Mental Health in Architecture

Archinect Sessions Episode 121
hosts: Paul Petrunia, Donna Sink, Ken Koense
May 12, 2018

“This week Ken, Donna and I are joined by architect and writer Esther Sperber to discuss the very real and serious issue of mental health in architecture. Esther owns Studio ST Architects, a small practice in New York City, and frequently writes about mental health, with a specific focus on psychoanalysis and it’s relationship to architecture.

Creative fields, especially those with long hours and high stress levels, are often rife with mental health issues. Anxiety, depression, sleeplessness more


Listening to Design

by: Andrew Levvit
April, 2018

“Levitt has a rare ability to integrate insights from the fields of architecture and psychology, revealing the internal processes that enable creative design. Using beautifully narrated vignettes drawn from his teaching and design practice, Listening to Design describes techniques for overcoming creative impasses and finding your own inner passion. It also provides valuable insights for art, design, and architecture educators as well as therapists working with creative clients.”
(Esther Sperber, founder of Studio ST Architects, New York)

Daphne Merkin


Getting Closer to Nearly Happy

Lilith Magazine
June, 2017

“What Freud called melancholia today we call depression, or in the words of Daphne Merkin, “being someone who is… pickled in the brine of self-hatred.” Merkin’s new memoir, This Close to Happy: A Reckoning with Depression (Farrar Straus Giroux, $26), is a project of remembering, repeating and working through a life-long struggle with the dark pull of depression and suicide wishes. For Merkin, depression is a chronic condition from which she is never completely free, but with the help of a hefty combination of medication and therapy she can be “this close to happy,” living a life centered on the love of writing, friendships and motherhood.”
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Ms. Magazine


Architecting Your Life: A Response to Ivanka Trump

Ms. Magazine Blog
June, 2017

“As an architect, I love the way architectural terms quietly sneak into everyday language. Perhaps because dwelling and shelter are among the most primal of human needs, buildings have come to symbolize all structures, both physical, mental and social. And I was troubled by Ivanka’s limited understanding of architecture and its complexities.”

Let’s make difference the new norm
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You Can’t Do It Alone — Architecture, Equity And Joint Creativity

The Huffington Post
May, 2017

“…But while we celebrate the prize committee’s new appreciation for joint creativity, they have yet again failed to acknowledge that did not arrive at this insight on their own. Not only have they continued to refuse to recognize Denise Scott Brown as a recipient of the prize awarded to Robert Venturi, they also deny her the credit she deserves for championing the idea of “joint creativity”, yet again, erasing her profound contribution to the field of architecture.”
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Catalog Essay: The Poetics of Home: Between Psychological and Physical Structures

Israel Museum, Jerusalem
February, 2017

What is a home? Is it a place or an idea? Is our home the destination we
yearn for on a long journey, or the childhood origin from which we travel?
The home structures the way that we live and is structured by the cultural norms around us. And yet as these homes we inhabit create the necessary environment for dwelling and for Bachelard’s “daydreaming,” they also inhibit other forms of domesticity. It is only in the estrangement that is created by art, the shock of the uncanny, and the awareness of our embodied reaction to our dwellings, that we can glimpse other ways of living.


The Wings of Daedalus, towards a relational architecture

The Psychoanalytic Review
September, 2016

Psychoanalysis has long been interested in the creative process, and yet architecture has rarely been studied from a psychoanalytic perspective. This paper examines the creative process of architecture in which the space between an existing problem and a physical, occupiable building is bridged. I follow the story of Daedalus, the mythic first architect, and suggest that the architect’s creativity depends on the ability to utilize multiple modalities of the human mind and body and to allow them to converse with one another in what Philip Bromberg called a moment of “standing in the spaces.”


Psychoanalysis and Architecture: The Inside and the Outside

By: Cosimo Schinaia
Foreword: Esther Sperber
Publisher: Karnac Books
May, 2016

“A foreword is a collection of words that come before, the first one encounters when opening the cover of a new book…an invitation to follow the author on a journey of insights and ideas…

But when traveling through the terrains of a new book, much as we learn from Dr. Schinaia about navigating unknown lands, the only truth the traveler can reference is his place of origin We relay on our point of departure to anchor us, allowing new experiences to deepen our understanding of worlds around and within us.

Like journeys there are different kinds of books. Some take us on a business like trip, efficient, productive and quick. Others, like a long vacation, allow the reader to meander in and out of adventures, letting the landscape suggest the path. Some follow a direct road from the point of departure to the destination, others happen upon encounters in an accidental manner. And like a voyage, a book will also come to an end and return home with what the traveler gathered; a photograph of a sunset, the favor of an exotic dish and the email address of the passenger that shared a train ride. Some of these memories will be cherished, perhaps even passed on to the next generation as an heirlooms, others will fade, adding a slight tint to the color of the voyage.


Kissing Disciplines – Relational Architecture

The Ethical Turn: Otherness and subjectivity in contemporary psychoanalysis
Edited: David Goodman and Eric Severson
Routledge, May 2016

… I am excited to envision a place in which the field of psychoanalysis, and its acceptance of the disorganized human mind, can kiss the thoughtful reasoning of philosophy, the wonderment of religion and perhaps even the concrete usefulness of architecture. Kissing, as Lavin writes, is “a union of bedazzling convergence and identification during which separation is inconceivable yet inevitable”



The Shadow of Zaha Hadid

Blog post in Lilith Magazine
April 7, 2015,

“But alongside my admiration, and slight envy of Zaha Hadid, I hear a small ugly voice whispering in my head. This voice says, “she was too big for life and so she died.” It is true, I admit, that she defied so many social norms, being ambitious, creative and successful, and choosing not to marry or have children. This, the ‎Trump-like-misogynist voice in my head says, was too much; the universe could not maintain this kind of female presence.”



The Jewish Home – Sacred Privacy within Community

OOI – Hillel Office of Innovation, Base DWTN
March 29, 2016, New York

As we think about how to strengthen the link between Jewish homes, Jewish community and Jewish history, we might also wonder how to protect this Jewish home as a private space, one in which individuals have the freedom to create new social structures and to test societal norms. Could this Jewish home challenge the conventions around us and create a space for personal values? Could this home reshape gender roles, resist consumerism, foster environmental consciousness, support economic equality, and do all this while maintaining, and affirming, its connection to Jewish history, ritual and community?




Home and the Poetics of Space

School of Visual Arts
March 23, 2016, New York


Synagogue Design

A design proposal for the Kesher Synagogue
Yeshiva University
November 3, 2015, New York

Home and the Poetics of Space


Home and the Poetics of Space

White Society Colloquium
William Alanson White Institute
Billie Pivnick, Esther Sperber and Sarah Schoen
November 11, 2015

Gaston Bachelard’s Poetics of Space explores the effect of attention on our sense of space and of place’s qualities on our attention. Bachelard writes that the house shelters daydreaming and protects dreamers, therefore contemplating home should help us understand an important intersection between our patients’ embodied psyches and their cultural experience. This presentation will reflect on the meaning of home as habitat, person, place, memory, play, projection, and sometimes prison.



Psychoanalysis Should Join the Slow Movement

October 22, 2015

We live in a fast world. We eat fast, travel fast, read fragments of stories with great rapidity. And then we realize that in this haste we have lost something valuable.
The slow movement, which started with slow food in the mid-eighties, expanded to slow reading (read every word), slow travel (notice the beauty of the wild flower field) and slow schooling (respond to each child). These slow movements share an appreciation of the pleasure and connoisseurship that come with slowing down.
We can now add Slow Therapy to the slow movement, a new branding for psychoanalysis.