A link between depression and Architecture??

Jul 6 '07 39 Last Comment
Jul 6, 07 12:44 am

I am researching link between depression and architecture - particularly in the Urban environment.

Psychoanalysis suggests that depressed people lack Hippocampus function which is suggested to aid in spatial memory. Therefore sufferers find it harder to make their way through spaces.

There is also the notion of emotive buildings, such as ruins, or the forgotten - which may heighten the response of the user/observer.

Is there any opinion on this - or any advise of precedents??

Hopefully this theory and body of research will then be used to design a travellers hotel - such as an airport hotel - with an attempt for the building to heighten the depressives experience. Also to make non sufferers more aware of the suffering, and in a sense provide a suggestions on 'what not to design.'

Thanks, Kate (from New Zealand)


Jul 6, 07 5:14 am

Sweetie, are you trying to subvert a project? It sounds like a most negative way to address / inspire depression. Will the hotel offer self-harm classes, drinking alone booths, insomniacs pacing corridors...

Psychoanalysis has nothing to do with hippocampus function. Psychoanalysis is not Psychology.

You are quite right about the depression/spatial funtion link, I assume you have the reference.

The "notion of emotive buildings" sounds more like psychoanalysis.

Google informedesign and search their archives. They are the best source I have found for the intersection between Psychology and Architecture. The likes of journal Environment and Behaviour tend to be so very very dry...

Jul 6, 07 5:20 am

i think nzkatze you should've said "Psychological research suggests..."
Jul 6, 07 5:52 pm

what about the link between depression and architects?

Erin WilliamsErin Williams
Jul 6, 07 5:55 pm

I buy into i.g.l.u.s.'s theory more. And I'm not just being difficult on purpose- I had a bit of a breakdown my thesis semester, and when I went in to the campus mental health center for my appointments, it was totally normal to see another architecture student I recognized in the waiting room bawling their eyes out, filling out the intake form in complete breakdown mode.

Jul 6, 07 5:57 pm

I am a depressed architect

Jul 6, 07 6:17 pm

me too, but only when I was living in NY.
(I too read the title as 'a link between depression and architects'

I think that there are enough depressed people out there that it is just mean to even design a building with that goal.

how about a building to inspire happiness? really.

I broke down while waiting for a routine appointment at the doctor's office once, maybe in 3rd or 4th year, becaue they were behind schedule, and I was freaking out. I guess it wasn't very good for my stress level to think I could hold a full time job throughout arch school. Hm, I don't think SCI_Arc had those counselors, pity.

Jul 6, 07 6:20 pm

we all want to be artist but our art is at the mercy of others (clients, design review boards, engineers, contractors, etc)

depressing to think that our works of art are created by those who would otherwise be picking out strawberries and lettuce

Jul 6, 07 8:52 pm

So for all those depressed architects out there - do you find yourself with a heightened sense of creativity when you are feeling depressed/melancholic??

Such as the likes of Romantic artists and poets?

Jul 6, 07 8:53 pm


Jul 6, 07 8:55 pm

No. But I pick up my guitar.

But I should add that we can point to architecture as the cause, but I am sure that for most it was there before.

Jul 6, 07 9:08 pm

Its likely that not all architects do have depressive bouts - however 1 in 6 males do suffer from depression. Its possible that this figure is higher if a survey was to be done on architects alone.... does make for a bleak future, yet i think - a more creative one (as research suggests)

Jul 6, 07 9:10 pm

(architects whine a lot)

Hope that helps.

Jul 6, 07 9:12 pm

nothing better to do with their time - you think?

Jul 6, 07 9:18 pm

Well, certainly true for some of the people you'll meet here. Ha.

I am sure whining is in every profession. Being on the inside makes it seem incessant.

Jul 6, 07 9:18 pm

To PsyArch - thank you for your advise on the google search

yes i did get the psycho 'analysis and ological' s mixed up. I'm Definitely not an expert in the field. Purely an architecture student - going through the joys of assignments asking for a research field in theory - having to be linked to a design assignment. It is obviously difficult; and i am probably not really going about it the right way, but have had no better ideas yet (to date).

