aka The Architecture of Emotion

Emotional Architecture image via Ana M. ManzoMuch has been written about the way architecture affects people’s emotions. But what if we look at it the other way? What about the way our emotions affect our designs?

On countless occasions we have heard (or said) the phrase “creative block.” How many of those times has it actually been associated with an “emotional block?”

It takes a lot of courage to open our hearts and express to the world how we feel at any given time, especially if the emotions that invade us, at that particular time, are negative. Some, those who dare, express themselves by crying, screaming, laughing, talking.  But there are those too, who display emotion through creative expression (sometimes even unconsciously).

This theory has been discussed countless times from the point of view of art. Architecture is an artistic profession. Creativity one of, if not the most important ingredient. It is logical to think that it too could be affected by our emotions. It is even possible, if we analyze architectural movements in history, we would find clues suggesting that these movements were caused by the various situations (emotion-provoking) happening at the given time.

What could an architect who feels relaxed create?

large window lit modern space white table image via Ana M. Manzo

Or sad?

Louis Kahn image via Ana M. Manzo

Or happy?

Architecture Building of Youth Center and Sports by KOZ Architects in France image via Ana M. Manzo


Reversible Apartments image via Ana M. Manzo

Or angry?

Building Material Composition 300x200 image via Ana M. Manzo

What about one who feels like dancing?


Subjective experience and the emotions of people are directly related to the way they think creatively. This is a fact. So, why not ask how Frank Lloyd Wright felt when he designed Fallingwater?

Fallingwater Frank Lloyd Wright image via Ana M. Manzo

or Mies van der Rohe when he created the Barcelona Pavilion?

Mies van der Rohe the Barcelona Pavilion image via Ana M. Manzo

or Frank Gehry when he made the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao?

Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao by Frank Gehry image via Ana M. Manzo

Perhaps these architects had followed a consistent design line from start to finish, but what about those who have surprised us with an architectural work that is unrelated to the rest of the work done in his/her career?

I remember feeling an enormous sense of anxiety when after having learned “five points towards a new architecture,” formulated by Le Corbusier (and then reciting them as if they were unequivocal laws), I discovered that he toward the end of his career thought EVERYTHING he had taught was wrong. And he created the Notre Dame du Haut Chapel (Ronchamp, France) to prove it. In this project he breaks with his principles of standardization and geometric style, to give rise to a response with enormous plastic freedom that also responds to the environment.

Le Corbusier. Villa Savoye. Poissy, Paris, Francia image via Ana M. Manzo

Notre Dame du Haut Chapel, Ronchamp, France image via Ana M. Manzo

The Architect’s Emotion

It is true that the experience gained over the years is one of the main factors influencing the evolution of an architect (and of any person of any profession for that matter), but I think, beyond that, emotions do a lot for any artist.

Then, it would be interesting to analyze in parallel the life and architectural work of this great master. I may be wrong, and this could be just some random thought from a romantic person, but is it possible that these changes have been produced from more than just experience and a sudden awakening to a new architectural reality?

Perhaps we do not want to admit that what we feel affects or influences our creations. We prefer to think that what we do is inspired solely by external agents . . . by emotions of others (the client), by the environment or by specific situations. Perhaps we dare not admit it, because we feel that this could weaken the seriousness of what we do.

But that is the easy way. I think we could see it as something positive and enriching, something that, if we learn to control it (reinforcing the positive emotions and limiting the negative ones), would be able to give a new level of emotionality to our buildings.

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I would like to believe that this project was done by someone in control of his emotions….


Note from the hosts:  Wow . . . a beautiful essay in words and pictures.  We’d like to thank the lovely and talented Ana M. Manzo for our first international submission.  She is an architect living and working in Venezuela, on Twitter as @anammanzo. She blogs at The Place of Dreams: http://anammanzo.wordpress.com/. Many thanks Ana! jb