No Credit Check Payday Loans

Pharmacology

JoomlaWatch Agent

Visitors hit counter, stats, email report, location on a map, SEO for Joomla, Wordpress, Drupal, Magento and Prestashop

JoomlaWatch Users

JoomlaWatch Visitors



54.1%United States United States
11.3%United Kingdom United Kingdom
5.9%Australia Australia
5.7%Canada Canada
3.3%Philippines Philippines
2.2%Kuwait Kuwait
2%India India
1.6%Germany Germany
1.5%Netherlands Netherlands
1%France France

Today: 279
Yesterday: 418
This Week: 697
Last Week: 2003
This Month: 6512
Last Month: 5396
Total: 24021


LSD AND ARCHITECTURAL DESIGN PDF Print E-mail
Written by Kiyo Izumi   
Tuesday, 01 March 2011 00:00

LSD AND ARCHITECTURAL DESIGN

KIY0 IZUMI  

LSD was used to help me, as an architect, while designing facilities for the care and treatment of the mentally ill. The object was to understand some of the experiences and problems of the mentally ill, so these problems could be considered in the building design. My personal notes following each LSD experience, recorded discussions, and subsequent reexamination of the events are the source material for this paper. In one sense, the following discussion may be premature, as I have subsequently had no LSD experience in the surroundings that were designed, in order to test the design solutions.

The circumstances and events that led to my series of LSD experiences started in 1954. At this time, Dr. Griffith McKerracher asked me to prepare architectural studies putting into effect the recommendations of a report by Dr. Paul Hann of Pennsylvania on the existing Saskatchewan Hospital at Weyburn, Saskatchewan.1 The problem was what to do with this existing psychiatric hospital, which had been built in 1921 and had been improved very little during its lifetime. Meanwhile, the Saskatchewan Plan, a regional psychiatric community hospital program, was being developed by the Psychiatric Services Branch of the Provincial Department of Public Health, under the direction of Dr. F. S. Lawson. This plan envisaged a number of small psychiatric centers throughout the province, related to regional general hospitals (Lawson, 1957).

The usual survey of literature was undertaken, and existing hospitals were studied, particularly the few recent ones, but it was apparent that very little information was available. 'While the psychiatric and related programs were being detailed, we attempted to establish the premises and principles of architectural design that would be applicable to the renovation of the existing hospital and also to the construction of a new hospital. There were many periods of intense discussion with all concerned, particularly with the therapy staff and Dr. Humphry Osmond, Superintendent of the Saskatchewan Hospital at Weyburn. Dr. Osmond prepared notes on the functions of a psychiatric ward, describing the patients' disabilities and setting out general principles for design related to the patients' needs. He contended that buildings exhibit general qualities of either "sociofugality" or "sociopetality," the former preventing or discouraging the formation of stable human relationships and the latter encouraging, fostering, and even enforcing them. Using Dr. Osmond's notes as a basis for design, an architectural counterpart was developed that recognized three levels of human association: the personal association, when a person is by himself; relatively intimate association with a small number of people; and association with a large group. The architectural solution was eventually resolved into a semicircle, with small "retreats" on the periphery, spaces for large group activity in the center, and, in the , intermediate area, spaces for small groups. The design concept, which evolved from initial study and research, was called the "sociopetal" concept (Osmond, 1957a; Izumi, 1957; Izumi, 1958).

Despite the progress we had made, many of the significant and more detailed psychiatric considerations and their architectural counterparts still eluded me. Through a grant from the Commonwealth Fund in New York, Dr. Humphry Osmond, psychiatrist, Dr. Robert Sommer, psychologist, Francis Huxley, social anthropologist, and myself as the architect, formed a research team to determine what architectural elements might have psychiatric significance.

