mit press: sylvia LAVIN’S form follows libido argues that by the 1950s, some architects felt an urge to steer the cool abstraction of high modernism away from a neutral formalism toward the production of more erotic, affective environments.
lavin turns to the architecture of richard neutra (1892-1970) to explore the genesis of these new mood-inducing environments. in a series of engaging essays weaving through the designs and writings of this vienna-born, california-based architect, lavin discovers in neutra a sustained and poignant psychoanalytic reflection set in the context of a burgeoning psychoanalytic culture in america. lavin shows that neutra’s redirection of modernism constituted not a lyrical regression to sentimentality but a deliberate advance of architectural theory and technique to engage the unconscious mind, fueled by the ideas of psychoanalysis that were being rapidly disseminated at the time. in neutra’s responses to a vivid range of issues, from psychoanalysis proper to the popular psychology of tele-evangelical prayer, lavin uncovers a radical reconstitution of the architectural discipline.