Ar(t)chitecture: Art, Psychology & Design

Updated: Sep 22, 2020

"I believe in the ability of art to heal the spirit." - Colleen Gray

Can art heal your soul? Can design be the catalyst? Can we integrate both to enhance health and well-being?

These lines of argument lend powerful support to the concept of Healing Art or Therapeutic Art for interior spaces. Art therapy (combining studies of art and psychology) is an invention of the 20th century. The term was coined in 1942 by Adrian Hill. Over the next two decades, interest in art therapy grew rapidly. By 1970, professional associations of art therapists had been established in the UK and the US, and thereafter in many other countries. Although Hill’s initial interest was in the power of art to heal physical illness, art therapy’s subsequent rise to prominence owed a great deal to two sources. First, there was a influence of Freud and the widespread employment of psychotherapies of various kinds that Freudian psychology stimulated. Second, but no less important, probably, was the connection between art and emotion that had long been emphasized by the German romantic tradition of the 19th century. As a result, the possibilities of art therapy seemed evident—The power of art to communicate feelings.

There are three main ways in which art therapy is implemented. The first one is called analytic art therapy. It is based on the theories that come from analytical psychology, and in more cases, 'Psychoanalysis'. Analytic art therapy focuses on the client, the therapist, and therefore the ideas that are transferred between them through art. Another way that art therapy is employed is art 'Psychotherapy'. This approach focuses more on the psychotherapist and their analysis of their clients' artwork verbally. The last way art therapy is checked out is through the lens of art as therapy. In all of these different approaches, the art therapist's client goes on the journey to delve into their inner thoughts and emotions through the use of paint, paper and pen, or even clay. Art therapy helps people improve cognitive and sensory-motor function, self-esteem, self-awareness, and emotional resilience. It may also aid in resolving conflicts and reduce distress.

Colours can trigger emotions, affect attention spans, enhance creativity, psychological safety and comfort levels in a space. For example, red is a stimulating colour that can aid in digestion, characteristic that makes it a good colour for dining rooms. Experts think that yellow sharpens memory, which means it is a good choice for learning centers. Since green and blue are restful, calming colors, they are ideal for living room etc. It is important to think about the whole space, inside and outside, and to decide what you want to happen in them. If the colours are ‘too neutral’, they can give an impression of coldness and hardness that could feel unwelcoming or uncomfortable. The use of colour should not merely be decorative but more impactful to improve the built environment. Project Rainbow with Dulux Technical Group, a design guide for the use of colour and contrast, produced by the University of Reading states that when selecting colours, designers of buildings can have a major impact on the ability of visually impaired people to use buildings. Dr. Willard R. Daggett, President, International Center for Leadership in Education, talks about the strategic use of colours to optimize learning environments and improved focus.

Over time, however, the scope of art extended beyond the confines of the physical and psychological well-being and found a role in more social and communal contexts—as an antidote to conflict, and a means of building community. A notable example of this is a Mandala. Mandala ( Sanskrit मण्डल, maṇḍala – literally "circle") is a geometric configuration of symbols. In various spiritual traditions, mandalas may be employed for focusing the attention of practitioners, as a spiritual guidance tool, for establishing a sacred space and as an aid to meditation. The mandala originates in Buddhism; its connections with spirituality help us to see links with transpersonal art or mandala art therapy. This assessment is based on the beliefs of recurring correlation between the images, patterns and shapes in the mandalas that people draw, the colours they fill in, and their personalities. This gives clues to a person's psychological progressions and their current psychological condition leading to increased excitation, and as a consequence, strengthening of neuronal connections.

"I sketched every morning in a notebook a small circular drawing, ..which seemed to correspond to my inner situation at the time..Only gradually did I discover what the mandala really is: ..the Self, the wholeness of the personality, which if all goes well is harmonious."— Carl Jung
(Memories, Dreams, Reflections)

Mandala is a diagram or a geometric pattern that represents the cosmos symbolically; a time-microcosm of the universe, but it originally meant to represent wholeness and a model for the organizational structure of life itself. A cosmic diagram that shows the reference to the infinite and therefore the world that extends beyond and within minds and bodies. In Hinduism, a basic mandala, also called a Yantra, takes the shape of a square with four gates containing a circle with a middle point. Each gate is within the general shape of a 'T'. Mandalas often have radial balance.

Buddhist architecture often applied mandala as the blueprint to design Buddhist structures, including temple complex and stupas. A significant example of mandala in architecture is the 9th century Borobudur in Central Java, Indonesia. It is built as an outsized stupa surrounded by smaller ones arranged on terraces formed as a stepped pyramid, and when viewed from above, takes the shape of a giant mandala, simultaneously representing the Buddhist cosmology and the nature of mind. Other temples from the same period that also have mandala plans include Sewu, Plaosan, and Prambanan. Similar mandala designs also are observable in Cambodia, Thailand and Myanmar as well as India. Some of the Indian temples with mandala plans are Vrindavan, Khajuraho, Puri, Nashik, Thiruvallur and Chidambaram.

The aim of Ar(t)chitecture should be to diminish the social and political challenges and traumas of life. We should turn to art, in other words, as a means of addressing collective problems and difficulties.

Source: Multiple sources via Google

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