Mneme of Space

Tanja Poppelreuter

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review

    65 Downloads (Pure)


    In 1928 the Austrian Architect and Engineer Franz Löwitsch (1894-1946) published the article “Sensation of Space and Modern Architecture” in Imago, the psychoanalytical journal edited by Sigmund Freud. Although mostly forgotten today, Löwitsch was a prolific writer, critic, and urban planner as well as a designer of stage costumes and sets. His contribution to architectural theory of the 1920s consists of numerous texts.Based on Richard Semon’s theories of Mneme, which Löwitsch connected to psychoanalytical theories, the prevalence of dissimilar sensations of space throughout the stages of the development of western architectural history is presupposed, and Löwitsch offers an explanation of how their symbolic meanings reflected psychological conditions of a particular time and culture.Semon’s notion of Mneme encompassed more than the conventional understanding of memory as a collection of remembered events that occurred in the past. Its scope includes habits, instinctive behaviour and other phenomena that Semon observed and which led him towards the hypothesis of Mneme as a form of inherited memory that connects an organism to its predecessors.Based on Semon’s assumptions Löwitsch concluded that, if some engrams (stimuli that the mind receives through the senses) were inherited, there would have to be some that relate to perceived space.By connecting Semon’s theory with psychoanalytical deliberations that equip the inherited memory of spatial sensations with pleasurable or unpleasurable emotions, Löwitsch furthermore argued that spatial sensations produce spatial concepts, and that the dominating shapes and forms of the architecture of a time therefore reflect the dominance of a particular inherited sensation of space. The unifying psychological make-up of a populace thus leads to spatial concepts that form an architecture which reflects these concepts and contain symbols that possess ‘satisfying powers’ valued by the majority of people of that particular time and place.The probable reasons for the publishers of Imago to have accepted Löwitsch’s paper for publication can be found in Freud’s 1922 essay “Some Remarks on the Unconscious” in which psychoanalytic theory is not only put forward as a discipline that focuses on the investigation of the unconscious as a therapeutic method, but also as a method through which aspects of culture can be researched.But Löwitsch’s theory speaks of more than a mere justification for the usefulness of psychoanalytic theory as a methodology for the humanities. Löwitsch contrasts his findings meticulously with Oswald Spengler’s controversially critiqued book The Decline of the West, Karl Scheffler’s The Spirit of the Gothic and Eckhart von Sydow’s Primitive Art and Psychoanalysis. The discussion of these contemporaneous writings that essentially sought to find the driving forces for the development of styles helps in formulating Löwitsch’s final hypothesis. Here, he proposes the emergence of an ‘energetic space’ in architecture, which is the prevalent sensation of space that he predicts to emerge in the near future. His ultimate aim, however, was not to enter academic discourse but rather to provide a scientifically based explanation with which the impact of space on the inhabitant can be measured, explained and utilized in architectural practice.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationUnknown Host Publication
    PublisherPublished as "Sensations of Space" see entry above
    Number of pages12
    Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 25 Nov 2011
    EventTechnics, Memory and the Architecture of History - University of Tasmania, 25-27 November
    Duration: 25 Nov 2011 → …


    ConferenceTechnics, Memory and the Architecture of History
    Period25/11/11 → …


    Dive into the research topics of 'Mneme of Space'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this