Archetypal Concept and Contemporary Architectural Criticism

Medeya Margoshvili

Ph.D. Student, Faculty of History, Lomonosov Moscow State University, Moscow, Russia.

Address: 27/4 Lomonosovsky Ave, Moscow, 119992, Russia.

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Abstract: The article implies a critical review of the use of the term in contemporary architectural theory and criticism after its transmission from psychology. The term was introduced by C. G. Jung in 1919 to designate universal patterns that emanate from the unconscious, but only during the 1960s gained relative popularity within the field of architectural criticism. However, it was never particular school of Jungean architectural theoreticians but various authors that somehow applied the term, suggesting its free interpretation.  The main goal of the article is not to provide an ultimate proof of existence of architectural archetypes but to trace the concept discourse within the Western perspective of architectural theory. To do so, several texts referring to C. G. Jung are analysed, mostly from the 1950s to the present day. Having analyzed the texts of several post-war architectural critics, it was concluded that different authors posited discrepant interpretations of architectural archetypes, which partly stems from the uncertainty of the very term “archetype”, for C. Jung himself fell short of providing a concrete definition for it. Yet, the question of existence of architectural archetypes still remains open.

Key words: architecture, architectural criticism, archetype, C. G. Jung, architectural phenomenology.

Received at July 01, 2019.

How to cite: Margoshvili, Medeya (2019). Archetypal Concept and Contemporary Architectural Criticism. Researcher. European Journal of Humanities & Social Sciences. 3 (2), 67–83.


Copyright © 2019 Authors retain the copyright of this article. This article is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


For the Post-war architectural theory and practice it was typical to turn to alternative ways of working with architecture and city planning. After the so-called “crisis” of modernist architecture, and the perspectives of one of the most notable architect Le Corbuzier on the development of architecture and city planning, the architects of the younger generations chose to refer to various philosophical and linguistic systems, that were particularly popular at that times, thus offering the other ways of development of the new urban landscapes.

Thus, in Holland, “Structuralists” movement appears, inspired by the studies of Levi Strauss, Michel Foucault and other representatives of structuralism in literature and philosophy. Profoundly introduced into architecture by Aldo van Eyck and his student Herman Hertzberger in the 1960s–1970s, structuralism was applied in the architectural practice as a means to translate the “human” element into it. In their texts they advocated open structures for their flexibility and variability within the system.

At the same time, in the 1960s–1970s, semiotic schools of architectural criticism appeared. The idea was to consider architecture as a system of signs, and architectural structures itself as a text, with its structure, organization and system of designating and signifying signs. One of the most prominent representatives of architectural semiology was, oddly enough, Umberto Eco, who, in his book The Lost Structure (1968) devoted an entire chapter to architecture understood “as a system of signals”. Among other important advocates of the movement were Argentine architect Thomas Maldonado, who taught at the Technical University of Ulm (Germany) in the late 1950s, representatives of the so-called “Venetian School” ― Sergio Bettini, Giovanni Konig, Ronato de Fusco and one of the most famous historians and theorists of “postmodernist” architecture Charles Jenks.

Phenomenology of architecture, which followed the concepts of Edmund Husserl and proposed to turn “back to things”, was another popular direction in architectural criticism of those ages. In short, it encouraged the architects to move away from the unifying concepts of modernists and turn to individual cases, places and landscapes. Architectural theorists were interested in the texts of Maurice Merlot-Ponty’s Phenomenology of Perception (1945) and Martin Heidegger’s essay Building Dwelling Thinking (1971).

In the context of a diverse pluralism of architectural theories and concepts, one should not be surprised to discover the influence of psychoanalysis on architectural criticism. However, in our case the article will not be focused on its founder Sigmund Freud, but his student Carl Gustav Jung and his concept of “archetypes” in particular.

