Architecture and psychology in the 20th century: archetypes of human need and sanity


A sunset to share

A sunset to share (Photo credit: Kumukulanui)


In this dissertation demonstrate how the entire history of the modernist project has tended to mirror the evolution of the discipline of psychology – the scientific study of human behavior. Although the term ‘architectural psychology’ was not coined until the 1970s, I would like to argue that the impact of psychology from the turn

of the century to the present has been profound. In general, historical accounts of architecture have hitherto placed designers in their cultural context while mysteriously ignoring the psychological movements which helped fuel those cultural shifts. For example, most historical accounts of architecture by authors such as Pevsner1 or Frampton2 seemingly ignore the influence of the rise of psychology in the 20th century –

including psycho-analysis, socio-biology, social anthropology, behaviorism, social psychology, Maslow, Erikson, and evolutionary psychology on movements such as surrealism, constructivism, structuralism, determinist urban planning, and humane or ‘healing’ architecture. I will give a critical account of how I believe psychology has shaped architecture, either consciously or

Sigmund Freud Quote

Sigmund Freud Quote (Photo credit: Psychology Pictures)

unconsciously, and how the psychological vision of the architect or planner has matured from representational, through deterministic to ‘integrationist’.
Alain De Botton’s recent book ‘The Architecture of Happiness’3 concludes “Bad architecture is in the end as much a failure of psychology as of design.” However, there is little within his book to support this assertion. During this dissertation I have attempted to carry out a systematic review1 of the history of ‘architectural psychology’ in order to show that a better understanding of (i) the psychology of the architect, (ii) the psychology of the end user , including issues of personal space, identity and universal ‘innate’ needs, and (iii) how the user interacts with his immediate environment, subculture, community and society will lead to a better understanding of the design process and thus help architects and urban planners design an optimal built environment, or at least an environment that minimizes the risk of social and psychological harm. Through a better understanding of architectural psychology the architect should begin to appreciate the opportunities and limits inherent in the process of trying to create spaces for happiness and good mental health.

Uitreiking 2 duurzame sterren HAN Built Enviro...
Uitreiking 2 duurzame sterren HAN Built Environment (14) (Photo credit: HANs on Experience)

The early psychology of aesthetics – Gestalt psychology and constructivism The influence of Freud and Gestalt2 was particularly apparent in the early 20thCentury. Freud’s interpretation of dreams fuelled surrealism, unconsciously influencing the dream-like quality of Gaudi’s Casa Batllo (particularly the dragonlike roof) and Park Guell, much admired by fellow Catalan Dali. The ‘psycho technical laboratory’ of Avante Garde constructivist movement ASNOVA in 1920s Russia, attempted to produce a pure lexicon of forms with ‘psycho-organisational’




We'd love to hear your thoughts

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s