An Introduction to

The

Psychology

Of

 Architecture

 

by

 

Edward Merkus


CONTENTS

 

  1. INTRODUCTION
  2. WHERE IT ALL BEGAN
  3. THE DOGON
  4. SIMILAR IDEAS IN WESTERN ARCHITECTURE

a.    The Christian Church

  1. SPACE AND THE ARCHETYPES IN THE HOME

a.    Two Extremes of Space

b.    Space and Architecture

c.    Archetypes in the Home

d.    The House Plan as Mandala

  1. FRANK LLOYD WRIGHT- ARCHITECTURE AS AN EXPRESSION OF INDIVIDUATION
  2. BIBLIOGRAPHY

 

             
1. INTRODUCTION

This essay is the result of my attempt to formulate an approach to architectural practice that includes the wider scenario of psychological processes and evolution. I cannot say that this essay is in any way conclusive. My intention is simply to give a broad survey of the most recent views on the nature and psychology of psychic processes and in turn relate them to the art of building.

 

Although the subject of this paper is an analysis of building as an example of a spontaneous content from the unconscious, I do not consider it to be in any way concerned with the broad and complex field of psychopathology. The approach I wish to outline therefore deals mainly with psychological growth and spiritual awareness. As an architect I can only deal with the building of personality, indeed the healing of personality must be left to the specialist medical practitioners who deal with mental illness at its deepest levels.

 

The many years of working as an architect both as employee and in private practice has led me to this juncture where the standard approach to architectural practice cannot satisfy, not only my own architectural instincts, but also that of my client's.  It is almost without doubt that a client will approach an architect for a building with a quite elaborate mental image in their minds before the initial meeting. It is this image that I have become more and more concerned with over the years. It is true that many clients see the work of an architect in a magazine or brochure and select the architect on this basis. The style of architectural work created by a particular architect may correspond to the image the client has, and a pre-established preference may exist prior to the first consultation. The more unique the client's individuality however, the more unique will be the image of their home. On rare occasions a client may seem totally at sea with respect to the image of their building. Investigation has shown that the image is indeed present and with a small amount of coaxing becomes conscious and ready for exploration.

 

The architectural plan is by nature a patterned arrangement of spaces, walls and columns. This may be why many people without any architectural training have difficulty reading plans. The abstract nature of plans is at most an array of lines and notations of an abstract nature. It is this quality that entices the participation by the unconscious component of the psyche.

 

At no point do I wish to proclaim any final truths. What I can do however is show through examples and material from other fields, that there are certain patterns, which emerge in an individual's life, and these patterns can be explored through architectural design. It is however obvious that architectural design plays an important part in everyone's life from the smallest child and their idea of a cubby house, to the loftiest ideals of spirit and the worship of a particular God(s). Architecture is indeed one of the noblest examples of the spirit in man.

 


2. WHERE IT ALL BEGAN

 

The most beautiful and wondrous aspect of life is that every one of us has lived and been nurtured in the same home, the maternal womb. It is this fact that not only places us with other mammals, but also affects our psychology in the profoundest ways. Symbolically, the womb represents a variety of metaphors, a fiery furnace, an oven, hermetic vessel[1] and the unconscious itself, to name a few.

 

If we analyse the physical characteristics of the womb it becomes obvious why the symbolic aspect is rooted in physical reality. These characteristics are:-

 

 

  1. Enclosed
  2. Dark
  3. Warm (relatively)
  4. Liquid
  5. Safe

 

It is these and possibly more characteristics that give us the idea of what a home should be like and what is contained in that home. You could say that the womb is the precursor and determining factor for the entire built environment.

 


3. THE DOGON

 

The homes the Dogon people of Central Africa are an excellent example of how the original container is reproduced almost literal form. Although these people live quite simply in our terms, their culture is very complex and closely aligned with nature. To the Dogon, home is not a particular building, but a series of stages, which includes several buildings. The home is closely related to the development of the individual. For example a Dogon wife stays with her father until she has had her third child. She does however sleep with her husband during the night and returns to her father's house during the day. It is a hierarchical system where the family is spread over several houses until they have achieved the status required to own their own home. Their homes are not owned by individuals as such, but are stages in one could say, psychic development and are shared as such.