Apparently, it is the concept of archetypes as “indivisible” forms, plots, concepts, found in the core of any kind of human activity, be it myth-making, religious canons, literature or art, that impressed independent authors, who were dealing with the problems of architectural creation and development in the post-war years. It is noteworthy that, as such, “Jungian” trend was not formed in the context of architectural studies. Rather, individual critics turned to the Jungian concept, adopting its methodological, theoretical rationale for their own ideas.

The main goal of the present article is not to provide an ultimate proof of the existence of architectural archetypes, but to trace the concept discourse within the Western perspective of architectural theory. Where and why archetypal concept has become relevant in architectural theory and how can it be demonstrated on the actual examples. To do so, I would like to bring together existing texts that refer to C. G. Jung and his theory, and analyze the adoption and development of the concept of “archetype” in the architectural theory of the last 70 years ― from the 1950s of the last century to the present day.


The article mainly represents a somewhat historiography ― an excursion into the history of usage of the term “archetype” in a number of works by researchers and architectural theorists of the 20th century and the contemporary ones. However, not only the term’s direct adoption served as a main clue for a text inclusion in this overview. What was particularly important to us was not so much the term itself but its meaning. Thus, in the course of the work we will see that some authors do not necessarily refer to the Jungian term “archetype” directly while expressing the same meaning. In fact, they omit the term “archetype” not to introduce unnecessary borrowings into the context.

The base of our selected texts was established several decades ago ― given that in recent years, as far as we can say, a smaller number of architectural critics alludes to the issues of “collective” or “archetypical” in human perception of architecture. Unpredictably one of the most important milestones of our bibliography deals with the phenomenology of architecture. The influence of phenomenology on architectural theory is still widely discussed, and recently various “guides for architects” on this issue were published (Hale 2017). Despite the fact that the phenomenology seems to be dealing with purely philosophical, somewhat existential issues, it appears to be the most vital part of our bibliographical research.

Phenomenological aspiration for the new “uunderstanding” of architecture as such and its theoretical basis in particular casts light on aspects that specifically lead us to the existence of archetypal forms in architectural structures. Against this background, we would like to emphasize that the essence of the issue of architectural archetypes is rather hypothetical ― to give a definition of architectural archetypes and show how they are represented. As a hypothesis, we presume archetypes in architecture to represent certain common forms, independent from location, time, culture and religion. They must be constantly repeated in various buildings or dwellings. However, one risks falling into the obvious, superficial interpretation of what might appear as an archetype based on prevalence, frequent use of a form or their combinations. Since the researcher has to group these forms, it still remains a question whether we are dealing with types of buildings, their plans, and elements of structure, decoration elements or anything else.


As will be seen, a great deal of the cited texts has been written by architects, who themselves are preoccupied with the idea of finding “the core” of architectural edifices. This interest resulted (and still does) in the continuing, proliferating over-production of “typologies” and other forms of taxonomic classification in a way, which often turns out rather unreflective and therefore has to be analysed in a critical way.

On other hand, the article suggests a somewhat revision of Jung’s archetypes effect on architectural concepts that evolved since the 1950s. Since behavioral and informational-signal approaches mark most of the latest cognitive researches of our environmental reception, I suggest taking a step back to address analytical psychology of Jung for its influential input on philosophers, linguists, architects, etc., which can partly be explained by the universality and flexibility that it provides. Platonic in its core, archetypes theory suggested reconsideration of various ideas and standpoints, and was extrapolated over the large scope of humanities studies, which was Jung’s intention too. Without claiming Jung’s theory of archetypes to be the final solution of the questions mentioned above, it is the time to revise what is known about the perception of space and to check the relevance of Jung’s archetypes in the field of architectural theory and practice.

Historiography: to the Emergence of the Term

In the interwar period, around 1919, Carl Gustav Jung introduced the term “archetype” to designate universal patterns that emanate from the unconscious: a sort of primary form that creates the derivative ones and to which every aspect of human creativity can be resolved. An archetype is the most common, fundamental mythological motif that is innate and common to all people. From Jung’s point of view, the results of human intellectual, cultural, and cultic activity ― like science, art, religion, philosophy, etc. ― are indistinguishable, since they represent the sum of archetypes’ manifestations.