At the same time, Dr. Osmond and Dr. Abram Hoffer, Director of Psychiatric Research at the University of Saskatchewan, had been experimenting with a number of what are now known as the "psychedelic" drugs, including LSD. These drugs were then called "psychotomimetics" or "hallucinogens" because of the similarity of some of the perceptual experiences they induced to naturally occurring experiences of the mentally ill. As I was still having difficulty comprehending "secondhand" the perceptions of my psychological, sociological, anthropological, and psychiatric colleagues, who explained in their own terms the problems of their patients, it was suggested that I might benefit from an LSD experience. Although the psychiatric and architectural programs had developed to a point where I was able to appreciate the nature and scope of what the psychiatric services were attempting to do, I still was unable to grasp the real and significant problems of a mentally ill individual as related to a building environment.

LSD Experiences

My first LSD experience was conducted at my home under the guidance of Francis Huxley and Dr. Duncan Blewett, a psychologist who had had considerable experience with LSD. As the intention was just to introduce me to the experience, no attempt was made to structure the situation to relate to the problem of designing facilities for the mentally ill. It was thought that I should "enjoy" the experience. My wife was also to participate, but she had some difficulty because she became nauseated quite quickly and vomited. As a result, her LSD experience was brief and slightly unpleasant, although she did experience some of the perceptual phenomena discussed below.

After an initial reaction of "tightness," not unlike the involuntary muscle contraction one experiences on plunging into cold water, I became aware of how acute my perception was. In fact, it appeared that I was freed completely from a partial deafness of my left ear as well as from my acute astigmatism. Briefly, the perceptual highlights of my first LSD experience were:

1. I was able to read, without my glasses, the titles of books on my library shelves, which were about fifteen feet away.

2. I could hear clearly, through a closed door, the sound of our dogs' toenails tapping the floor, as the pair of chihuahuas moved in the service areas of our house, which were some thirty feet away.

3. I experienced in a most intense form vivid color and texture, not only through the appropriate senses but also through the interactions of different senses. In fact, I heard colors, smelled colors, saw sound and texture in a form that seemed almost a direct feeling of tactility with my eyeball or optic nerve. In short, I was experiencing an unusual and extensive range of perceptual phenomena simultaneously. I had never had such experiences, although I was aware that they could occur.

4. I found myself unable to distinguish between space and time. I had the feeling of being suspended in time, of being completely "immobile," and yet my increased awareness of "happening" did not appear contradictory, but more real. When I walked across the room, time moved with me. When I stopped, time also stopped. When I backed up to my original position, time also seemed to return to its original position, although the time "consumed" was also present. Apparently, the sense of time as developed from assimilation of physical time, which is evolved from the arbitrary division into units of the daily rotation of the earth, has little relevance to the kind of perceived time that may occur in dreams or, as in this case, be induced by LSD. I do not know how these kinds of time are related.

During the entire period, I had to lie down intermittently and turn my thoughts "inward" to experience the infinite variety of visual scenes, which were accentuated by the music that Francis Huxley turned on. When he recited poetry or talked of his family, I became part of the poetry or the personalities he described.

At one point a friend dropped in and started to eat a piece of chicken that had been placed on the table for me. He seemed to consume the chicken instantly, and yet took an infinitely long time to eat it. It seemed to me that there was no end and no beginning, that he started to eat even before he had picked up the chicken and continued to eat after he put it down.

Some ballet music by Offenbach carried me to heights of the perception of sound in a total sense that became indistinguishable from myself. I was the music. I was one note and all the notes, floating in a sea of sound. Observers noted that I flinched involuntarily when there were flaws in the record or in the playing of the music itself. This is particularly interesting, in view of the fact that I have very little background in music.

When evening came, we went for a walk. It was a clear, moonless prairie night with the sky full of stars. I became concerned by a person walking toward us along the street. It seemed that he took an extremely long time to come toward us, pass us, and continue on. The sound of his footsteps seemed to go on and on and on, like a broken record, although he did not appear to change in size as he approached and then moved farther away.

When I stood still and looked up into the prairie sky, I perceived that the world was turning. My immediate reaction was that I was in one of Van Gogh's paintings, which shows a cypress tree and, behind it, the stars and the whole sky, which are drawn as if on the end of a pinwheel. Subsequently, since taking LSD, I have been able to appreciate qualities in the paintings of Utrillo and El Greco that I had not recognized previously. In the case of El Greco, his attenuation of the human figure now seems to me to have a lifelike quality in which there is a sense of the passage of time. In Utrillo's Painting of a street scene with no human beings in it, I now sense the loneliness and pathos of a person. This differs from the sense of "emptiness" that such a painting normally conveys to me?

