Archive for the 'psychoanalysis & architecture' Category



The way to find out what you are really living for is to look at your nightmares.

Alfred Adler


hysterical system


The monetary signifier is one of semblance, which rests on social conventions. the financial universe is an architecture made of fictions and its keystone is what Lacan called a “subject supposed to know”, to know why and how. Who plays this part? The concert of authorities, from where sometimes a voice is detached, Alan Greenspan, for example, in his time. The financial players base their behaviour on this. The fictional and hyper-reflexive unit hold by “belief” in the authorities, i.e. through the transference to the subject supposed to know. If this subject falters, there is a crisis, a falling apart of the foundations, which of course involves effects of panic. However, the financial subject supposed to know was already quite subdued because of deregulation. And this happened because the financial world believed itself, in its infatuated delusion, to be able to work things out without the function of the subject supposed to know. Firstly, the real state assets become waste. Secondly, gradually shit permeates everything. Thirdly, there is a gigantic negative transfer vis-à-vis the authorities; the electric shock of the Paulson/Bernanke plan angers the public: the crisis is one of trust; and it will last till the subject supposed to know is reconstructed. This will come in the long term by way of a new set of Bretton Woods accords, a council enjoined to speak the truth about the truth.

Jacques-Alain Miller The Financial Crisis IN: Slavoj Zizek First As Tragedy, Then As Farce

mirrored city


I am picturing a sprawling metropolis with glass and steel buildings that reach to the sky, reflect it, reflect each other and reflect you – a city filled with people steeped in their own image who rush about with overdone make-up on and who are cloaked in gold, pearls, and fine leather, while in the next street over, heaps of filth abound and drugs accompany the sleep or the fury of the local outcasts. This city could be New York; it could be any future metropolis, even your own. What might one do in such a city? Nothing but buy and sell goods and images, which amounts to the same thing, since they are both dull, shallow symbols. Those who can or wish to preserve a lifestyle that downplays opulence as well as misery will need to create a space for an ‘inner zone’ – a secret garden, an intimate quarter, or more simply and ambitiously, a psychic life.

Julia Kristeva Les Nouvelles Maladies de l’ame (trans. In Times Like These, Who Needs Psychoanalysts?)



Francesca Woodman Self Deceit # 1



Cindy Sherman Untitled Film Still no.14. 1978



Cristina Iglesias Untitled (1993-97)

duo (ii)


Reality (ii)


Reality has always been a bit of a red herring in architecture. For all its bricks and mortar (here the philosopher raps on the wall to demonstrate its solidity, as if this had anything to do with reality), architecture is primarily concerned with housing the subject in its fantasies.


Lorens Holm Brunelleschi, Lacan, Le Corbusier; architecture, space and the construction of subjectivity

construction & analysis


Having discredited the metaphor […] in “Constructions in Analysis,” for example, Freud insists on the importance of the term construction over the term interpretation. But what precisely is left of this word after it is disassociated from buildings? Or rather, what was gained by the association with buildings in the first place? The metaphor loses no rhetorical force despite its apparent implausibility. Freud’s attempt to restrain the metaphor and its endless return, even within that attempt, suggests that it does not simply “stand for” what it appears to represent, that at some level an ambivalence between decoration and structure is part of the collective associations that the canonic image of architecture invokes, even while being employed to resist precisely such an ambivalence.

After all, psychoanalytic theory’s relationship with architecture must, at a certain point, be subjected to psychoanalysis. Freud repeatedly identifies the traditional construction of theory with the way in which “secondary revision” in the dream work (like the delusions of the first theories of the child) “fills in the gaps” to construct a smooth dissimulating facade masking the traumatic observations of particular gaps in the world. Psychoanalysis claims to embrace all such gaps, flaws, errors, and slips in an unstable architecture that is itself congenitally flawed and in which the roles of structure and decorative surface often reverse. But this self-description is itself a facade.

Just as the facade of the dream and the joke can employ irrationality to disguise rationality, the explicit destabilisation of the canonic image of architecture found throughout Freud’s writing may disguise its claims to high theoretical status, claims that can only be made by preserving that very image. Just as the inherent but repressed instability of high theoretical structures has been identified by post-structuralist readings of the canonic texts, the traditional architectonic pretensions of high theory can be found within the apparently unstable architecture of psychoanalytic texts. In both cases the architectural metaphor is both indispensable and fickle, turning over and over and forever slipping sideways. The classical opposition between stable architecture and mobile ornament is, at the very least, doubly unstable.