Analyzing the human ability to grasp images from their own mind Jung came up with the conclusion that what seems “invented” to us, or what we call “the result of human creativity” is linked to the extraction of archetypal images from the collective unconscious. Every image does not simply equal the representation of a person’s mental and creative possibilities; rather, it appears as evidence of an archetype(s).

For the first time the term “archetype” was used in an article called Instinct and the Unconscious (Jung 1970/1919), in which Jung describes the nature of instincts that, unlike the conscious actions, represent the “interruption of the continuity of consciousness” and, according to Jung, necessarily appear in a number of people.

One of the hypotheses argues that instincts come from often recurring volitional acts, which were initially encountered individually and sporadically, but over time became universal (pretty much like evolutionary processes). Unlike the forms of the “personal unconscious” ― such as phobias, dreams, suppressed thoughts and feelings, instinct serve as examples of the universal “collective unconscious”. Having distinguished these two types of the unconscious, Jung introduces the term “archetype”.

Thus, instincts impose modes of action; intuition imposes the mode of thought, while archetypes limit possible ways of human perception and understanding. Archetypes are the limitations or frameworks of the human mindset; they determine the development of the thinking process. Besides, archetypes are not simply connected to instincts because of the common “origin” ― the collective unconscious. They are mutually determined since the inner mindset configured by the archetypes is as structured and as regular as instinctive actions.

Jung dates the first mentions of the archetype (as a term) to medieval authors (archetypus)[1]. Then, in the works of scholastics some certain natural images embedded in the human mind and enabling the mind to make judgments were mentioned likewise[2]. Within that intellectual tradition, starting from Plato and ending with German classical philosophy (Immanuel Kant and Arthur Schopenhauer in particular), archetypes were always reduced either to the limited set of ideas (Plato), categories (Kant) or natural instincts ― in other words, they were reduced to rationalized concepts. However, this phenomenon can hardly be grasped with rational methods, since rationality doesn’t consider the unconscious, instincts, and intuition. In Jung’s terms archetypes are the reference points of every process within the unconscious, mediators between the chaos and determined form, an “incredibly accurate” psychological device.

To illustrate its effect, Jung refers to the example of the so-called yucca butterfly that intuitively performs a sophisticated pollinating process for the first time ― an operation that it never saw, but which seems to be “imbedded” in its consciousness. Hence, the yucca butterfly conveys a “situation image” before this situation is even realized through the instinctive action. As he says, instinct here should be considered a reflection of the archetypal process.

The easiest way to recognize the role archetypes play for the unconscious is to investigate those among primitive people, claims Jung. Such images are called “autochthonous” ― that is, innate and independent from the environment. The problem is, however, that over time, as the primitive society develops into a “civilized” one, those images are enriched by rational forms and cultural interpretations.

Finally, the number of archetypal images is limited. Due to its universality, by researching the archetypes it is possible to understand the underlying motifs of mythology, religion, philosophy, and, last but not least, arts, which is especially important for our study.

The Concept of Archetype in Contemporary Architectural Criticism

For the analytical psychology of Jung “archetype” was one of the most basic terms. The idea of the archetype was manifested in all conceivable forms of human activity, including literature, cinema, and other visual arts. However, in architectural theory and criticism, the term was firstly mentioned in the 1950s in a monograph Town and Square (1959) written by Paul Zucker, American-German architect and theoretician. In this book, the author offers five types of spatial organization of squares taken from the history of Western European architecture. He treats them as five ways to fill the spatial “voids”. While researching the psychological impact of architecture on its recipient, Paul Zucker applies a methodology based on architectural typologies (common for the 1950s criticism) to express innovative ideas. It is also important that while considering these five types of squares (the antique, medieval, Renaissance and those of XVII and XIX centuries) and paying tribute to certain social aspects that contributed to the changes of squares’ shapes, Zucker tries to highlight the “common” traces that unite all squares, that is, to grasp the very essence of a “square” as a phenomenon.

