First published: Winter 2002
Inside psychiatric hospitals the schizophrenic architect is forced to confine his dreams to paper, or to minor alterations of his personal environment. But not all people experiencing schizophrenia are found inside of hospitals! Outside in the world all kinds of bizarre buildings and environments have been created by individuals possessed by idiosyncratic and compulsive visions. An obvious example would be the Palais Idéal of Ferdinand Cheval.
Another well known example of uniquely individual architectural design is the Watts Towers of Simon Rodia in Los Angeles. The compulsive and enduring needs which drove these individuals to force their personal vision out into the environment can be understood as resulting from powerful, indeed overwhelming, internal pressures.
In spite of poverty, isolation, and lack of training these individuals have triumphed over society’s restrictions, and pressures to conform, modifying their bit of world in accordance with the dictates of ‘internal necessity.’ In each case these private, deeply irrational, small universes reflect, not merely the inner depths of their creators, but intensely individual and unusual states of consciousness. An entirely personal, lasting, and insistent conception of the nature of ‘reality’ underlies each of these dramatic breaks with convention. However, while such structures undoubtedly reflect highly unusual, even schizoid, mental states, they seldom appear to reflect full-blown schizophrenia.