 

Dogon Home

 

 

Plan and Section of Typical Home

The typical Dogon house in plan is modeled on the human female form. The kitchen is round and represents the respiratory organ. It and is always located where a fruit of the nono plant (nono=perpetual) is walled-in during the building process. The kitchen thus becomes the head of the house. The main living area is thus the body of the woman with two storage spaces to either side. The entrance of the house is the vulva of the woman. As the Dogon are marking the plan on the ground,

a series of complex rituals are enacted. It is according to Ogotemmeli, an old Dogon sage, the marking of the house's image. It is interesting to note that the Dogon house has no windows therefore it is quite dark inside, the intention being that the interior is distinct, enclosed and presumably cooler, in contrast to the exterior which is light, hot and open. A man was asked during the construction of his house why there were no windows and he answered by saying Anybody who wants light can go outside. In the house it should be dark. Its better that way.

 

As the status of the patriarch develops, he may build the next stage in the form of a divine couple.

 

It is also the universal arch descended from the heavens to reorganise creation. The four main spaces grouped around the principal one are the four ancestral couples (these together with the animals, plants, minerals and Nommo[2] constitute the universal arch).[3]

 

The Ginna or family patriarch's house is Nommo in form. The ideal pair lying on their sides procreating. The whole plan of the house is contained within an oval, which represents the universal arch, from which all space and all beings have emerged.

 

The Dogon people have no separation between their spiritual and mythological ancestry and their everyday life. To them, nature and their spiritual 'arch' are one and all life is permeated by this belief. If we look at the nature of their homes, it shows a very interesting pattern of behaviour. The plan is a woman lying down; the entrance to the house is the entrance to the maternal womb. Indeed, the house is a container of psychic life. This is a universal idea that exists in many cultures worldwide. The house is a spiritualised reproduction of the original home, that is, the maternal womb. The Ginna house on the other hand is a reproduction of not a single person, but an ideal pair. That is the original parental authorities, the mother and father of all creation. The first type a pre-birth reproduction of the original home, the maternal womb, the second, post-birth born and residing within the ideal pair.

 


4. SIMILAR IDEAS IN WESTERN ARCHITECTURE

 

a. The Christian Church

 

Let us take the example of the Christian Dogma. The Trinity consists of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, who is represented by the bird of Astarte, the dove, and who in early Christian times was called Sophia and thought of as feminine. The worship of Mary in the later Church is an obvious substitute for this. Here we have the archetype of the family in a supracelestial place as Plato expresses it, enthroned as a formulation of the ultimate mystery. Christ is the bridegroom, the Church is the bride, and the baptismal font is the womb of the Church, as it is called in the text of the Benedictio fontis. The holy water has salt put into it, with the idea of making it like the amniotic fluid, or like sea water. [4]

 

In a sense we can say that the Christian Church is a home for the age-old ancestral experience of the family, that is, of father, mother and child etc.  

 

The physical characteristics of the church also exemplify the idea that it is a vessel, maternal womb one could say, for transformation. Generally speaking, we can say that the church is an enclosed space. The interior is orientated inward, in psychological terms, introverted. The windows are either at a high level or they contain lead lighting depicting a scene or story. The windows are therefore to provide a low level illumination, the depiction of myth and not to view or relate to the external world. It is the inner spiritual world of the psyche that takes precedence in this case. The idea that a church is a safe place is well known and has in the past served patrons as a place of refuge and protection. One could also say that the Church, and indeed any place of worship is nourishing for the soul and provides food of a symbolic kind in the form of stories and communion.

 

The similarities between the Dogon way of life and our Judaic Christian viewpoint are obvious. The differences however, are also quite pronounced. The Dogon live their spirituality in their homes and in their everyday lives. The religious rituals and everyday life are intertwined and complete

 


5. SPACE AND ARCHETYPES IN THE HOME

The design and selection of a home is a very complex thing. Many attributes of the house come into play in the selection process. The location is generally important, the size of the home, the layout, environmental influences, aesthetic appeal, whether the person or family's belongings and furniture (contents) will fit into the house and whether they like it or not.

 

a. Two Extremes Of Space

If we look at the concept of space we see that its extension is boundless, that is, it becomes, outer space. It is this extension and the inability to perceive boundaries that forms one extreme of a pair of opposites. The other opposite to boundless space is naturally space that has definite boundaries. It is this realm and its relationship to the boundless extension of space that architecture concerns itself with.