This rhetorical slippage organizes, for example, Freud’s use of the term construction, which ostensibly refers to a formation with a particular history, something assembled in a certain way that could have been built differently, but also exploits its associations with the sense of trans-historical immutable order sustained by the image of a building conforming to certain precultural structural principles like gravity. The psyche may be a historical artefact but its different possibilities depend on, and are limited by, certain fundamental structural principles. This strategic ambivalence can be traced throughout contemporary critical discourse where the word construction has acquired an extraordinary role. […]

If fetishes only exist in theory, architecture is the theoretical fetish, the fetish of theory. As the traditional paradigm throughout the Western theoretical tradition of ideas embedded in material, it stands for theory.

Mark Wigley Theoretical Slippage: The Architecture of the Fetish

silence (iii)


My eternal fear is that if, for a brief moment, I stopped talking – you know – the whole spectacular appearance would disintegrate; people would think there is nobody and nothing there. And this is my fear: as if I am nothing, who pretends all the time to be somebody, and has to be hyperactive all the time just to fascinate people enough so that they don’t notice that there is nothing.

Slavoj Žižek in Žižek!, 2006. Film: Directed by Astra Taylor. 37:40

Koolhaas and his world


The first thing to confront you upon entering the OMA Progress exhibition at the Barbican is the following text of the acclaimed science-fiction writer, Philip K. Dick in huge font:

It is my job to create universes, as the basis of one novel after another. And I have to build them in such a way that they do not fall about two days later. Or at least that is what my editors hope. However, I will reveal a secret to you: I like to build universes which do fall apart. I like to see them come unglued, and I like to see how the characters in the novels cope with this problem. I have a secret love of chaos. There should be more of it.  Do not believe – and I am dead serious when I say this – do not assume that order and stability are always good, in a society or a universe. The old, the ossified, must always give way to new life and the birth of new things. Before the new things can be born the old must perish. This is a dangerous realization, because it tells us that we must eventually part with much of what is familiar to us. And that hurts. But that is part of the script of life. Unless we can psychologically accommodate change, we ourselves begin to die, inwardly. What I am saying is that objects, customs, habits, and ways of life must perish so that authentic human being can live. And it is the authentic human being who matters most, the viable, elastic organism which can bounce back, absorb, and deal with the new.

Philip K. Dick How to build a universe that doesn’t fall apart two days later, 1978

More insight may be gained into the workings of Koolhaas’ mind by listening to his ‘conversation’ with Peter Eisenman at the Canadian Centre for Architecture earlier this year. They discuss contemporaneous issues and how they contribute to the problems and answers. What is particularly fascinating is the manner in which Koolhaas delivers his speech – if you don’t watch the video, but rather only listen to the soundtrack, then you might be forgiven for thinking that these are the ramblings or trains of thought of a neurotic in an analysts chair.

Finally, also in the Barbican exhibition, there is a gallery of ‘influences’ that currently excite the OMA/ AMO studios. These are variously images, texts, collages etc. The following can only be partially tongue-in-cheek:


If the ‘war on terror’ made us more dogmatic atheists, did the other side maybe win after all? Maybe the way to address aberrant Evangelism or Islamo-whatever would be to imagine “good” religions and beliefs, instead of spending energy in proving that there is no God. I would like to believe that AMO could be part of a religious effort, an OMA temple, or monastery? Or short of that, an earnest pulpit?



Renzo Piano  The Shard

On approaching the soon-to-be completed ‘shard’, two discourses sprung to mind.


Western architecture is, by its very nature, a phallocentric discourse: containing, ordering, and representing through firmness, commodity, and beauty; consisting of orders, entablature, and architrave; base, shaft, and capital; nave, choir and apse; father, son, and spirit, world without end. Amen.

In the Garden of Eden there was no architecture. The necessity for architecture arose with the ordination of sin and shame, with dirty bodies. The fig leaf was a natural first impulse toward architecture, accustomed as it was to shading its vulvate fruit, its trunk and roots a complex woven construction of undulating forms. Was it the fig tree that was hacked up to build the primitive hut (that precursor of classical architecture)?

Jennifer Bloomer Big Jugs. In: The Princeton Architectural Journal, Volume 4 Fetish


However, the Shard also may be considered to embody the symptoms of a (not-unrelated) societal phenomena:

What induces one man to use false weights, another to set his house on fire after having insured it for more than its value, while three-fourths of our upper classes indulge in legalised fraud … what gives rise to all this? It is not real want – for their existence is by no means precarious. … but they are urged on day and night by a terrible impatience at seeing their wealth pile up so slowly, and by an equally terrible longing and love for these heaps of gold … What once was done “for the love of God” is now done for the love of money. i.e. for the love of that which at present affords us the highest feeling of power and a good conscience.

Friedrich Nietzsche The Dawn of Day