Aldo Rossi and his Concept of “Collective Artifacts”

Later, in 1966 Italian architect Aldo Rossi publishes one of the most vital works in the history of modern architectural criticism ― Architecture of the City. In this book, Rossi challenges the well-established postulates of “naive functionalism”, which by 1966 had remained extremely widespread in urban and architectural studies.  He addresses the idea of the city as an assortment of collective memories, which, among other matters, contains the space-time element.

The author introduces the term “urban artifacts” to refer to buildings, streets, and areas that he considers conceptual manifestations of the social and religious life of the community. “Urban artifacts” are free of function; they are forms conditioned by external factors. They also produce other types of urban space (such as monuments, temples), setting the dynamics of the city development over time.

Rossi challenges the functionalist belief that city’s structure and development are determined solely by the needs of its inhabitants, to help distribute certain functions within the system. Also, in contrast to Max Weber, Rossi refuses to explain urban processes solely in means of the “economic” values. Both cities and locations within them would fail to exist if they were built only on the assumption of function and utility. Functions tend to change with time, while the cities and their “core” structure are nevertheless preserved.

For us, it is essential to pay attention to Rossi’s reference to the “collective” concerning the architecture of the city. According to Rossi, “the city is an object of nature and a subject of culture” (Rossi & Eisenman 1984, p. 34), where the “collective” defines various aspects of architecture: politics, sociology, function, nature (including human nature). He suggests considering architectural monuments separately and in their entirety ― which means ― in the city context: “I’m talking about architecture in a positive sense, as about creation, inseparably connected with social life and with the society in which it manifests itself; it is collective by nature” (Rossi & Eisenman 1984, p. 38).

When referring to “significant phenomena of social life” and comparing them to works of art (“urban artifacts”), Rossi points to their “unconscious” origins. Those “unconscious” origins are also discussed later, in the chapter “Typological questions” (Rossi & Eisenman 1984, pp. 35–45), where the author interprets architectural types as transformations occurring with original architectural building forms. A type is formed by the needs of society and its perception of beauty. Rossi also believes that a type defines both a building in particular and a city in general. Type is unified, although in many societies there are many variations.

 In his work, Rossi suggests a term that can be reasonably interpreted not as a “type” but as an “archetype” in the very accurate definition of this term. However, he never directly refers to Jung, using the terms “types”, “typologies”, and “schemes” instead: “For me the concept of type is something constant and complex, it is a logical construction that precedes and forms the form” (Rossi & Eisenman 1984, p. 38).

Rossi criticizes the predominance of functionalism not only in practical terms but also in the architectural theory and critique. He insists that architectural types can by no means be defined through their functions, as was stated by scholars like Kevin Lynch (1958, pp. 71–72). If we define architecture solely through its role as a housing machine, then the type is reduced merely to a simple organizing plan, leaving aside form and style. In this respect, Rossi (1984, p. 40) refers to the French architectural theorist of the XVIII cent. Quatremere de Quincy, who was very much preoccupied with the idea of types, as many of his contemporaries:

The word “type” represents not so much the image of a thing to be copied or perfectly imitated, as the idea of an element that must itself serve as a rule for the model <…> It is similar to a kind of nucleus around which the developments and variations of forms to which the object was susceptible gather and mesh.

This constant “core”, presented in every model is the chief rule that organizes architectural forms and the basic principle of architecture to be found in architectural artifacts:

Thus typology presents itself as the study of types of elements that cannot be further reduced, elements of a city as well as of an architecture <…> no type can be identified with only one form, even if all architectural forms are reducible to types (Rossi & Eisenman 1984, p. 41).

At the same time, the type inevitably comes into conflict with technical, social, functional and individual aspects of architectural construction. It is a matter of trying to fit the prototype into the realities of a building site, the social and cultural context that makes it so difficult to single out the “core” of various buildings. Ultimately, this is one of the primary trigger points of Rossi’s work: to point out the previously sidestepped problem of architectural typologies, which for a long time had been ignored in favor of functional considerations.

