The Castalia Foundation republishes the following article on LSD and professional design from Progressive Architecture (August, 1966). It is reprinted here to preserve the shared history of the psychedelic community, and to satisfy the interest of the modern reader. The Psychedelic Review provides the article under the terms of 'fair use' and it is offered for the purposes of comment and critique. In this regard, we ask the modern reader to consider the following questions while reading the article that follows:
"The space and the elements which define this space, the color, the texture, the forms, shades and shadows, the planes, the solids and voids, become points of reference and yet meaningful in themselves... The elements of architectural design, as partially listed here, each attain visual significance in order and intensity to fit the mind's needs... It heightened my ability to visualize in greater clarity the interrelationship of the elements of design, which are to use the jargon of the architect scale, proportion, color, texture, shade, and shadow.As Izumi's description makes clear, the quality, as well as the quantity, of visual perception is altered. Usually, physical objects and the environment are not seen as things in themselves, comprised of their own material, sitting within their own universe of weight, color, form, and texture. The preconceptions with which we habitually perceive objects a chair as something to sit on; a lamp as something that throws light are transcended, and objects are experienced as things in themselves, not merely as serving some particular function, but as colored, textured, seemingly alive forms.
In my case, the LSD experiences acted as a form of catalyst in the thinking process during the course of design... My new awareness, and the subsequent accompanying phenomena of being able to experience simultaneously, in series and in parallel, the numerous perceptual effects of space and all its elements, would not have been achieved in almost an instantaneous fashion without the aid of LSD."
"I no longer design for architects. I am now trying to design for human beings... A most significant effect was on my concepts of aesthetics. Like most architects, I was seeing space as more of an aesthetic experience, without regard for what people would be doing in it.
I now began to think of people living and working in these spaces... I am much more conscious of spaces with relevance to the human being and in this sense critical of architectural spaces in which the human figure becomes an intrusion.
In a similar way that some people see a 'halo' around their favorite subject, I am much more conscious of the 'territorial space' around a person that appears to move with them... The acquisition of the sensitivity, and certainly the awareness of these phenomena to this intense degree, would not have occurred in such short order without the LSD experience."
"Whether expanded awareness or increased insight accompany these unhabitual perceptions and altered frames of reference is not a function of the chemical agent."Apparently none of the effects of the drugs are simply spontaneous and general; results depend on how they are used and on whom. It would seem that architects, then, even though their visual abilities are high, might not experience the euphoria of imagery recounted by Huxley and others unless the situation is so structured and supervised that they can.
"Despite great diversity in the conduct of these studies, impressive improvement rates have been almost uniformly reported... Based on findings with more than 1000 alcoholics, LSD was twice as effective as any other treatment program."Mogar also believes that the possibility of positive bias in these reports is offset by their consistency and the divergent theoretical persuasions of the researchers.
"I felt the effects of my two experiences with LSD to be positive and beneficial.. About the application of psychedelics in the field of architecture: It seems to me that the value of these drugs cannot be discussed apart from their effects on the total personality of the individual involved.Henrik Bull and Eric Clough, both California architects, took mescaline in creativity experiments carried out by the International Foundation for Advanced Study in Menlo Park, California, Like many of the research results reported, it was exploratory research that remains to be verified by more controlled studies; the results obtained are apparently in general obtainable only when the subjects are directed by specially trained persons. Henrik Bull commented:
My own experience effected changes in my thought processes and my abilities in dealing with three-dimensional imagery. But, even more importantly, there was a change in my approach to architecture through changes in personality structure and needs of my psyche.
My whole approach to design has become far less concerned with conceptual structure and preconceived notions of form or ideal content. Instead, my interest has been on an increasingly more flexible, existential, or ontological design process. It is particularly in this respect that I think LSD and the other psychedelics seem to have the capability of enormously enhancing the human potential.
In observing myself and others who have taken LSD, DMT, and the other psychedelics with a constructive orientation, there seem to be two general effects on almost any level. One is the enhanced ability to function; the other is the greatly increased degree of personal and intellectual freedom that develops after taking the drugs."
"My experience during the session was an unbelievable increase in ability to concentrate and to make decisions. It was impossible to procrastinate, one of my favorite hobbies. Cobwebs, blocks, and binds disappeared. Anything was possible, but I was working on very real and rather right problems [during the session].
