Psychological Technique: Effect, not Intention

Moving on from the psychological mechanisms underlying the thesis, I would now like to concentrate on the method of analysis in relation to what I perceive to be psychological phenomena in the built environment.

Possibly to the annoyance of architects and town planners, the conscious intentions and plans of those who built the Sixties I deal with, are secondary, if not quite irrelevant. The reason is that I am analysing not intention but effect. Looking at effect, rather than intention, is the basic tool of this research. What I am trying to apprehend is not what the architect was knowingly trying to do, but what the effect the building has on the viewer and the inhabitant. I am looking at how, in particular, the building affects how the inhabitants behave and interact. My hunch is that living in Sixties architecture forces them to relive the life of the trenches.

This means that hindsight is a valuable tool. In terms of architecture, we read symptoms of melancholia in buildings by looking at how the inhabitants become forced to live once the buildings have been completed. Can they see their neighbours? Are there many blind corners? Do inhabitants regularly feel hemmed in, claustrophobic? Allied to this are the secondary, almost unnoticed elements of a design. Are directions clear? Are secondary functions, such as relaxation, catered to as well as basic functions such as waste removal? 

This technique is simlar to the psycho-therapeutic practice of overlooking consciously held beliefs, practices or narratives but rather waiting for signs – movements, words, tics – that speak of subconsciously apprehended phenomena. This is the subliminal language of buildings.

In this way, it is possible to understand that walking through a mirror landscape of the trenches in the Sixties should produce the same effect as walking through the original location. In other words, walking through a housing estate produces the same effect as that experienced by a soldier walking through the lines at Ypres, though this is hardly what the architect might have intended.