 

Humans are certainly not alone in the construction and enclosing of space. We can loosely categorise the creatures that live on the earth into three groups. The first are those creatures that graze on the landscape or swim in the ocean. They make no shelter and roam from place to place in search of food. Animals such as sheep, cows, lions, tigers, fish, whales, dolphins etc. These creatures do not have closed boundaries like walls or shells. The boundaries are generally distant and take the form of fences, rivers, oceans, mountains and the like. The second category is for those creatures that burrow into the earth. Their space is generally quite enclosed and dark. It offers protection against predators, heat and cold, light, fire etc.

 

The third and most interesting category is the creatures that create their own space. This category is surprising in the fact that it does not limit itself to any particular species. Bees create the most elaborate structure for their colonies. So to, members of the ant family, particularly termites. Beavers create the loveliest of structures called dens. They are usually built on top of a dam that the beavers have crated to capture a ready source of food. The Den generally has two entrances, one at the bottom of the structure with direct access to the water. The other entrance is dry and higher in the structure. Other examples are certain crustaceans that create hard shells to inhabit which is a fertile area of analysis for architects who have an interest in shell structures.

 

A sub category to the creatures that create their own spaces are those that grow there home as either part of their own physical structure or as an outer shell of protection. This would include turtles, crabs and other crustaceans, insects etc. A hybrid and less obvious example would be those creatures that have developed a hard and tough exterior shell such as the skin of a crocodile.

 

If we turn our attention to humans, it is obvious that we do not fit easily into any of the above categories. Some people do inhabit caves and create underground homes such as those in Cooperpede near central Australia. At the other extreme, before Europeans settled Australia, the Australian Aborigine did not build anything of a permanent nature, preferring to roam in a semi nomadic way in search of food. These two examples are extremes however and the majority of people live in purpose made huts or dwellings specifically for their own use.

 

As we have seen with the Dogon people of Africa, their homes are totally enclosed and contained, a representation of the maternal womb and a space that is introverted.  Our own western culture uses this principal for our own homes. We do not have homes that are totally contained as the Dogon, but we do make this idea the starting point. 

 

b. Space and Architecture

The extremes of space have been studied and discussed for many years by architects. The names given to the two extremes are also many and varied. Names such as space/anti-space; refuge/prospect; cave/pasture; romantic/modern are to name only a few. Architecture from the very beginnings to our modern era has mainly concerned itself with enclosed space. This is mainly due to the structural and technological limitations on architecture. There are however, examples of temples in ancient Egypt that demonstrate an urge to create space that is not contained. Generally speaking though, architecture and in particular homes, up until recently, were structures of enclosure with windows punched out in the walls to let in some light. It wasn't until our culture embraced the new technologies of steel that we were able to explore the notion of space that is not completely contained.

 

The best and purest example of this breakthrough is Mies Van der Rohe's Farnsworth House of 1945.

 

Farnsworth House- Exterior View

 

With its unique structural system for the time, Farnsworth house liberated the spatial and enclosed quality of traditional houses, and gave the world a house without visible enclosure. It is interesting to note that the twentieth century was instrumental in the awareness of our place and ourselves as individuals in the cosmos. The advent of Freud and the awareness of our instinctive foundations, Jung and the spiritual aspect of these foundations, were all signs of a new consciousness emerging in the world. The fact that our idea of what a home should be, also changed, is no coincidence.

 

It is as if we emerged from the enclosure of our original condition with a new awareness of ourselves, which was reflected, in our cultural viewpoint.

 

c. Archetypes in the Home

I refer the reader to the text called The Archetypes of the Collective Unconscious [5] for a detailed description on the archetypes, as they appear to us in our personal and complex patterns of behaviour.

 

To see where the archetypes affect us in our homes lets turn back to the original container and its characteristics. They are introverted (enclosed), warm, liquid, dark and safe. We could say that the whole house is our enclosure and makes us feel safe. The whole house can be warm, particularly with a good heating system. The whole home can be dark, particularly at night if the lights are turned off. There are only few places in the home where a liquid environment exist however. The most obvious space is the bathroom.