Jul 6, 07 9:33 pm

"ideas to link to this research field" not ideas in general to do a design assignment..... as its too late to research something different!

Erin WilliamsErin Williams
Jul 6, 07 9:46 pm

well, you could say that architecture makes one depressed, or that depressed people are more likely to choose architecture as a profession than mentally healthy people, or that the s&m culture of architecture enhances depressive tendencies thereby giving the impression that a higher rate of architects suffer depression. I'd be more likely to buy one of the latter two than the first.

I actually feel that my depressive bouts stifle my architectural creativity. At these times I am more likely to read or listen to music than to create something.

Jul 6, 07 9:52 pm

To withdraw, and isolate yourself is a pretty common symptom.

Its this symptom that i am interested in with people who walk through the city. do you/they purposely go the long way around to avoid people. are there particular spaces in the city or a building where you will retreat to - to do such reading or listening to music??

Carl Douglas (agfa8x)
Jul 6, 07 10:40 pm

The key question I think is whether you want your architecture to reflect depression, or act as a kind of architectural therapy for depression. From past experience, projects that try to do both end up stranded in the middle. The two strategies are not easily compatible, unless you are very clever. And neither one is necessarily free from problems.

You said above you were more interested in the former strategy: emphasising depressive spatial experience. The risk you run (I think) is that your project becomes a stand-up black comedy routine. I think the 'what not to design' strategy is very very risky. I've seen a lot of projects (in various arch/spatial schools in NZ) go this way, and I'd be pushed to name many successful ones.

I think you need to make a better argument for why we should emphasise depressive spatial experience than just 'awareness'. How might depressive experience be useful or beautiful?

Carl Douglas (agfa8x)
Jul 6, 07 10:41 pm

...just occured to me that the stuff about emotive buildings, and ruins etc, might cue in nicely to various strands of Romantic thought. That could potentially be a strong direction to move in.

Jul 6, 07 11:05 pm

not a therapy building!

So i do want the building to reflect depression. I'm struggling whether this is enough! - to simply reflect it, comment on it, design a depressive space. Maybe it would be better if it was a artist studio - to create these emotive spaces - to conjure up emotion.

For the romantics, in particular Ruskin, Turner, Morris, Shelly etc - who all suffered from melancholy/depression, and some; even insanity. They gained inspiration from the ruins of Venice, the ruins of the mountains, due particularly to the industrial age. Modernity, and the machine, and the lack of detailing and workmanship and their idea of 'beauty'.

The idea of a motel came into it - due to the transient nature or people on working business trips, sailors etc, who stay only 1 night. They appear to be in more of a melancholic state, due to their distance from loved ones etc.

Carl Douglas (agfa8x)
Jul 6, 07 11:52 pm

I think you should make a clear distinction between depression, melancholy, and sadness. For the Romantics, melancholy was an important strategy for engaging with the world.

Erin WilliamsErin Williams
Jul 7, 07 12:02 am
not a therapy building!

So i do want the building to reflect depression. I'm struggling whether this is enough! - to simply reflect it, comment on it, design a depressive space

So you think that architecture should make the world a WORSE place? WTF? My gut reaction to that statement is that you don't have any idea how bad depression is, because if you did there's no way you would even contemplate the possibility of something like this. Is your goal to make a building that becomes the suicide capitol of the world? Or just to torture people?

Please, do some research on what depression is actually like. Instead of hanging out on an architecture board talking about it, find a board full of depressed people and lurk. Talk to phsychologists, phsychiatrists, and social workers about what depression is like for their clients. Because to someone who's experienced, what you're talking about sounds dangerous and harmful to society.

Jul 7, 07 12:03 am

I agree about needing to distinguish between the above. However i have been researching all three, as the material relating to architecture has been thin. I focused initially on the Romantic Period. Then on memorials and sadness. And more recently on spatial memory - as a progression through to contemporary literature. Choosing which one will be rich enough to base a final year project on is the most difficult thing.

