Freud for Architects  book cover
1st Edition

Freud for Architects

ISBN 9781138390683
Published November 23, 2020 by Routledge
138 Pages 7 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

Freud for Architects explains what Freud offers to the understanding of architectural creativity and architectural experience, with case examples from early modern architecture to the present.

Freud’s observations on the human psyche and its influence on culture and social behavior have generated a great deal of discussion since the 19th century. Yet, what Freud’s key ideas offer to the understanding of architectural creativity and experience has received little direct attention. That is partly because Freud opened the door to a place where conventional research in architecture has little traction, the unconscious. Adding to the difficulties, Freud’s collection of work is vast and daunting. Freud for Architects navigates Freud’s key ideas and bridges a chasm between architecture and psychoanalytic theory.

The book highlights Freud’s ideas on the foundational developments of childhood, developments on which the adult psyche is based. It explains why and how the developmental stages could influence adult architectural preferences and preoccupations, spatial intuition, and beliefs about what is proper and right for architectural design. As such, Freud for Architects will be of great interest to students, practitioners, and scholars in a range of disciplines including architecture, psychoanalysis, and philosophy.

Table of Contents

Series editor's preface

List of illustrations


1. Introduction

The psyche, aesthetic experience, and architecture

Reading Freud, psychoanalytic theory, and clinical practice

Social influence, psychotherapeutic design, wild analysis, and architectural "aeffects"

Outline of the book

2. Freud and modernity: selfhood and emancipatory self-determination

Freud and Vienna: modernity and culture

Contrasting architectural preferences in fin-de-siècle Vienna

The Interpretation of Dreams, 1900

Psychical selfhood and self-determination

Trauma, repression, architecture of screen memories, remembering, repeating, and working through

Cultural screens, disconnection, negation, and affirmation


3. Aesthetic experience: the object, empathy, the unconscious, and architectural design

Unconsciously projecting oneself and intuiting the shape or form of an art object: Semper, Vischer, Schmarsow, Wölfflin, Giedion, and Moholy-Nagy

Stone and phantasy, smooth and rough

Inside-outside corners, birth trauma, and character armor

The turbulent section and the Paranoid Critical Method

Asymmetric blur zones and the uncanny


4. Open form, the formless, and "that oceanic feeling"

Architectural formlessness, not literal formlessness

Freud and the spatialities of the psychical apparatus

Phases of psychical development in childhood

The oral phase


Blurred zones and architectural empathy for formlessness


5. Closed-form, rule-based composition and control of the architectural gift

The second phase of development, the anal phase, and struggles over control of a gift

Threshold practices: isolation, repetition, procedures for handling objects, and diverting impulses

A very brief history of closed-form, rule-based composition, and control of the architectural gift

House II


6. Architectural simulation: wishful phantasy and the real

The third phase of development, the phallic phase: a wish and overcoming prohibitions against the wish

Simulation, wishes, and world views

"Vertical Horizon" and the plot of phallic phantasy


7. Spaces of social encounter: freedoms and constraints

The last phase of development in childhood, the genital phase, and the search for obtainable objects

Open slab versus regime room: empathy for freedom versus constraint in spaces of social encounter



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John Abell, PhD, specializes in modern architectural design and urban design critical theory, particularly as these intersect with aesthetic experience, material craft, and design technologies.