The designs were more free, but probably more from the standpoint of removing blocks in the consideration of what I felt the client might accept. Three designs were outlined in the three hours. All were accepted by the clients; one was tossed out after I saw that a better solution was possible. Perhaps this is the greatest long-term effect—a greater flexibility.
There is definitely an enhancement of the ability to visualize, but my experience was that I became a better Henrik Bull, not Gaudi or Wright. I do feel that every architect should have the experience, to see what potential lies within himself. Beyond the usefulness, the experience was highly enjoyable and really quite fantastic."
"I had felt for a long time that my life was plagued with necessary but relatively unimportant detail work that was interfering with my creative work. The detail work was in competition with the design work, and both were suffering. Beyond that, I felt that my design efforts were often repeating old ideas and should be more free in spirit. These are the reasons I took mescaline...[After the morning session of listening to music], I was looking forward to the opportunity to attempt some of the professional creative problems we had been told to bring with us. There were four of these, ranging from an extremely complex state college building with a program of 82 pages, to a rather simple vacation house...
The simplest problem was attacked first. Almost immediately, several relationships that had escaped my attention became apparent, and a solution to the spatial relationships followed soon after. I avoided looking at a watch throughout the session, but I would guess that 20 minutes had elapsed. Quite normally, I would stew and fret for weeks before coming to such a solution. Not to be misleading, on a simple problem the period at the end which is truly productive is often quite short under normal circumstances, but in any ease a matter of hours...
Quite literally, I had only a head to think and a hand to make sketches and notes... The first problem completed, I felt very exhilarated, and could not wait to get on to the next.
This was basically a site problem, locating a number of condominium houses on a very beautiful piece of property. The decisions came very quickly and I outlined a solution which pleased me in a very short time. In passing, I investigated the economic yield to my client for several similar solutions and decided on what I felt was the best one. Why not do a typical floor plan for one of the units? This, too, was accomplished without my usual number of false starts...
"[I began to work on a house for a client who had turned down several previous schemes]: This time, my approach to the problem was unrelated to all previous attempts, and I looked at the challenging site in a new way. I really believe the solution that resulted in a few minutes is better than any of those which preceded it. This is a job which has taken several hundred hours of time, and represents a great money loss for the office. Why had I never seen this solution before?
I should emphasize that the solution could have happened before. It belongs to the same family as my earlier work. The only real difference was that the solution I felt right about appeared in almost no time at all...
"The day had started at six in the morning and ended 22 hours later. It was probably the shortest and most enjoyable day in my life."
"After ingesting the drug [mescaline] the first time I took it, I lay down on the floor and began to melt into the environment. I felt as if I were a mass of protoplasmic jelly that was just creeping out into and infusing with everything around it. I felt some tension and wondered why I'm generally relaxed and I realized that, along with this melting of my general being, my ego was melting too.
I visualized my ego as a head sticking up above the protoplasm, trying to preserve itself. Once I realized that and could laugh at myself at my ego it just went flop and away I went. The general feeling and the mental imagery that was involved in it had to do largely with a total involvement, physically and emotionally, with the world about me, and with life in general.
I tried to think about what was happening and realized that I was trying to intellectualize about what was the most complete thinking process that I have ever experienced. I laughed again at how foolish we are sometimes; we think about thinking and we think about being when it's so simple and basic to just be.
That day, without thinking about it, I experienced a deep inner knowledge of the philosophies that man has devised for himself through the centuries. I didn't any longer just intellectually understand philosophy, but I knew life, and I knew that all the philosophies are essentially and integrally the same. I realized that man makes structures for himself that is, constructs which are all essentially paradoxically ridiculous, but at the same time are really necessary as ways of dealing with the world and ourselves.
I went from seeing myself as Professor, World's Foremost Authority, to a Zen master sitting on a mountaintop and seeing all the human constructs in a series of structures abstract kinds of geometric forms which inter-lapped and overlapped and stood on top and underneath. They all seemed to he the same thing and they all seemed to be very, very ridiculous.
I felt that, as a living thing, I was integrally a part of life, and, while I didn't ask for that particular state of being, neither could I accept any particular responsibility for it having happened, yet I was at the same time totally responsible for life itself because I was integrally involved in it.