Naturally, Rossi’s ideas extend beyond a simple juxtaposition of collective and personal: he dedicates a significant part of the book to the city as memory space, time-space, shared space, the city as a reflection of social and political changes. The fact that he addresses the issue of common places and typical structures in architecture and urban environment serves as a confirmation of our problem’s relevance.

After the 1970s: Jung and Architectural Phenomenology. Archetypes in Architecture by Thomas Evensen

From the 1970s the concept of archetype gained grounds in the practice of such architects as Michael Graves, Leon Crier, and Mario Botta. Yet, one of the most remarkable works that refers to the Jungian concept, Archetypes in Architecture was written in 1987 by Norwegian architect and theorist Thomas Thiis-Evensen.

In his book, Thiis-Evensen aims to create an architectural theory that does not consider architecture as technology (as the modernists did), but based on its phenomenological perception. The author uses archetypes as means for describing architectural phenomenas.

As the book was mainly conceived as a manual for practicing architects, the author attempted to divide a building into essential and primary “elements”. However, primary elements are not elements of structure, decoration or order. Indeed, archetypes are expressions of human existential presence in a closed architectural space. They are projections of space on essential elements of architectural construction: the wall, the ceiling, and the floor. Describing connections between the internal and external spaces, articulated by the floor, the wall and the ceiling, those relations remain constant in any configuration of the building, regardless to its location, style and construction time.

The psychological impact of architecture, along with the physical, serves as the starting point of Thiss-Evensen’s research. If our physical and mental perception functions similarly in the course of our interaction with a variety of buildings, then we are capable of discovering common intentions, architectural sensations, which can later lead us to architectural archetypes.

Evensen sets himself the task not only to “classify” the archetypes but also describe their expression accurately. Do all of us perceive the expressiveness of architectural forms in the same way regardless of our individual characteristics and therefore, is there a common formal language that we could define? Importantly, the author focuses on the existential experience of architecture. That is, he claims that we perceive architecture not only analytically, but also at a barely discernible, phenomenological level of intuitive experience.

Ever since architectural phenomenology appeared, it has tried to explain how places are experienced, how they can adapt to its inhabitants, their intentions and feelings. Yet, when the author opposes the built and natural environments, he applies the Gestalt theory with its frequent juxtaposition of figures to backgrounds.

Thiis-Evensen applies the Gestaltist method also when considering the wall, the roof and the floor as projections of the landscape in a confined space. Indeed, the primary function of the given archetype-elements is to separate the outer space from the inner one. The roof, for example, marks the limit of the sky; the walls separate themselves from the horizon, whereas the floor delimits the ground. By substituting themselves with elements of the natural environment that they “delimit”, the floor, the roof, and the walls likewise designate the earth, the landscape, and the sky. Thus, the “archetypal” theory of Thiis-Evensen’s is somehow integrated with semiotics (Eco 1979).

For instance, in his description of various categories of movement, weight, and substance, Evensen argues that we form our symbolic perception of architectural shapes depending on the movement that they express, a movement that denotes the physics of natural elements. “What do the roof, the floor, and the wall do? As a motion, the roof rises or falls. The walls stand up or sink, the floor spreads out, climbs or descends. In this way, weight is also implied...” (Thiis-Evensen 1987, p. 29).

As in the case of the reviewed monograph (which was later supplemented with the book Archetypes of Urbanism: A Method for the Esthetic Design of Cities, 1999), we are dealing with a particular interpretation of “archetypes”. As in the case of Aldo Rossi’s treatise, either archetypes or collective unconscious are considered and used mostly in the interests of the author’s hypothesises. They do not necessarily allude to Jung but, rather, withdraw the term “archetype” from its original context for the sake of their innovative ideas.

For Thomas Thiis-Evensen, the usage of archetypes serves as a method to write the “how-to-build-wisely” manual. Therefore, one would fail to regard Archetypes in Architecture as a manifesto of Jungianism in modern architectural criticism, but rather as a free interpretation of archetypes as ways of approaching the most organic forms of human perception.

