The Freud Museum

Events Archive

14 July 2012
9.30am - 5pm


Architecture, Art and Psychoanalysis

There are podcasts available for this event on our iTunes page.


This conference brings together practitioners and theorists from different fields to think about the emotional experience of architecture and architectural spaces. In home, theatre, church, museum, or transformations of space in contemporary art, architecture and mental space interact in ways that indicate the role of  unconscious process in the built environment.


Projection, Space and Architecture
Mark Cousins (abstract)

Dramatic Architecture: The design of Hampstead and Royal Shakespeare Theatres
Rab Bennetts  (abstract)

Mediating Mind Space: Alvar Aalto and an ‘other’ way of making architecture
Sarah Menin  (abstract)

In Space Between: Photography, Memory and Construction
Yamini Nayar  (abstract)

The Homes of Childhood : Spaces of Love, Dread, and Play
Salman Akhtar  (abstract)


Mark Cousins is a British cultural critic and architectural theorist. He is the Director of General Studies and Head of the Graduate Program in Histories and Theories at the Architectural Association, London. He is also Visiting Professor of Architecture at Columbia University, New York. He co-founded the London Consortium along with Paul Hirst, Colin MacCabe, and Richard Humphreys. He is the author of, among other things, a book on Michel Foucault, co-written with Athar Hussain (London: Macmillan, 1984).

Salman Akhtar was born in India and completed his medical and psychiatric education there. Upon arriving in the USA in 1973, he repeated his psychiatric training at the University of Virginia School of Medicine, and then obtained psychoanalytic training from the Philadelphia Psychoanalytic Institute. Currently, he is Professor of Psychiatry at Jefferson Medical College and a training and supervising analyst at the Psychoanalytic Center of Philadelphia. His more than 300 publications include nine books: Broken Structures; Quest for Answers; Inner Torment; Immigration and Identity; New Clinical Realms; Objects of Our Desire; Regarding Others; Turning Points in Dynamic Psychotherapy; and The Damaged Core, as well as twenty-six edited or co-edited volumes in psychiatry, psychoanalysis and cultural psychology. He is also a Scholar-in-Residence at the Inter-Act Theatre Company in Philadelphia. An accomplished poet himself, his latest publication is Between Hours (Karnac 2012), a collection of poems by fellow-psychoanalysts. He says of this project: “While accommodating playfulness and even a bit of audacity, both psychoanalysis and poetry deeply respect formality of structure, nuance of affect, and the multifaceted resonance of the spoken word.... To put it bluntly, psychoanalysis is two-person poetry and poetry one-person psychoanalysis.”

Rab Bennetts is the Director of Bennetts Associates Architects which he founded with his wife Denise in 1987. The firm, based in London and Edinburgh, has been responsible for many pioneering projects such as the PowerGen Headquarters, Wessex Water Operations Centre, Hampstead Theatre, Edinburgh University’s Informatics Forum, Jubilee Library in Brighton and the New Street Square development in the City of London. Recent notable commissions include the £100 million transformation of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, the Humanities Faculties and Library for Oxford University and hotels in London and Amsterdam. The firm is also particularly well known for its work on environmental sustainability. The practice has won more than 120 awards and has been shortlisted for the Stirling Prize several times. The firm won the UK Architect of the Year award in 2006 and 2011.

Rab leads the design direction of Bennetts Associates and is personally involved in many of the firm’s projects. He is also extensively involved in outside bodies and is a Board member of the UK Green Building Council, a Director of Sadler’s Wells Theatre and a Trustee of the Design Council. He has in the past chaired the RIBA’s Competitions Committee, advised the Government on sustainability policy and sat on Islington’s Planning Committee as an expert adviser. He has lectured extensively and has contributed to numerous publications and conferences. Rab was awarded the OBE for services to architecture in 2003 and Sustainability Leader of the Year in 2009 at the Building/UK-GBC Sustainability Awards.