One interesting thing about the psychedelic experience is the way in which these ideas, thoughts, feelings whatever they might be called come to one. Normally we use words as tools to form constructs, communicate, and to think with, but in the psychedelic experience there is really no thinking process involved. Thoughts are essentially mental images very, very clear, and complete, and integral with being, so to speak so that the thought-process, as we normally know it, doesn't really exist.
During the almost two years from the first to the second experience, I would say that my general ability to think in pictures, rather than in words, was much enhanced. My ability to flow easily with life was enhanced, and therefore my creativity. There was less internal friction and a greater ability to focus on what I was doing, thinking, or designing. I don't think I learned anything new about design, but found it easier to explore possibilities in a freer way.
[The second session was the actual creativity experiment at the Foundation.] The problem I brought to the session was an art and cultural center on a site near the new University of California campus near Santa Cruz, California. Prior to the session, I thought about the project and discarded many different schemes. The day before the session, I had a basic construct in mind and an idea of a good solution for the problem.
We were instructed to go into the session thinking about the fact that we were going to work on a particular project. There were three of us in the room that day: two physicists and myself, each working on his own project. We were told not to think about our projects as such during the morning but to be as open as we could.
That morning, at 8:30, we talked for awhile, lay down, at on earphones and eyeblinders, and listened to stereo music for the bulk of the morning. My morning experience ended at 10:30 because I was anxious to get to work, but a program was set up so that we didn't work until noon. So I patiently waited until it was time to go to work. I took a technicolor dream trip through history: I found myself swinging through trees with a lot of other people, but we were all pretty much simian and we seemed to be enjoying ourselves.
I could see the forest or jungle the flowers, the other 'people,' having a delightful experience, chattering back and forth in words I didn't understand but the mood seemed a very happy one. Immediately after that I was in a cave, with prehistoric paintings on the wall, people both clothed and unclothed sitting around a fire. I was eating a great chunk of raw meat, sort of braised meat. Particularly I noticed the environment we were in the figure drawings on the cave wall.
Immediately after that, I was in either a Mayan or an Aztec village, wandering around through a market place that was the center of a large square, looking at the temple which was very huge and impressive, seeing the people in the market place, looking at their mode of dress the gold ornaments the wealthy people were wearing, stopping and eating a piece of fruit at a stand; essentially living in and being a part of this beautiful city I was in.
After that, I was in a formal ballroom, dressed in what looked like one of the old tintype photographs, talking to people with a very formal approach, feeling very formal inside and noticing the architecture of the huge ballroom, the big windows made up of small panels of glass, the clothing the people were wearing, the dancing.
Then I was in an ice-cream parlor in the Roaring Twenties. Everybody was having a terrific time in the 23 Skidoo style, which somehow felt very superficial. Then I was in a modern city the likes of which I have never seen. It is best described as the "City of the Future" the kind Progressive Architecture occasionally publishes as concepts for redevelopment. Everything was new, everything efficient, everything beautifully articulated.
I sat up at about 11:00 with the strong feeling that everything having to do with the history of architecture and everything having to do with leading all architects, all designers, myself, up to the cultural point we are at now with the ability to design based on experience and knowledge of the past that all of this was fine, but any copying of or taking directly from any past age or any other culture was ludicrous, meaningless, and had no validity in a fresh design approach.
With this feeling, the prior ideas I had had about my project were all gone; I found myself in an absolute void of idea and creative thought. It was about noon; the others were aroused from their eyeshades and earphones. We had some lunch, talked awhile, and then it was time to work.
I sat down with a sketch-pad and drew a square outline of the property, looked at it, and had absolutely no idea at all of what was appropriate to solve the problems. I must have looked at the paper for or 10 minutes with an absolute blank. And then, all of a sudden, with a total flash of an absolutely clear, completed project was the cultural center—designed, built, complete before my eyes. So complete that I could walk through it in my imagination, see the architectural detailing, see the insides of the shops, and so on.
It was a totally complete, finished product. So I began to do the plot plan layout. I knew I had to have so many square feet of building, so many car parkings, knew the circulation patterns. I began to draw what I saw and everything fit precisely, and, although I had a scale ruler with me, I hardly had to use it, because everything seemed to be exactly as it should be and fitted exactly as it would if I were measuring it.