My next LSD experiences were in situations that the mentally ill might face in a typical institution. These occurred at the University Hospital in Saskatoon, under the supervision of Dr. Abram Hoffer, and at the Saskatchewan Hospital in Weyburn, under the supervision of Dr. Humphry Osmond.

The first highlight of these experiences was a kind of psychic rapport with those who are sympathetic, regardless of whether this is expressed or unexpressed. I could feel clearly the hostility of another person, and this hostility seemed to intrude, making me wary. Subsequently on the wards, among people whose faces were unfamiliar, an element of fear was added when such an intrusion occurred. Also, if another person was fearful, I could sense his apprehension.

I became acutely aware of different kinds of environment. These can be expressed simply but not quite accurately by applying such adjectives as hard, soft, warm, cool, hot, cold, resilient, and so on, to the visual, acoustical, tactile, olfactory, and other qualities. The total effect of the environment was a compound of all these qualities, further confused, enhanced, and certainly rendered ineffable by the faulty perception of time. Past, present, and future seemed interchangeable, yet retained a continuity. Time as an element was all-encompassing, yet specific. For example, a long corridor seemed to take longer to traverse when the repetitive elements coincided with a unit of time. This unit of time is a personal measurement resulting from one's own body rhythm, such as one's heartbeat, breathing, or other physiological phenomenon. Time was dependent not only on the visual rhythm of the physical surroundings, but also on the acoustical rhythm of the building itself, which was affected by the usual building noises such as the sounds of motors, fans, footsteps, typewriters, cleaning equipment, bells, and also such more controllable elements as piped-in music. A "comfortable" room seemed to have a visual and acoustical rhythm appropriate to its spatial, visual, and tactile qualities.

During the period 1954-58, I had access to all wards in the Saskatchewan Hospital in Weybum and had many opportunities to talk with various patients, both in the wards and in the dining room. Later, while under LSD, I mingled with patients at the University Hospital in Saskatoon. In addition, some former patients have recorded their comments in letters to Dr. Hoffer and Dr. Osmond, and information relevant to the building environment has been transmitted to me.
I began to comprehend many of the patients' remarks and concerns. For example, how a room "leaked" and a patient saw himself flowing away. He could see his body becoming a gelatinous and fluid form that flowed and oozed out through cracks and openings other than the doors and windows. Sometimes his soul or mind seemed to take on a "gaseous" form that appeared to be "escaping." To be "startled" by the monotony of one color, such as beige throughout the institution, may sound contradictory, but there was such a phenomenon, which could immobilize a patient. Similarly, the ubiquitous terrazzo floor, suspended ceiling, and similar "uniformity" added to the patient's confusion in relating himself to time and space. He could be close to his bed spatially, but because of the number of beds and their arrangement in a room, the time required to reach his own bed could seem interminable. In contrast, where a room contained only one bed, it appeared to be "closer." In general, an increase in the number of similar elements in a room seemed to increase the spatial and/or time dimension of the room.

It was important to be able to enter a space unobtrusively and easily, to be able to do this without the feeling of being on stage or of being observed, and to feel that you were not intruding on somebody else's psychic space. This latter feeling was particularly acute when passing another person or groups of people in a "hard" corridor. I felt that the corridor should be "soft," "absorbent," and even "resilient," so it could bulge out where necessary to allow another person to pass.

The hard, glaring, and highly reflective surfaces of polished terrazzo floors, glazed-tile walls, and white ceiling tiles created spaces of unusually intimidating qualities, particularly if other people were also in this space. The acoustical qualities of such enclosed space heightened the effect of "tautness," and this quality became indistinguishable from psychic and physical tensions.

The following quotation is an extract from a letter directed to me, via Dr. Abram Hoffer, from a former patient who was aware of my interest in environmental needs.

The Schizophrenic needs more space around him than other people do. Everyone has a space around him which makes him feel free and comfortable. This area varies with individual needs, involving privacy more than floor space.

