Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Psychiatry & Architecture

This is the first in a series of posts in which I'd like to discuss figurative or literal comparisons and overlaps between psychiatry and other fields of study. 

Architecture could be considered a science and an art--a field with many technical elements, but with an over-riding importance given to esthetics, expressiveness, and community relationships.

Ideas in psychiatry could be considered "architectural" in the sense that it is important to have an overall sense of a plan, with a clear sense of purpose.  Even with good technical skills (e.g. to relieve a symptom),  work in psychiatry, or in life progress, may be unsatisfying if there is no attendance to the larger sense of purpose in the life's structure.  Part of the purpose is "esthetic," but part has to do with identity, interaction with community, originality, and expressiveness.  This is similar to the architectural considerations involved in planning and developing a new physical structure. 

As in architecture, many very good ideas could be generated to develop one's life, but the ideas must also be technically sound, and supported by good engineering.  Many life plans have dangerous weaknesses in the foundation, so to speak, or may be hindered by untreated symptoms.  So, a sound architectural plan in psychiatry or in life management must include both esthetic or artistic elements, as well as good structural support.  


Anonymous said...

On a non-metaphorical level, one could also discuss the influence of architecture on psychology – a field known as environmental psychology. A favourite building may elicit feelings of joy while a decrepit one feelings of loss, etc.. Certain details of architectural design (e.g. colour, light, temperature) can also influence a person’s moods. The way one interacts with their environment, whether they find it pleasing or distressing, may also provide insight into how they approach other life situations and psychiatric problems. Architecture also has a relationship with cognition from mathematical study to visual design and interpretation.

GK said...

Yes, what a great comment.
I think of a slight tangent related to your comment-- I do find some decrepit structures pleasing: for example, if you ever drive across the prairies, it is interesting to look at weathered old barns and shacks near the highway; these can evoke feelings of sadness or a sense of loss, but also of appreciation and curiosity about the past, appreciation of the character of old or run-down things, even if they are past their state of obvious "usefulness", of the power of nature to reclaim or sculpt any structure, or of amusement to think of how or why it was built in the first place.