Archetypes and the Idea of “Existential Space” of Norberg-Schultz

The idea to correlate bodily experiences to architectural structures was borrowed from Christian Norberg-Schultz, one of the founders of phenomenological approach in architectural theory. In one of his most famous books Existence, Space and Architecture (1971) Norberg-Schulz defines what should be demanded from architecture to make it humane.

The book is divided into two parts: the theoretical analysis of the question and the practical part. In the first part, the author develops his theory of existential space; whereas in the second part, he applies his assumptions to architecture, using specific buildings or elements of the urban environment as examples. It is important that the concept of existential space was taken not only from previously mentioned phenomenologists, but from Jean Piaget, who investigated the origins of spatial perceptions among children (Piaget 1954, pp. 364–380). In particular, Piaget believed that the individual aspects of the space perception were based on social experiences ― later his ideas were inherited by Norberg-Schultz, who entitled them as a “cultural dimension” of the human space perception.

Norberg-Shultz distinguishes five levels of interpretation of space: a pragmatic space of physical actions (defines human presence in the environment), a perceptual space (necessary for self-identification), existential space (the most important space that forms the unity between individual awareness and the environmental one), the cognitive space of the physical world and, finally, the abstract space of logical relationships (the highest and the most “schematic” level that defines all the previous ones). When all seven levels are connected, a sense of integrity is created.

In Nordberg-Schultz’s theory, a person and his/her perception acts as a primary point of reference and determinant of surrounding space. Space, however, in no case should be treated as an empty substance, unfilled or amorphous. Instead, space is described as a kind of plasma where certain forms of the environment appear (including landscape and architecture). This ability of space to form itself is facilitated by the human presence as if humans create spaces to express the structure of their private, inner world or imago mundi, the prototype. In other words, the imaginary field requires an abstract design, and this is where human schemes are used, defining the spatial structure by employing architecture in its various forms. Norberg-Schulz reinforces his hypothesis of the omnipotent structuring capability of the human mind with one of Einstein’s early lectures, later to be published as an article Geometry und Efrahrung (1921). In this article (Einstein 2017), the physicist proved that humans had designed mathematics and geometry.

The second part of the book focuses on architectural space as the essence of the existential space. At the architectural level, the existential space can be determined through schemes and centers, paths, roads, directions, and regions ― this is precisely the part which was borrowed and developed by Thomas Thiis-Evensen. Norberg-Schulz, in his turn, successively parses all kinds of spatial relationships in architecture and landscape[3], defining elements that are of essential importance in terms of architectural structures.

For instance, he describes the relationships between vertical and horizontal dimensions. Norberg-Schulz traces the meaning of the roof (Evensen’s first archetype) to heaven, the interaction that can be transmitted by the forms of towers, cornices, capstones or other similar elements. Similarly, the wall is the boundary between the private and public; it is the place where internal and external forces meet. Windows and doors define relationships between external and internal while their size determines the transparency of the wall, its continuity, solidity or lightness.

After, Norberg-Schulz moves on to the role of centricity in architectural structures. The center represents the place of the world creation, its starting point. In the book The Image of the city (1960) Kevin Lynch uses the term “node” (point, string) to describe the center as the entry point to the environment and as a string that connects several tracks (like a crossroad). Besides, at least three important principles ― the “neighborhood”, “closure”, and “elimination” ― are again borrowed from Gestalt psychology to describe various ways of human subjugation of the environment. The neighborhood creates the combination of elements, concentration of masses. The closure refers to the enclosure of a certain area from the rest of the space and, besides, manifests the human attempt to “possess” it, symbolically. For example, in nature closure is best manifested in forms of caves, while in the architecture it can be well illustrated by the Ancient Greek Temenos space (a sacred temple site)[4].

The third way of the spatial organization is the elimination of space by the concentration of masses in a particular place. Consequently, concentration is often followed by isolation, that is, by an enclosure, again.