There is the space needed for freedom of movement—according to the person's ability to balance; and another "space" which a person needs to be able to relate his thoughts to what he is doing without distraction. Environment is not just a "place." It is the feel of the surroundings which can be changed by personalities exerting influence over it or him.

A Schizophrenic needs extra buffers for his senses to keep him comfortable in his surroundings. By buffers I mean the social and emotional freedoms to co-ordinate the body to the environment in a manner which protects freedom to make decisions without interference, where personal property is concerned.

Other people cannot understand why the Schizophrenic is so fast or so slow, so ambitious or so lazy, so happy or so sad, etc. First of all, the disease is not caused by the environment. It is caused by a biochemical lesion and has an inheritance factor. This does not mean that the environment is not important. It becomes more so.

The above example, which is typical of the kinds of unique experiences that may occur and differ with each individual, indicates how the visual and otherwise-perceived environment can be related to how one is at any given time. Under LSD, I experienced complete interdependence between mind and matter in ternis of the perceived environment. Apparently, this projection and injection of your "psyche" into the elements around you is also typical of many of the mentally ill.

Yorkton Psychiatric Centre Design Considerations

Some of the insights I acquired under LSD were applied in designing the Yorkton Psychiatric Centre, which was the first regional mental health center constructed under the Saskatchewan Plan. The initially proposed circular form for the building, the "sociopetal" concept, was rejected by the administration and others concerned as being "too far out." Certainly it was "unfamiliar" as a building form to the "normal" people involved in building this facility for the mentally ill. Nor was there an opportunity to test its "comfort" quality with those who were mentally ill. It is interesting to note that Dr. T. E. Weckowicz (1957) investigated the perceptions of some of the patients at the Saskatchewan Hospital in Weyburn. Although his research proceeded independently from our work on the sociopetal concept, he concluded: "The larger spaces should be circular, as we are all living in a circular world (the horizon is round) and our senses are more adapted to a circular space than to a rectangular one."

The building code and hospital construction standards under which grants were made at that time would not permit the sociopetal design, but sufficient "reinterpretation" was given to permit construction of the Yorkton hospital in its present form. Subsequently, at the request of Mr. Gordon Hughes, Director of the Hospital Design Division, Department of National Health and Welfare, our firm assisted in revising the standards for the design and construction of facilities for the care and treatment of the mentally ill (Department of National Health and Welfare, 1965).

The final design for the Yorkton Psychiatric Centre was for a building complex comprising several small rectangular buildings. The unusual qualities of these buildings are difficult to describe verbally or to illustrate visually. Essentially, they provide a unique spatial experience in which all the building elements are familiar. There are none of the illusionary qualities that architects so often try to achieve, such as the illusion of a space being larger than it actually is or an enclosing wall being non-existent.

Certain design premises were established at the outset, since not only the timidity of the administration, but also my own LSD experiences suggested a more cautious approach than I would have taken otherwise. By cautious approach I mean that I did not exercise the prerogatives of an architectural artist, since my LSD experiences had made me appreciate the significance of the perceived environment. I felt that the true "success" of the architectural design depended on the accuracy of my perception of how other people perceived. There were more periods of intense discussion, not only with my colleagues on the therapy team but also with the patients themselves. I found myself increasingly able to comprehend the patients, through their various ways of communicating. I am sure that those who have taken LSD in conjunction with the care and treatment of the mentally ill would concur that their ability to communicate with the patients was enhanced by their experiences.

The most significant principles and premises of design were the following:

1. To provide as much privacy as practicable.

Each patient needs a place to retreat to when he feels threatened. This place of his own can serve its function even if it is quite limited in size.

2. To minimize ambiguity in architectural design and detail.

Ambiguity emerges when different functions are indistinguishable from each other or when objects appear to be something other than what they actually are. Ambiguous functions and structural details create uncertainty in the mind of the observer. Well people usually respond to such uncertainty with tension, but people whose perception is affected by their illness can experience real distress when faced with ambiguous situations.

