The Power of Architecture to Shape Our Emotions and Behaviors

Insights from Jung, Da Vinci, and Goethe”


The fields of architecture, psychology, and literature may seem unrelated at first glance, but they are actually closely interconnected in ways that are often overlooked. In this blog post, we will delve into the ways in which the work of three influential figures – Carl Jung, Leonardo da Vinci, and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe – has influenced the intersection of these fields and challenged the notion that architecture is simply about creating aesthetically pleasing structures.

Carl Jung, the Swiss psychiatrist and founder of analytical psychology, argued that the unconscious mind has a powerful influence on human behaviour and decision-making. He believed that the human psyche is shaped by archetypes – universal symbols and themes present in the collective unconscious – which manifest themselves in various forms, including architecture. Jung argued that the way we design and use buildings reflects our deepest desires and fears, and can provide insight into the unconscious mind. In other words, architecture is not just a reflection of our conscious selves, but also of our unconscious drives and motivations. This concept of the collective unconscious and the influence of archetypes on human behaviour and decision-making has had a lasting impact on the field of psychology and continues to be widely studied and referenced today.

Carl Jung believes that people are fundamentally predetermined to create. They do this based on primordial images that are found in collective memory. According to Jung, these primordial patterns are found in our unconscious and form the basis of our ideas, beliefs, and behaviours.

In architecture, this thesis can be applied to the way in which people design our buildings and cities. Our architecture often exhibits linear forms that are similar to Plato’s and Euclid’s forms. These forms are often organized according to geometric principles and represent ideal forms that are approximate to what people consider perfect. Such “perfection” is visible only from the micro or macro perspective of nature. The human perspective shows the world as an organic formulation, which, with rare exceptions (Sun, Moon, etc.), has no pure forms.

In short, architecture, as it is currently and as it has been throughout history, is direct testimony to the ideas present in our unconscious and part of our collective memory. These ideas are reflected in the shapes and forms we use in our architecture and tell us a lot about our beliefs, values, and the way we see (or want to see) the world around us.

Leonardo da Vinci, the Renaissance artist and inventor, is perhaps best known for his paintings and drawings, such as the Mona Lisa and The Last Supper, but he was also deeply interested in architecture. In his notebooks, da Vinci explored the psychological effects of different building designs and the ways in which they could be used to manipulate the emotions and behaviours of those who used them. For example, da Vinci believed that circular buildings, with their smooth and continuous curves, created a sense of unity and harmony. He thought that this was because circular shapes lack sharp angles or edges that could create a sense of tension or conflict. Da Vinci also believed that angular buildings, with their sharp corners and edges, could evoke a sense of tension and conflict, possibly because these shapes are often associated with strength and power. This suggests that architecture has the power to shape our emotional and psychological states and that it is not simply a neutral backdrop to our lives. Da Vinci’s work on the psychological effects of different building designs has had a significant impact on the field of architecture and continues to be a source of inspiration and reference for architects today.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, the German writer and statesman, was also interested in the psychological effects of architecture. In his book “Theory of Colors,” Goethe explored the ways in which different colours and light can influence human emotion. He argued that the use of colour in architecture can create a sense of balance and harmony, or conversely, disrupt and disorient. In “Theory of Colors,” Goethe wrote: “Color is a power which directly influences the soul. Colour is the keyboard, the eyes are the hammers, and the soul is the piano with many strings. The artist is the hand that plays, touching one key or another, to cause vibrations in the soul.” This quote illustrates Goethe’s belief in the power of colour to affect the human psyche and highlights the idea that the use of colour in architecture is not just a decorative choice, but has real psychological consequences. Goethe’s work has had a lasting impact on the field of colour theory and is still widely studied and referenced today. Goethe’s contributions to our understanding of the psychological effects of colour in architecture have had a significant impact on the field of literature and continue to be a source of inspiration and reference for writers and designers today.

In conclusion, the work of Jung, da Vinci, and Goethe illustrate the ways in which the fields of architecture, psychology, and literature are interconnected. By understanding the psychological effects of design and colour, architects can create buildings that not only serve practical functions but also have the power to influence the emotions and behaviours of those who use them. This holistic approach to architecture takes into account the various factors that contribute to the overall experience of inhabiting a space and aligns with the belief that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

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