inform her research. Through her investigation of primary and secondary sources, as well as historical maps, she has created digital maps of medieval institutions that preceded cruciform-plan hospitals employing tools such as QGIS and CARTO. By using original plans and excavation reports, Danielle also plans to digitally recreate the buildings in her case studies in the hope that these reconstructions will reveal new information and raise additional questions that will inform her dissertation and contribute to debates about the architectural innovations in Renaissance hospitals.

Danielle recently presented her latest findings at the 2017 annual meeting of the Renaissance Society of America in Chicago (paper abstract here). The next step in her dissertation is to further develop her case studies by incorporating materials she uncovered during her recent study trip as well as through her research at the Getty Research Institute.

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