3. To create an environment without intimidating qualities.

Each patient needs encouragement to preserve his own individuality and identity so that he will not be lost in the mass of other patients. The spatial and functional arrangements that are necessary to assist in hospital administration should never overwhelm the patient. If the environment contributes to a feeling of security, reliance on mechanical methods of control can be reduced.

4. To create spatial relationships that reduce the frequency and intensity of undesirable confrontations.

A mentally ill person should not be faced with an undue number of choices in his daily life, particularly in choosing companions from a large number of strangers. Spaces should be arranged to permit each patient to interact with a small group without being confronted by unfamiliar faces.

To meet the need for privacy, each patient was provided with his own room with all the basic elements that implied this privacy. As the construction budget did not permit private toilets and related facilities, we placed these in spaces that provided the essential privacy in terms of place and time. Each bathtub and each toilet is in a distinctly separate confined space that is controlled by the patient-user.

To avoid environmental ambiguity, we provided logical visual terminations in the architectural detailing. Junctions of the walls to floors and to ceilings were clearly defined, with each plane surfaced with material appropriate to the total concept. Doors, windows, and other openings were designed with size, proportion, location, and related details that enhanced the "suchness" of the qualities of each. Windows were placed on the exterior wall, with returns on both sides and at the top, so that each window has a certain entity and integrity. This is in sharp contrast to the appearance that would have been created if the windows had been continued across the exterior wall either vertically or horizontally, which happens when one uses patented wall cladding systems.

Heat, light, and sound sources were designed to avoid creating confusion, as many of these sources become indistinguishable to a patient who is experiencing perceptual changes and distortions. For example, air noise emanating from a grill beside a light source can be confusing and disturbing. For this reason, the combined fittings that are used quite commonly in commercial buildings were not used in the psychiatric hospital. In selecting illumination type and distribution, we tried to avoid creating silhouettes of faces and bodies, while still allowing sufficient contrast to give good modeling of facial features and other elements in space. We used no clocks or signs that might appear to be floating, insecure, or defying gravity.

Doors were placed to allow maximum convenience in furniture arrangement within the room, to provide desirable visual privacy when opened, and to try to reduce the sense of confinement when closed. Doorways and other entrances to social spaces were designed to minimize the effect of being "on stage" as one entered the room or the space. Contrast between rooms visually, texturally, and acoustically was also minimized, while, at the same time, a certain uniqueness of these qualities appropriate to each separate room or space was maintained.

In social rooms, a sufficient variety and number of chairs were always provided, and these were arranged in such a fashion as to avoid the feeling that one was intruding, even when all the chairs were occupied. Very few combined seats were provided, and these were for two persons only. As commercially available chairs and other furniture were not suitable, most of the furniture was manufactured in accordance with our specifications. Some of the features were extended armrests so that the hands could be seen when placed on them, generally higher backs to give greater support and also a sense of enclosure, and covering-materials with color and tactile qualities that enhance the feeling of comfort.

The nurses' station was treated visually to try to minimize the effect of a "police" station, while still permitting maximum supervision. The "police" station impression was a hangover from previous hospital design concepts. There was much discussion and controversy over the necessity for a nurses' station in the traditional sense. Psychologically, there is a need for a permanent location where the patient knows that he will be able to get in touch with a staff member. But it was felt that it was undesirable to follow the traditional pattern of locating a nurses' station in a way that conveyed the feeling that it was a "control" center.

A most challenging problem was how to create spatial relationships such that, at any given time, the individual patient would not be confronted with an undesirable proportion of strange faces. To some extent, we were assisted by the administrative decision that there would be no more than thirty patients in each completely separate building unit, but even this number can create problems, especially if outpatients are intermingled with inpatients. In Yorkton, the patients were distributed in three groups of ten, and the arrangement of the primary and secondary social spaces was designed to try to minimize any feeling of overconcentration or overcrowding. The "module" used to avoid overconcentration and overcrowding of people was based on "psychic" boundaries rather than the prevalent square-feet-per-person ratio, which is typical of most building and other design standards. There is an increasing awareness of the need to understand the relationship of psychic boundaries to social behavior and environmental design. Dr. Edward T. Hall, in his book The Hidden Dimension (1966), discusses personal space and the varieties of physical relationships stemming from cultural, psychological, and social differences. Dr. Robert Sommer has written numerous papers in which he discusses the ecology of privacy, the distance for comfortable conversation, and other matters that have a direct bearing on architectural design (Sommer, 1960, 1962, 1966a, 1966b).

