The psychology of architects

Author: School of Architecture

On October 31, the School of Architecture hosted a conference titled “Rivaling Desires: The Mimetic Psychology of Architects.” With opening remarks by Dean Michael Lykoudis, the conference - organized by Professor Samir Younés - featured lectures by renowned psychologist James Hillman, celebrated architect Léon Krier, School of Architecture professor Samir Younés and Yale professor of architectural ornamentation Kevin Bloomer. Architecture faculty member Carroll William Westfall moderated the discussion following the presentations on mimetic psychology and architecture.

Based in part on the work of René Girard, the conference addressed the complicated phenomenon of mimetic rivalry with relation to architects and architectural practice. While imitation and influence are well-studied in children’s development, less attention has been paid to the role of imitation, influence, mimesis and rivalry in the aesthetic growth of personality, and more specifically, the personality of the architect. Speakers addressed topics related to the imitative nature of all humans, the sets of influences that shape an architect’s skill and sensibility, and the forces that bring architects into a context of rivalry.

The complexity of architectural influence and imitation has manifested itself in myriad ways---from the evolution of ceilings, to the state of architectural ornamentation, to the paradox of seeking group celebration while striving to outdo reigning masters. Throughout the day, participants discussed how the imitation of preferred masters and forms---natural to artists or architects---is also one of the root causes of their conflicts and rivalries.

A book on the subject, including the lectures offered by speakers, is planned for 2010.