‘Sensation of Space and Modern Architecture’: a psychology of architecture by Franz Löwitsch

Tanja Poppelreuter

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    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. 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 offered an explanation of how their symbolic meanings reflected psychological conditions of a particular time and culture.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.But Löwitsch's theory speaks of more than a mere justification for the usefulness of psychoanalytic theory as a methodology for the humanities. Löwitsch contrasted 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 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 utilised in architectural practice.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)251-272
    JournalThe Journal of Architecture
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 25 Apr 2012


    • Franz Löwitsch
    • Sigmund Freud
    • Psychoanalytic Theory
    • Richard Semon
    • Otto Rank
    • Mneme
    • Memory
    • Oswald Spengler


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