Dr Sarah Menin is an independent architectural academic, having been Reader in Architectural History and Theory at Newcastle University, where she is now a Visiting Fellow. Her research examines the role of the psyche in the architectural sphere, exploring its relation to both nature’s growth process and the creative imagination. Her research has been disseminated widely in academic journals, and she has given keynote presentations at international conferences. Her books include Nature and Space: Aalto and Le Corbusier (with Flora Samuel), Constructing Place: Mind and Matter, and An Architecture of Invitation: Colin St John Wilson (with Stephen Kite). She continues to practise architecture.

Yamini Nayar is an internationally recognised artist living in New York. She is currently a Workspace Artist-in-Residence with the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council and a Visiting Artist Scholar at New York University's Steinhardt School of Art. Prior to these appointments she was resident in 2010 at the Center for Photography at Woodstock and was the Lightborne artist-in-residence at the Art Academy of Cincinnati. She has participated in exhibitions and publications internationally, including the Saatchi Museum in London, Indian Art Summit, Art Basel in Switzerland, Sharjah Biennial and Unfixed: Postcolonial Perspectives in Photography and Contemporary Art, Amsterdam. She has had recent solo exhibitions with Thomas Erben, NY and Amrita Jhaveri, Mumbai. Reviews include Artforum, Art in America, ArtPapers, Art India, Vogue India and the New Yorker. Nayar's upcoming exhibitions include the DeCordova Sculpture Museum, Massachusetts and the Queensland Art Gallery in Australia. Collections include the Saatchi Museum, US Arts in Embassies, Cincinnati Art Museum, Queens Museum, Queensland Art Gallery in Brisbane and the Hiscox Collection. Nayar received an MFA from the School of Visual Arts and a BFA from the Rhode Island School of Design.


Architecture, at least in its western form since the Renaissance, has been thought of as an art of projection. That is why drawing is thought to be central to architecture as the mediation between an 'idea' and an object in space. This is where psychoanalysis and its repetoire of concepts of projection and of introjection are particularly relevant. This paper seeks to outline the way in which psychoanalysis can understand space and spatial projection.

Rab Bennetts’ talk will examine the lengthy gestation of the Hampstead Theatre project and the way in which the architect’s role extended from urban planning to detailed design, resulting in a compact theatre that has been praised by audiences and actors alike. Rab will then describe how this led to the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford Upon Avon, working on a brief to transform a listed but flawed existing building. In particular, the acclaimed 1000-seat auditorium was to be “something that Shakespeare might recognise”. Whilst the two theatres are very different, they emerged from the same craft-like, collaborative design process. The paper highlights the conflict between iconic (ie; dramatic) architecture and the architecture of theatres that accentuates the drama – before, during and after the performance.

Sarah Menin's paper will examine the role of the psyche in the creation of architecture through the example of Finnish architect Alvar Aalto – a modernist who sought to humanise architecture at a time when his colleagues around the world were generally inspired by the machine rather than the subtle needs of ‘little man’, as Aalto put it. The paper will explore Aalto’s creative process and the role of psyche in this, and will address the way in which he specifically sought to address ‘little man – his comedy and tragedy – both’.

Yamini Nayar's photographs stem from a deep interest in architectural space, lived experience and memory. Her large scale images are made by documenting sculptural installations built in her studio on tabletops from raw and found building materials and collected image fragments. Drawing on historical photos and personal narrative, her images explore the tensions between sculpture and photography, as the image develops over time and accumulates its own narrative logic, physicality and traces of construction and erasure. Once recorded, the sculpture is disassembled and discarded. Only the photograph remains, as a document, object and entry point into a moment held together for the lens.

The emotional biography of our childhood homes goes beyond the architectural envelopes they provide for our mentalized and un-mentalized erotic, hostile, tender, civic, and spiritual aspirations. Internalized, their corridors, closets, and cloisters function as life-long psychic retreats and springboards for mental rejuvenation. Driven by naive hope, we visit them in actuality and come back wounded. But then the plump nursemaid of nostalgia leads us back to those very streets and lampposts and we return with a poem in our hands. As we grow old, life's intoxication gradually changes into tipsy indifference, but arriving at our eternal resting place we are unexpectedly clear-eyed. We see that we have ended up where we started from. Our childhood homes might have been lost but childhood itself has turned out to be our home. Loyally and forever. 

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