 

The bathroom is a wet environment. It is designed as such with impervious materials and drainage in the floor. The places we actually get wet ourselves are the shower and more importantly, the bath. It is indeed the bath that has all the symbolism attached to it through years of ritualistic use. It is the place where we cleanse ourselves, where we languish in warm water, we rest, we rejuvenate and we emerge renewed. The bath also reminds one of cooking or incubating as a foetus does in the womb.

 

In alchemy the bath plays a highly significant role in transformation, cleansing and renewal. There are numerous images of Mercurius being cooked in the bath until the spirit or white dove ascends, the brother and sister pair in the bath of life, the conjunction of soul and body in the marriage bath and the king and queen in the bath of the philosophers [6] .

 

The bathroom as a space is generally somewhat enclosed. Obviously there are practical reasons for this, privacy being the number one cause. Windows are generally small and may have obscure glass in them. The bathroom is also the favourite place for a skylight, thus providing natural light yet retaining enclosure. It is light from above in its literal form.

 

The kitchen is another example of the symbolic structure of our lives. The kitchen is where foods are transformed from its natural and raw state to a state it can be digested. The kitchen thus satisfies our nutritive instinct. In a traditional family the kitchen is the realm of the mother. The mother gives us life and nurtures us.  Naturally the kitchen can also be a man's domain particularly if the man has integrated some of his own anima material. The shed is a favourite dwelling place for a man. It is where he can think and be himself. He can make things, break things and experiment.

 

We quite often find that one or other family member dominates particular rooms. As mentioned earlier, the person who cooks in the household organises the kitchen to suite himself or herself and their nature, and it is quite possible that our complexes are reflected in our attitudes towards certain spaces. For example a daughter with a negative attitude towards their mother may have an impatience and intolerance with cooking. Therefore the kitchen would be a less favourite place for that person. This shows how we can learn about ourselves through our attitude towards certain spaces.

 

d. The House Plan as Mandala Pattern

The house plan is diagrammatic representation of the ground plane of a building. Technically it is view of a building or proposed building cut through the walls parallel to the ground plane one metre above the floor and viewed from above. The plan is by nature an abstraction of the spaces to be constructed in three dimensions.

 

There are many influences on spaces and their configuration and relationship to each other in a house. These include environmental influences, site configuration, relationship to other spaces, local authority guidelines, and psychological preferences. On rare occasions, there are buildings constructed from an idealised and mandala patterned plan. This villa called Villa Rotunda by Andrea Palladio is an excellent example of the environmental and other influences given secondary importance to psychological considerations, that is, the purity of the ideal.

Villa Rotunda Palladio Vincenza 1550

Villa Rotunda Plan View

 

We can thus say that the plan of a house has the abovementioned influences working on the design in varying degrees. It is unlikely that the psychological influence can be ruled out entirely in the design process. As a consequence there will be some traces of the personal disposition of the designer in the plan and overall design of the house. This would explain why a house designed by Frank Lloyd Wright is quite different from a house designed by Mies Van der Rohe.

 

If we view the plan of a house with a psychological eye we can see some interesting similarities. For example the centre of a Wright house is with very few exceptions, occupied by a fireplace. It is also quite common to find the kitchen in the centre of a house indicating an interest in feeling values in most cases. Our knowledge of psychology can shed much light on an individual's psychological development through the architectural plan.

 


6. FRANK LLOYD WRIGHT- ARCHITECTURE AS AN EXPRESSION OF INDIVIDUATION

1867 to 1909

 

Frank Lloyd Wright was born on June 8, 1867, in Richland Centre, Wisconsin, to Anna Lloyd-Jones Wright, a teacher whose large Welsh family of farmers and ministers settled the valley that became Taliesin, and William Russell Cary Wright, a preacher and musician. An early influence was his clergyman father's playing of Bach and Beethoven. (Later on Wright would make comparisons to music and architecture in relation to the mathematical aspects of both.)

 

Frank Lloyd Wright in 1904

 

Before her son was born, Anna had decided that her son was going to be a great architect. She placed pictures of buildings in his nursery and bedroom during his younger years to inspire him to become an architect. Using Froebel's geometric blocks to entertain and educate her son, young Frank was given free run of the playroom filled with paste, paper, and cardboard. Except for periods of several months at a time, he continued to live with or near his mother until her death in 1923.