I doodled figures around the edge of the sheet, trying to arrive at per sq ft estimates of construction cost, total value of project, potential monthly income. And all of these factors seemed to work too, so that the project had economic feasibility. As rapidly as I could, much faster than my hand would work, I tried to capture the essence of the building project, of the Center. I was almost certain that my total knowledge of it and how it was built wouldn't stay with me, and therefore I had to get symbols down on paper that would give me a key back in later. This was done in about an hour the total process and the project was completed.
While I felt I could certainly go on and do a great deal more work on the center, I instead had a lot of fun designing. I designed a little meditation house, for example, in the woods in my head. I could see it just as completely as I could see the center. I designed a couple of mountain cabins, and I designed a residence that was larger than the cabins. I played with a piece of sculpture for a mailbox. This was all pure mental projection. I felt I had done my work for the day; in fact, the way I normally would work I had done something like four or five days' work of really good production in a matter of that hour-and-a-half or so.
I spent the rest of the day enjoying and looking at the other people's mental wheels turning. They were sitting there deep in thought, working through very complex problems one on light patterns and photons, and one on other things, just as complex, having to do with the neurological patterns of the human body.
The psychedelic materials seem to be 'facilitators', or perhaps 'focusers.' I think that what this experiment showed is that it's possible to use the materials to focus on anything, or to facilitate focusing on anything, that one may choose to do. So they could be used for designing, as I did, for scientific thinking, as others did, for psychotherapy, for explorations into telepathy perhaps. I don't know what the potentials are.
I learned from being with the Institute twice that the setting is the vital part of the experiment with psychedelic materials. They open the unconscious completely, although it can still be tapped directly into a focus; but unless there is a focus, and unless there is a protective atmosphere, I think there is a great danger in having an experience that would be wide open to I don't know what: Some of the horrors of the unconscious, the losing of all structures that one functions with and not being able to replace them, or to replace them in a way that is antithetical to the society in which we live.
I see a great danger in the misuse or the playing around with the psychedelic materials, but I'm tremendously enthusiastic about their potential. I want to say: All architects ought to have this experience. Maybe everybody ought to have this experience. But it would be sheer insanity to have mass distribution of the drugs and say to everybody, here, let's see what can be done.
Conjecturing about how the psychedelic experience enhanced my awareness and what it can do for the future: The project I designed isn't particularly unusual in architecture. Essentially, I had a problem to work out that needed a comfortable, warm architecture; it needed to have a feeling of culture, a feeling of artistry that wouldn't, as I see it, dominate so strongly that it would essentially destroy the integration of other people's arts into it. So, in the sense of using the psychedelic session for the creation of something totally new or even very different that is something I wasn't involved in trying to do. What I was amazed by was the facility with which problem-solving was enhanced.
Until the time of the session, it had been a fairly difficult problem; I hadn't been able to solve it in a way that I was happy with. The solution came so clearly and so completely and with no problems to readjust, that I think, for myself, the value was in that ability to problem-solve in such a complete, thorough, and rapid way. This quality has stayed with me. It was five months ago now. I am not functioning every day as I did on that day, but I've had the experience of sitting down in the morning and designing six houses in three hours in rough, very crude sketch form. I have done a little bit of very free thinking and very free sketching on new forms and new shapes—things I hadn't attempted before and I'm pleased with these too.
While people have said their experience doesn't stay with them, I think that somehow I learned something from it. I learned that whatever I was able to do that day was not because of the drug, but because the drug allowed me to function in a way that I was capable all along of functioning, without the usual frictions we encounter.
Perhaps the next step is to try and work out totally new concepts. Perhaps a whole new view of architecture could be developed. I'd like to see someone like the Institute put a group of people together in a problem-solving session where they were all working on the same project, for example.
I believe that the psychedelics are a tool like a key to open doors so that we can look at old things in new and open ways. This is what we are capable of all the time but we don't usually recognize the fact that we are."
The Castalia Foundation republishes the above article from Progressive Architecture to preserve the shared history of the psychedelic community, and to satisfy the interest of the modern reader. It is provided under terms of 'fair use', for comment and critique. An archived PDF of the original published article can be downloaded here. An amazing public-library of past issues of Progressive Architecture can be found, here.