The above discussion indicates both the complexity of the design problem for a psychiatric center and the commonsense approach to the architectural solution. It is evident that, with few exceptions, existing facilities for the care and treatment of the mentally ill have been designed without attention to significant and relevant details of this kind. This is understandable, as one of the most difficult tasks is for the architect, along with his colleagues from other professions, including psychiatry, psychology, social work, and administration, to appreciate fully the significance of what may appear to the well person to be minute and inconsequential.
There is no way of establishing to what extent LSD contributed to the architectural solution, but it is my firm conviction that, without my LSD experiences, many of these insights might not have been possible. Certainly they would not have been possible within the relatively short period allowed for design. Perhaps, given the time and the opportunities for more-intensive discussion, a similar sort of understanding might have been achieved. However, I doubt whether any form of discussion would have had an impact equivalent to my firsthand experiences under LSD.

One of the most difficult problems is for one person to grasp the experience of another through his description of it. How do you convey to a child that if he touches a red-hot element on an electric stove, he will burn himself and feel pain? Even if he knows pain from another situation, it is extremely difficult to appreciate fully the kind of pain that will result from touching a red-hot element. It is a unique experience. Even the most imaginative person would find it difficult to "experience" it from someone else's description.

How does one fully comprehend the overwhelming sense of fear that a person can feel while standing at the top of a staircase, with time distorted and confused with space? Up to a point, presumably, you can simulate this by standing at the edge of a precipice with no visible means of support and actually swaying forward, but taking the precaution of having. somebody pull you back. However, if your appreciation of the time interval that it would take to be pulled back were so distorted that it seemed to take an interminable time, instead, of a matter of a second, what would your reaction be?

'What does it mean to walk into a quiet room and be confronted suddenly with the "thunder" of disordered colors? What does it mean to fall upward? To feel the arid taste of a dry, hot desert sun and sand while in a pool of water? To feel and see yourself leak"? To be turned inside out so that you see and feel yourself as in a reverse mold? To a degree, through our intellectual powers and imagination, we can sense and appreciate what this might mean. However, a secondhand experience does not have the power to induce the kind of concern necessary to discipline the mind to follow minute details of principles of design.

It is too easy for most of us to ignore or to acknowledge superficially the fear, the anguish, and the excruciating psy-. chological pain of a mentally ill person. We may scoff at it as impossible, a figment of the imagination. We may feel that it is a lie. But to sit beside a patient who is transfixed upon seeing a noise or hearing an intense hotness, as a steam heat-• ing system suddenly activates itself through hidden pipes, and to participate in this "reality," is a convincing experience that reminds you forcefully of your responsibility as an architect when you are designing environments for these people.

You may not have, under LSD, an identical experience or even the whole range of experiences of a mentally ill person. But sometimes, by participating or often by sensing in a secondhand way, you do become more sensitive to the problems and the reactions of the mentally ill. You begin to understand the anguished verbal outburst, the physical cringing, the tensing of the muscles, the desperation, the anxiety, and the fear that is expressed in an infinite variety of forms, and you can relate these reactions to various environmental situations, some of which are within the architectural domain. You can appreciate the hesitancy, like a tidal-wave force, that holds a person back from entering a room because the placement of the doorway provides almost a theatrical setting and exaggerates the feeling that he would leave himself exposed from the rear after he entered. You can identify with the feeling of rejection that a patient may feel as he enters a room, not because the room is too large or too small but because it is inconsistent with the psychic dimensions of the number of people who are already there. This feeling may be exaggerated further if all the chairs are occupied or are arranged in some geometric pattern that conflicts with the psychic spatial boundaries. You become aware of the feeling of constraint and the overwhelming inability to move when there is no physical way to escape except through a door that is almost like a stage exit and has a transom above it that looks like a guillotine. You begin to realize the significance of even the smallest detail and, most important, to realize that it is not your perception but how other people perceive that is important in making design decisions. As a result of my LSD experiences, my ability to anticipate, to project, almost to pre-experience some of the difficulties that a patient might experience through distorted perception, has been heightened.