 

His grades were not outstanding as a student and he dropped out of high school to take a job in an architectural office when his parents divorced on April 24, 1885.  His father deeded the house over to his mother and left.  Frank never saw him again.

 

In 1889, at age 22, Wright married Catherine Lee Tobin, age 18, the daughter of a wealthy businessman, and acquired social and architectural credentials to become an upper middle class professional in his mid-twenties.

 

Cheney House 1903

 

Cheney House 1903 Perspective

 

Cheney House Plan

 

This was a very stable and period of growth in Wright's life. He had a thriving Architectural practice, a large family and active social life. The Cheney house as shown here reflects this stability and order in its Mandala like plan. The characteristics of the house were relatively new for that time. They include what Wright himself termed, the destruction of the box and the opening of the interior out into the landscape. At the centre of the house is the all-important fireplace which became a consistent feature in Wright's houses. If we look at the central hearth for moment we can see its symbolic significance for Wright. The Hearth's physical characteristics are as follows:

 

  1. Container for creating warmth
  2. Gives a soft warm yellow light
  3. Provides a consistent sound of crackling
  4. The fire consumes its fuel
  5. If the fire is controlled it is positive and beneficial, if not can be very destructive.
  6. Fire converts (separates) matter to carbon-based ash, various gases, heat and light.
  7. Fire transforms Earth (wood) into Air and Earth
  8. Fire can be controlled with water.

 

The symbolic significance of hearth is far-reaching and all encompassing. The ancient Chinese and Egyptians relate fire to solar rites and associate fire with life and health. The alchemists had the notion that fire was the agent of transmutation and regeneration. For some primitive people fire is a demiurge emanating from the sun, whose earthly representative it was; hence it is related on the one hand with the ray of light and lightning, and on the hand, with gold. Other primitive people view the soul as a fire or flame, because warmth is likewise a sign of life.[7] Fire has also been equated to our human emotions and passions.

Hardy House 1905

 

 Hardy House Perspective 1905

 

During this period of growth, Wright designed the Hardy house in 1905. The plan shows the same order as the Cheney house with the central fireplace. The plan has become elongated with large terraces spreading put into the landscape. This reflects Wright’s own movement into the world and his steadily growing reputation.

Hardy House Plan 1905

 

1909 to 1932

 

In 1909 Wright left his wife Catherine and his family for Europe with Mamah Cheney, the wife of Edwin Cheney whom he had designed and built a house for in 1903. Wright's Architectural practice continued to grow even though the press had publicised Wright’s marital indiscretions. The size of his commissions grew with the design of the Midway Gardens in Chicago and the prestigious Imperial Hotel in Japan being secured. Things were soon to take a turn for the worse however. In 1914 a crazed employee killed Mamah Cheney and six others including her children and set fire to Wright’s residence Taliesin East. Something in him died with her,” his son John Lloyd Wright remembered sadly, something loveable and gentle ….in my father's.

 

With this tragedy still fresh, Wright met Miriam Noel who accompanied him to Japan where he worked on the Imperial Hotel during World War 1. Wright’s extended marital and financial difficulties in the 1920’s contributed to his own architectural doldrums long before the stock market crash affected the rest of the nation. His relationship with Miriam was extremely tempestuous due mainly to Wright’s pining for Mamah Cheney and abrasion between Miriam and Wright’s mother Anna. Things were to get worse for Wright however, with the death of Anna in 1923 and the departure of Miriam in 1924.

 

Miriam was to become a haunting figure for Wright for many years to come. She would not grant Wright a divorce even though she had left, and accused Wright of assault, and accusation that was never substantiated. During this period of instability and turmoil Wright’s houses changed dramatically.

 

Hollyhock House 1917

 

Image of Front

 

As you can from this image of Hollyhock House, gone are the sweeping low rooves, gone are the dramatic cantilevers and gone is the idea of extending the interior spaces to the landscape. The material used for its construction was sculpted concrete block making the aesthetic of the house monumental, that is, heavy and solid. Another change in his design was the introduction of water as shown in the plan below.