Jul 7, 07 12:09 am

ok rationalist. the whole reason why i am researching this is because i have do have a clue about depression. through experience not just myself, but close family members.
So through my research, i have discovered what makes people depressed in the architecture environment. Now... due to the requirements of my course i have to translate this through to a designed building... which is why i am in here... is to see if anyone out there can give me advice on what type of building it could be.

p.s. if you are so heavily affected by depression, maybe you should try being a little more positive, and go and sit in the sunshine somewhere

vado retro
Jul 7, 07 12:18 am

The accounts of Borromini's last illness indicate that he suffered from a nervous complaint and had to be watched night and day. In the August heat of 1667 he stabbed himself with his own sword while his servant's attention was distracted.

Jul 7, 07 12:25 am

the question is.... How does this make you feel?

its truly beautiful isn't it. Thankyou

Carl Douglas (agfa8x)
Jul 7, 07 2:47 am

see, kate, that's the problem. An architecture that expresses an illness risks being offensive or else black humour.

for a D10 proposal, you want to be able to make a clearer argument about the value of your proposal for architecture. My feeling is that melancholy may be a better keyword than depression. A consideration of depressive spaces could still be a part of your project, of course.

A motel is certainly a good programme for addressing melancholy. (If you're at AU, then talk to Sarah - she did a project on motels not so long ago, and wrote a paper on them). You could look up De Quincey's 'English Mail Coach' - he describes a (rather opium-addled) experience of travelling by coach and stopping at various resting places on the way. He would tie into your Romantic interest nicely.

Erin WilliamsErin Williams
Jul 7, 07 2:40 pm

nzkate, actually I am rarely affected by depression, but am highly aware that my mild instances are nothing compared to what others experience. So the first thing that comes to my mind when you talk about creating a piece of architecture that enhances depression, is that people are going to kill themselves in it, in part because of what you've done. If truly successful at the objective, it could be the space that drives people over the edge, and I just can't see why you would want to do that unless you're pretty sick in a different way.

Of course, if as agfa8x suggests, you are not actually talking about depression but about something milder, it would be important to be very clear on that to avoid reactions like mine and tumbleweed's.

vado retro
Jul 7, 07 4:27 pm

true depression has nothing to do wiith physical space or place.

Jul 7, 07 7:19 pm

Thank-you all for your comments, they have definitely helped to clear up major issues i had in my initial statement which i would have gotten pounded on in the critique!

I will definitely be sticking to melancholic spaces/emotive spaces. Looking at the likes of Boromini, Eisenman, Maya Lin, Libeskind. As to the outcome - still unsure at this point, i think a melancholic sailors inn fits. in a very melancholic/ruined/neglected part of the city.

Fred ScharmenFred Scharmen
Jul 7, 07 7:23 pm

Carl Douglas (agfa8x)
Jul 7, 07 9:23 pm

Sounds like a good reframing of your project, kate. I think defining your terms very carefully will be crucial.

Jul 7, 07 9:56 pm

Thanks for the drurer (durer?) image - it was pretty much where i started this process. I did however struggle to find any real critique of it from the artists point of view.

Carl Douglas (agfa8x)
Jul 7, 07 10:47 pm

Erwin Panofsky wrote some good critical analysis of that image. I think the book's just called Albrecht Dürer.

Jul 7, 07 11:20 pm

cool, thanks. I'm actually in Wellington. Would be possible to get 'Sarah's' email address or something to contact her about the hotel research?

David CuthbertDavid Cuthbert
Jul 8, 07 2:41 pm

can we see the profile that prooves this. How many people were determined to have this problem?

Jul 8, 07 5:28 pm

proves which sorry?

Jul 8, 07 11:50 pm

Clipped from here

Indeed, an anonymous tenant of the tower's interior called it, in Metropolis magazine, "a weird, dystopian U-boat designed by Fritz Lang on antidepressants."

Talking about the Marketsite tower (biggest advertising video screen?)

Apart from the above, and mention of the skyscraper index the article isn't really worth reading.

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