Roads and paths are also essential elements, though, not so much for the space organization, as for finding the self in the environment and for moving in the space ― either in real life or potentially. “Potentially” here is an important specification, as the author believes that the paths are initially intended not for the real movement but for symbolic designation of the direction that unites a number of the urban environment elements and includes them into the system. As early as in the folk architecture there have been many examples of the settlements organization based on the linear sequence.

The tracks of roads, their arrangement demonstrate way more than the temporal and geographical features of the given architecture. They demonstrate the mindset of their builders. The Egyptians thought in terms of enclosed forms ― as the path moves from the entrance to the space of rocks. The Romans ― on the contrary ― operated with open forms, rationally covering the space around. In the East, circulating movements prevailed, emphasizing the commitment to the static, centered structures.

After having dealt with different kinds of transitions in architecture, the primary determinant of which is the continuity, the author defines the areas. Areas are the fields, which the observer can mentally compare with him- or herself. Also, areas are inevitably defined by common elements, such as space, topography, activities that prevail in this area, typology of buildings, their textures, ornamental symbols. Together, these elements form the “characteristic cluster”. Basically, we divide the zones into natural and human-made, which were created because of the humans needs to realize their belonging to a particular topos (Norberg-Schulz 1971, p. 58). The transition from one zone to another is the action we continuously perform with the help of roads. An entrance, a portal or door becomes essential as a sign of transition between the spaces.

In the architectural space, as well as in the existential one, all these elements ― the location, the road, and the area – form a single unit, or plot. The plot is a term borrowed from the natural sciences, and it refers to spatial peculiarities of the interacting forces systems. Architecture, too, represents such a system of plots, in which the elements should be balanced to achieve dynamic equilibrium.

In these descriptions, we see frequent references to the designation, which again turns us back to semiotics. Thereby, in some cases, the author offers an analysis in terms of symbols, but at the same time, he does not attempt to go further, i.e., to analyze considered phenomena from the standpoint of subjective perception.

In his last book The Concept of Dwelling (1985), Nordberg-Schulz strives to rethink the idea of home, to leave functionalism behind and to return to figurative architecture using Heidegger’s essay Building, living, thinking (1952) as a guide. Thus he introduces four characteristics of dwelling: its morphology, topology, typology (instead of the “organizing framework”), and “being”. The previously voiced idea is repeated in this late work again: the human presence in the environment is structured and this structure is preserved and reproduced by an architectural form. The environment should be perceived as a structure, as the built, organized and articulated edifice, in which a house, a reflection of the macrocosm helps the person to survive. If a person can exist at all, then he does it inside some architecture ― that is the idea (Norberg-Schulz 1985, pp. 30–31).

After the Phenomenology: Jungean Archetypes and Contemporary Architectural Criticism

The idea of a house as a crucial architectural concept has been reflected in the latest texts likewise. Some modern scholars, such as Pavlos Lefas from the University of Patras (Greece), offer a logical and straightforward resolution of the issue, calling a primitive dwelling the sole and undisputed archetype.

The idea of it being a very first and unique kind of human habitation is quite abstract, but has a long history, dating back to Vitruvius (Morgan 1914)[5]. In his book Architecture. A historical perspective  (2014) Lefas names a chapter Are there any archetypes in architecture ― a question that still has not lost its relevance, according to the author, and which has been worrying architectural theorists for a long time. Archetype is the form that we reproduce more or less consciously, admitting some “irrefutable wisdom” (Lefas 2014, p. 18) in it. This form combines something essential and eternal, and that can adapt to the specific tasks while preserving its original qualities.

The most stereotypical architectural archetype is a house that many children draw, reproducing the appearance of the oldest type of dwelling with a gable roof and a chimney on it. Meanwhile, if we turn to the archaeologists, we may learn that the first pieces of evidence of human-made houses were the huts of Terra Amata culture, 400,000 years old.

