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Anxiogenic Spaces

Part 2 Dissertation 2005
Claire Allman
Cardiff University | UK
This project is an investigation into the causes and uses of anxiety in architectural and urban spaces. Through the investigation of works of architecture, art, film and literature, the dissertation explores three main topics, which all serve to create disquiet. Obscurity of vision, which deals with the inhibition of sight or disorientation through visual means altering the perception of space. The chapter on death investigates the fear of dying and associated themes including the idea of being buried alive, mutilation and the abyss and their expression in art and architecture. A section on memory describes how an individual’s personal history and particularly traumatic events colour their experience of a place. Within these main subjects are the recurring themes of voids, darkness and the labyrinth, which are the primary spatial dimensions through which disquiet is experienced. It is argued that all of these themes generate anxiety through either the fear of the unknown, feelings of disorientation or associations with trauma and that these are all related to the ideas of personal alienation and detachment, which are rooted in the fear of dying. The dissertation focuses on the work of Libeskind, Himmelblau and Tschumi and artists such as Rachel Whiteread. The Blair Witch Project and the House of Leaves are examined. The ideas of the psychoanalysts, Donald Winnicott and Jacques Lacan are used throughout the investigation in formulating the argument. In addition, the author looks at the extreme spatial fears of agoraphobia and claustrophobia, and examines schizophrenia and separation anxiety disorder to further understand the nature of anxiogenic space.
Claire Allman

Claire Allman’s dissertation on Anxiogenic spaces was nominated by the Welsh school of Architecture because it is a well structured clear review of the area with occasional flashes of real originality where her own personal engagement with the subject can be felt. We enjoyed the way she draws highly pertinent examples from art and literature as well as architecture. Of particular note is her engagement with the theories of the psychiatrist Donald Winnicott which provoke original and compelling insights into the architecture of fear.

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