Conceptualizing Einfühlung's Theory

Invited authors: Lorí Crízel, Caroline Ogura e Maurício Dallastra

Since our study is focused on NeuroArchitecture, we can say that we seek to better understand the relationship between the nervous system and how it absorbs and translates information from an architectural project. In this sense, a recurring practice within neuroscience applied to architecture is to put ourselves in the place of the other to better understand the context and extract experiences and scenarios that allow us to improve the exercise of our profession, that is, to practice empathy. Therefore, it is possible to perceive several proposals for the study of empathy, as well as practical techniques for application in projects, aiming at a more humanized result.

Imagem de Gerd Altmann por Pixabay

One aspect that articulates empathy with design practice within architecture is Einfühlung's Theory, which we will first contextualize with this excerpt from the book Saber Ver a Arquitetura, by Bruno Zevi:

Of different value, and fundamental in the history of architectural interpretations, is Einfühlung's theory, according to which artistic emotion consists in the identification of the viewer with the forms, and therefore in the fact that architecture transcribes the states of mind in the forms of construction, humanizing and animating them. Looking at the architectural forms, we vibrate in symbolic sympathy with them, because they elicit reactions in our bodies and in our spirits. Based on these considerations, the symbolist sympathy tried to reduce art to a science: a building would be nothing more than a machine capable of producing certain predetermined human reactions (ZEVI, 1996, p. 161).

Naturally, as it displays an aesthetic bias, architecture can be interpreted from different perspectives. Bruno Zevi (1996) lists as area of ​​interpretations: political, philosophical-religious, scientific, economic-social, materialistic, technical, physiopsychological, formalistic and spatial. Einfühlung's theory, also known as empathy theory, is classified by Zevi as a physiopsychological interpretation and, when looking for references on the topic, it is noticed that the movements around the subject happen in a common nucleus of philosophers and thinkers, mainly in Germany in the middle of the 19th century. This term describes empathy as the faculty that is given to us to understand and emotionally establish some relationship between human beings and, later, came to be used to describe the relationship between man and nature. This relationship involves three components / fields: the sensory, the cognitive and, consequently, the behavioral. Great references and contributions as design techniques for us to have tools in NeuroArchitecture come from studies derived from Einfühlung theorists (Vischer, Lipps, Wölfflin and Göller). It was through the advances achieved by this theoretical current that it was possible to bring into the project field tools that worked to stimulate the cognitive, sensory and behavioral fields of users.

Einfühlung's theory in the design context: constructive lines

It is important to highlight that the German term, developed in the scope of aesthetics to understand the emotional effect of - especially, but not only - spatial forms (GALLAND-SZYMKOWIAK, 2017). Mallgrave (2009) describes that Friedrich Theodor Vischer, considered one of the first theorists of Einfühlung, understood architecture as a “symbolic art” and that, through it, the architect's role is to print vividness with linear features and suspended plans. Briefly, its concept points out that external factors influence in a particular way and, involuntarily, our emotional state, translating and interpreting the symbolic image that the brain received. More objectively, Vischer notes that vertical lines bring the feeling of uplifting the human spirit, horizontal lines enlarge it and curved lines move with more energy than straight lines. His successor, Robert Vischer, refines the proposition by stating that a horizontal line can look nice because it conforms to the structure of our visual apparatus. In contrast, a diagonal line would not bring such a pleasant sensation because it requires a less usual movement of the ocular globe. The same happens between an arc-shaped line and an irregularly shaped one. A form that has regularity is more interesting because it is similar to our body regularity. The study of emotions that we can translate from lines and shapes (vertical and horizontal straight lines, curved lines, helical, circle, ellipse, cube and sphere) will be covered in the book “NEUROARCH® - Uma proposição entre Neuroarquitetura e Teoria de Einfühlung aplicada às práticas projetuais”. The book will be released soon and is written by Lorí Crízel with the participation of Caroline Ogura and Maurício Dallastra in a chapter that conceptualizes the theory. Einfühlung's theory in the design context: Classics and Baroques

When addressing the terms "classical" and "baroque" in the design context, it should be noted that the classic and baroque nomenclatures continue to designate stylistic, aesthetic and architectural composition languages ​​as a style applied in a given period. Such references do not cancel or become uncharacterized. These same words are applied as design techniques applied in the universe of architecture, now contemplated by this new design bias, NeuroArchitecture.

In this sense, one can articulate the work of Heinrich Wölflin - theorist of Einfühlung and one of the most influential 20th century art historians - entitled Fundamental concepts of Art History (2006) with the human existential aspect investigated by the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche in Origin of Tragedy and the Spirit of Music. Philosophy versus art history versus man in the face of his interpretation of the world, Nietzsche also brings the nomenclatures "Dionysian" and "Apollonian" to compose part of the characterization of interpretations of the world that human beings develop throughout their existence.

When these considerations are translated into the universe of architecture, it is noted that "Dionysian" establishes a direct relationship with "purity, cleanliness and objectivity" typically related to a more classicist stylistic language, the so-called classic. In a similar analogy, "Apollonian" brings a more focused relationship to "movement, information and adornment" that is also found in the Baroque stylistic language, the so-called Baroque.