Huts were built from simple twigs forming a convex gable arch and served as temporary shelter for fishermen. Many thousands of years later, the structure of the huts was not fundamentally changed as opposed to how rapidly instruments of human labor were developing. However, a human, more than any other living creature, tried to change the surrounding area for his own convenience. Arranging the houses around natural shelters, a man was able to settle in the areas that previously seemed inaccessible.

In the course of human history development, when the transition to a settled way of life occurred, there was a demand for durable architecture, built of more long-lasting materials, such as clay, and this transition led to a design change, thus altering the configuration of dwellings. The walls became strictly vertical, which created more interior space, but the curved roof with a hole in the center remained ― and this form became a sustainable image of a house in the human consciousness. This design gives a person the ceiling over the head, which is not needed for other primates, for example, chimpanzees or gorillas.  It is also the space in which people can actualize their “world vision” ― that is, to design the world around them. In other words, a hut as the only typology of architecture to have preserved its appearance, its “typical” form for millennia in different architecture pieces, is the only unchangeable architectural archetype.


Having analyzed the texts of several post-war architectural critics, we can conclude that different authors posited discrepant interpretations of architectural archetypes, which partly stems from the uncertainty of the very term “archetype”, for C. G. Jung himself fell short of providing a concrete definition for it.

For Paul Zucker, the types of architectural systems ― in particular, of squares ― are the echoes of archetypes. For Aldo Rossi the archetypes are manifested at the general urban level, being, at the same time, some kinds of metaphysical entities, which influenced the origin of the forms.

Christian Norberg-Schulz rarely mentions the term “archetype” in his works, but his phenomenological approach to the thinking of architecture as a set of expressive symbolic expressions of human presence in the surrounding space was the main inspiration for Thomas Thiis-Evensen. Therefore, Evensen continues to develop the idea of architectural expression and separates all architectural elements into three types ― the wall, the floor and the ceiling, all of which he called archetypes.

Contemporary architectural critics regard the problem of architectural archetypes in a rather Vitruvian-sense. Therefore, Pavlos Lefas sees the development of archetypes in architectural history from an evolutionary perspective, and he diminishes the range of archetypes to one singular form ― the house, or hut. Here, a great influence of Enlightment concepts of architectural typologies and taxonometry is revealed, especially of abbé-Marc-Antoine Laugier (1713–1769)[6]. Regardless to that, it is still compelling to reveal the importance of one of the most intriguing Jungean concepts within the Western perspective of architectural theory.



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Jung, C. G. (1970 [1919]). Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious. In G. Adler,& R. F.C. Hull (Eds.). Collected Works of C. G. Jung. 8: Structure & Dynamics of the Psyche, Princeton.

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Zucker, P. (1959). Town and Square. From the Agora to the Village Green. New York: Columbia University Press.


[1] As the author mentions Augustine of Hippo.

[2] The author mentions Dionysius the Areopagite and Edward Herbert among the others.

[3] Later these relationships will be interpreted as archetypes by T. Evensen.

[4] C. G. Jung associated Temenos with the enchanted or magic circle, which acts as a taboo “inaccessible place” and compared it with the symmetrical rose garden with a fountain in the middle (“a circle in the square”), where one can meet the unconscious, and even with one’s own Shadow and other archetypes of the “person”. See  Jung, C. G., von Franz, M.-L., Henderson, J., Jacobi, J., & Jaffé, A. (1964). Man and His Symbols. Norwell, MA: Anchor Press, 240–249.  

[5] See: Vitruvius (1914). Book II, Chapter 1. The emergence and development of housing. In M. H. Morgan (Trans.). Vitruvius: The Ten Books on Architecture. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

[6] In his Essai sur l’architecture (1753), Marc-Antoine Laugier proposed an origin of architecture to be found in the model of the primitive hut: the four trees as types of the first columns, the branches laid across in the form of beams, and the boughs laid out in the triangle for as a pediment prototype. See: Laugier, M.-A. (1977). An Essay on Architecture. W., Hermann, & A. Hermann (Trans.). LA: Hennessey and Ingalls, 9–15.

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