The Architecture of Psychoanalysis

How do external, material environments and the inner world of emotion, memory and imagination influence each other? In Architecture and Psychoanalysis, Jane Rendell explores how architectural space registers in psychoanalysis. Building on the spatial writing methods employed in her previous works, Art and Architecture and Site-Writing, Rendell develops several different strands of enquiry – each with a distinctive ‘voice’ – interweaving them throughout the structure of the book.

Addressing the concept of architecture as ‘social condenser’ (a Russian constructivist notion that connects material space and community relations), Architecture and Psychoanalysis traces this idea’s progress from the Narkomfin Communal House in Moscow (1928-29), to Le Corbusier’s Unité d’Habitation in Marseilles (1947-52), to the Alton West Estate in London (1954-58); showing how interior and exterior meet in both psychoanalysis and architectural practice. It investigates both the inherently spatial vocabulary of psychoanalysis and ideas around the physical ‘setting’ of the psychoanalytic encounter, with reference to Sigmund Freud, D.W. Winnicott and André Green. Models of psychoanalysis as a ‘transitional’ and ‘overlapping’ intersubjective space are shown to offer new approaches for understanding how subjects, objects and physical locations relate in architectural research and practice.

Rendell does not merely use psychoanalysis as a theoretical tool for interpreting architecture; instead, she demonstrates how understanding psychic processes can help to enrich other professional and creative endeavours. Illuminating a novel field of interdisciplinary enquiry, this innovative, evocative book breathes fresh life into notions of social space.

Review by for Psychoanalysis and History

Discussion with Jonathan Green on Blue Print for Living, ABC Australia, 15 May 2020.


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