 

The fireplace no longer presents itself in the centre, or even near the centre although it does have new elements added to it, and that is a pool of water surrounding the hearth and a skylight in front of the chimney. The alchemical overtones are unmistakable and indeed Wright was entering a period of deep introversion and transformation. Perhaps this was an attempt on Wright’s part to reconcile the loveable and gentle nature he had attained while in relationship Mamah Cheney. The English theologian and alchemist John Pordage wrote the following in a letter to Jane Leade, which illustrates the combination of Fire and water.

 

You must see to it that they lie together in the bed of their union and live in sweet harmony; then the virgin Venus will bring forth her pearl, her water spirit, in you, to soften the fiery spirit of Mars, and the wrathful fire of Mars will sink quite willingly, in mildness and love, into the love fire of Venus, and thus both qualities, as fire and water, will mingle together, agree, and flow into one another; and from their agreement and union there will proceed the first conception of the magical birth which we call Tincture, the love-fire Tincture. [8]

 

The fireplace in the Hollyhock house is a symbolic representation on Wright’s part to combine the four elements earth, air fire and water. The wood in the fireplace, the air required for the burning process and the fire itself. The introduction water in front to of the fireplace and the skylight in front of the chimney brings together the elements that were hitherto not included. Fresh water comes from the air and the skylight is directly above the water. We shall see later that Wright combines the four elements in a different way in his house Fallingwater.

 

The plan of Hollyhock is still somewhat symmetrical and an enclosed courtyard now occupies the centre. The courtyards of the Living room are now closed off from it and accessible indirectly through single doors. The views were made secondary to the interior, which is turned inward.

 

The interior of the Freeman House, similar in nature in that period shows the introverted and enclosed interior of the Living Room.

 

Hollyhock House Plan

 

Freeman House 1923

Living Room

 

In 1924 Wright met Olgivanna Hinzenburg, a very beautiful cultured, artistic 26 year old Montenegrin woman with spiritual ties to the Georgi Gurdjieff's Institute for Harmonious Development of Man. Wright fell in love with Olgivanna which complicated matters with Miriam extensibly. Miriam plagued the couple for many years with complaints to the Department of immigration over Olgivanna, the refusal to grant Wright a divorce and demands for part ownership of Wright’s home Taliesin.

 

These years were the worst of Wright’s life. There was another fire at Taliesin, Olgivanna and Wright were arrested for allegedly violating the Mann Act and Olgivanna's ex husband filing a Law Suite against Wright for alienating Olgivanna and her daughters affection. This period was devastating for Wright and it would lead to a period of financial uncertainty, very few architectural commissions and deep introversion. Wright with the help of Olgivanna wrote a series of articles under the heading In the Cause of Architecture. It wasn't until Wright published his autobiography in 1932 when his fortunes turned around and he once again turned his attention to community concerns. 

 

1932 to 1948

Jacobs House 1936

 

Jacobs House Front

Jacobs House Plan

 

By this time Wright was 65 years old. His practice began to thrive once again as he returned to his Usonian (low cost) homes with sweeping flat rooves and masonry cores. The fireplace moved back to its pivotal position and the interior space once again opens to the landscape. Life became stable for Wright with the support of Olgivanna. In 1935 Wright would design possibly one of the best houses of his career, if not the most well known house, Fallingwater.

 

Fallingwater 1935

 

Exterior from Creek

 

The site chosen for the house was quite significant for the client Edgar J Kaufman. He told Wright that he had a special rock where he would sit and view the creek and waterfall. Wright subsequently took this information on and designed a house with the rock protruding inside and in front of the fireplace. Again, we have a situation where Wright combined the four elements in an interesting way. The hearth is once again pivotal in the design. The fire and fuel remain unchanged. The natural rock (earth) environment is given feature prominence in front of the hearth. Stone has off course alchemical significance. The other major addition is the spherical kettle net to the hearth which is suspended on a pivoting arm and places the kettle directly over the flames of the fire. Wright has here recognised the next step in combining the elements. We all know that water extinguishes fire and an intermediary substance is required to combine their respective effects. In this case the spherical kettle allows the water to be effected by the fire without changing the fire.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Interior Fireplace

 

Interior Living room

 

Fallingwater Ground Floor Plan

 