The Responsibility of the Architect

As an architect, my LSD experiences have been profoundly humbling and have led me to reassess my role as a designer. To me, the most significant aspect of an LSD experience, for an architect, is the increased awareness he can gain of the variety, the depth, and the intensity of experiences evoked by the infinite number of stimuli occurring in our environment. This heightened awareness can have a dynamic effect on his approach to designing the part of the environment that may become his responsibility.

There appears to be no doubt that the design concerns that have been discussed are important in the specific case of designing facilities for the care and treatment of the mentally ill. The degree to which the architectural environment supports the medical program at the Yorkton Psychiatric Centre, and at other hospitals that have been designed with perceptual considerations in mind, has not yet been measured and may be difficult to measure. However, there is a slow accumulation of information confirming the validity of the argument that the environment does have contributory effects and merits serious concern. Some of this information comes from former patients and chronic patients who, in their lucid moments, have described their environmental needs.

The intense experiences of my own relationship to the vis-, ually and otherwise perceived environment have raised fundamental questions in my mind. Perhaps it would be more correct to say that they have reinforced a previous conviction regarding the art of architecture. There is now no doubt in my mind that the art of architecture as practiced today by contemporary architects as a purely visual aesthetic experience is, if not just a shallow exterior decorators' kind of pursuit, at best a selfish and inconsiderate imposition. This is not to say that there is no place for a form of architecture comparable to the other fine arts, but the nature of the artistic "responsibility" needs to be commensurate with the occasion. The prevalent practice of permitting an architect to insist on an esoteric approach is not only inconsiderate of the user but may in fact be harmful. In designing facilities for the care and treatment of the mentally ill, for example, the architect should be cognizant of the fact that the most important objective in this particular situation is to facilitate the art of alleviating human suffering. Matters of grave consequence are involved, which makes it vital that design decisions not be based on intuition, governed by esoteric preference, or left to chance.

The ever-increasing problems occurring in our man-made environment indicate the complete inability on the part of both designers and others to realize the significance of other peoples' psychic and perceptual problems and their effects on behavior. There is a growing conviction that ignorance of the relationships between a person's psychic environment and its physical counterpart has contributed to some of the difficulties experienced in our urban centers. I believe, along with others such as Dr. H. Osmond, that there is much to be learned from LSD experiences, even when these experiences are limited to their relevance to mental illness. The relationships between psychic environment and its physical counterpart, as we are beginning to understand them with the mentally ill, are simply an exaggeration of situations in the urban community. Similar forces prevail, and the design criteria are just as valid for so-called normal individuals as for the mentally ill, since, at a critical time, the elements are just as significant. For example, the concept and the subsequent definition of privacy stem from the same basic considerations, whether they are related to the use of a toilet or a yard. The essential principles governing the provision of privacy in the environment are identical for the mentally ill living in a hospital and for so-called normal people living in the suburbs. Architectural aesthetic concepts should recognize the perceptual and psychic needs of a human being, as these are part of an individual's aesthetic experience of his environment. At the present time, our ignorance of these needs is all too evident in many of our designed structures, whether they be housing projects, educational facilities, or even airports.

When an architect is given the opportunity to create an environment affecting many lives, he should also accept the challenge to produce design solutions that enhance the human experience. I am firmly convinced that architecture, as a form of expression, can be considered an art only when it reflects an understanding of the perceptions of the consumers of the designed environment, rather than the perceptions of the architect.

1 Kahan, F. H. (1965), a history of the Yorkton Psychiatric Center and the related social, political, administrative, economic, and psychiatric situations in Saskatchewan.

2 Izumi, K. (1961-62), a discussion of certain relationships of art to the problem of environmental design and, in particular, the responsibilities of the artist when he participates in creating an environment for other people.

Last Updated on Saturday, 16 June 2012 12:55
 

Our valuable member Kiyo Izumi has been with us since Sunday, 13 March 2011.