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The Psychodynamic City

Part 2 Dissertation 2009
Klas Hyllen
Edinburgh College of Art Edinburgh UK
The term; “The Psychodynamic City” is a metaphorical concept that emphasises the immense complexities attached to the task of interpreting the semantic values upon which the city is built. The intricate connections between the past, present and future, are similar in nature to the human psyche, where memories and past experiences are the root to our identities. Learning to read the city is the same as understanding yourself, your roots and the meaning attached to the world around you.

Hence, with a sense of humility, the task of addressing the context of the city, in the role of an architect, is one that has to be filled with reverence for our cultural roots and social identities. In gratifying appreciation we must realise just how much the mechanism of knowledge is a collective achievement, intricately linked to time and history, and curiously searching for new horizons. It is in the realisation that architecture, in essence, carries equal weight to other fields of knowledge that a true understanding of a city’s context can be achieved. By expanding the source of knowledge from which the architect extracts inspiration, one can achieve a much deeper awareness of underlying patterns within the city. Thus, the task for the architect becomes a matter of philosophy, where the contemporary challenge lays in the ability to balance these complex factors while remembering that the history of ideas and knowledge is the source from which we extract visions for the future; it is impossible to argue that the past holds no meaning since it is the predestined source of the present.

This essay illustrates the interdisciplinary nature of architecture where developmental epistemology, psychology and literary analogies extends the scope of thinking beyond the realm of architecture. Edinburgh is considered as the backdrop to the discussion and focus is on the architect’s design process within the city context where the theory of structuralism provides a philosophical tool for debate and analysis. The notion of time and development is a key component as it symbolises the idea of context and is embedded in the concept of transformations in structuralism.

Klas Hyllen

As part of Edinburgh College of Art’s Diploma Program students are required to produce a written piece, preferably related to their studio design work. Klas applied to join the unit focusing on ‘Contemporary Architectural Intervention’ and the approach that he has developed in his essay provides an extended and holistic theoretical framework capable of unravelling the immense complexities and dynamic forces embedded in the city’s urban form and structure. He emphasises the necessity of reading in depth into the history of a settlement, interpreting the semantic values held by its inhabitants and understanding the various forces involved in its evolution. Ultimately this has led to a novel approach and a highly intellectual methodology of thinking about architecture as a means of exploring all aspects of society, where understanding that the interconnectivity between fields of knowledge is a way to draw inspiration for designs as well as to understand syntactic and semantic needs within the built environment. His familiarity with prominent philosophies and schools of thoughts such as structuralism, and other fields of psychology, history, science and literature , to name but a few, has nurtured his metaphoric concept of “The Psychodynamic City” as a means of understanding processes of change and development prior to any architectural interventions in the urban fabric.

During work on his essay, Klas demonstrated a unique enthusiasm and skill in undertaking research with confidence and holistic vision. The exchange of views between us was a laboratory of knowledge development which is reflected in his writing and promotes a high quality of thinking about architecture and its professional role within society. I am delighted that the Edinburgh College of Art has nominated his design work and it is also my pleasure to nominate his work on ‘The Psychodynamic City’ for the RIBA President’s Dissertation Medal 2009.

Dr Faozi Ujam
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