1948 to 1959

During this period and the preceding two decades, Wright spoke and wrote so frequently that it damaged his credibility. His style obscured his substance and his outrageous remarks, esoteric jargon, and abysmal prose fostered misunderstanding and dismissal. He pushed his philosophy of Organic Architecture beyond that of architecture itself and proposed it as a philosophy of life. The creative faculties of the human race,” he told a student group in 1954, are intimately linked to the relationship of man to the cosmos. This transcendental belief that the artistic side of humanity represented its divinity led Wright to insist that a kind of structure – a coherent pattern – characterised all life: Organic architecture feels at home with the ideal of unity,” he once remarked. One of the two key words in his philosophical vocabulary, in fact, was unity a defining attribute of the second word, nature,” from which everything else flowed. The two became one in organic structure which brought cosmic unity to natural variety and was, Wright believed, a proper basis for all social relations.

 

Wright’s awareness of his own unity was everywhere to be seen. In an interview he stated that he never lost site of his youth and indeed it was necessary for him to retain that youth, even into old age. The buildings of Wright’s final years show how he believed this idea and expressed it in his work. The mandala like aesthetic of the Greek Orthodox Church is unmistakeable. Not only is this church a mandala in plan, its external shape would indicate some affinity with the archetypal flying saucer. Wright’s contribution to the myth of the flying saucer cannot be denied. I refer the reader to Flying Saucers A Modern Myth of Things Seen in the Skies [9] for the psychic determinants behind the flying saucer.

 

Wright underwent emergency surgery for an intestinal tract obstruction and related haemorrhaging at the age of 91. He seemed to recuperate and make his way to full recovery but died on April 9, 1959 after developing a coronary thrombosis.  

 

Greek Orthodox Church 1956

 

 

Lykes House 1959

 

Huntington Play Resort (1959) Unbuilt

 

Wright intuitively expressed his psychic state in his architectural work. His ability to reflect on his state was poor however. He once told a friend that the reason he took out the back window of his car and filled it with an opaque material, was because he never looked back. This is typical of Wright’s attitude to life and his work. He was aware of his relation to the archetypal world of the unconscious and expressed it so without critical analysis.

 

The 800 buildings that Frank Lloyd Wright left the world are a testament of what is attainable when the governing personal attitude is accepted and expressed in its purest form. Architecture is indeed the expression of the psyche in its most concrete form and the determining factors are the laws of nature. Wright knew this fact and fought against any detraction from it. The client became a means to express these laws of nature, including the laws of Wright's own nature.  Had Wright recognised the relation between his work and his psychic state, there may have been a dramatic change in the direction of his work. We may have seen the creation of the a new architectural attitude where the psychic state of the client had at least as much if not more importance as the architect.

 

Frank Lloyd Wright was an artistic genius and his work has and will inspire generations to come. It is not only professionals in the field that are inspired, but anyone that lives in a house can appreciate the beauty and unity of a Wright building.

 



[1] Page 167, III The Transformation Of Libido, Symbols of Transformation, C G Jung, Bollingen Series XX, Princeton University Press, 1956

[2] The Nommo are a twin pair from the god Amma born in the second creation. They are the ideal pair of male and female, who with the water brought the second word of god to the world.

[3] 'The Dogon people' an essay by Paul Parin

[4] Page 156, CG Jung, The Structure of the Psyche, The Structure and Dynamics of the Psyche, Volume eight, Second

Edition, 1969, Routledge and Kegan Paul

[5] C G Jung, Archetypes of the Collective Unconscious, Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1969

[6] C G Jung, Psychology and Alchemy, Bollingen Series XX, Princeton University Press, 1980

[7] Page 345, para.665, Basic Postulates of Analytical Psychology, The Structure and Dynamics of the Psyche, Volume eight, Second Edition, 1969, Routledge and Kegan Paul

[8] John Pordage (1607-1681) studied theology and medicine in Oxford. He was a disciple of Jacob Boehme and a follower of his alchemical philosophy. He became an accomplished alchemist and astrologer. One of the chief figures in his mystical philosophy is Sophia. Excerpt quoted by C G Jung page 298, Para. 509 in The Psychology of the Transference, The Practice of Psychotherapy, Volume 16, 2nd Edition, 1966, Bollingen Series, Princeton University Press

[9] Flying Saucers- A Modern Myth of Things Seen in the Sky page 307, Civilization in Transition, Volume 10, C G Jung, Routledge and Kegan Paul 1964