Fire Department Psychiatry

One of the presenters this morning at Dwell on Design – I believe it was Gwendolyn Wright – mentioned a fire department that had once employed a psychiatrist to help solve mysterious house fires.

They had noticed, apparently, that some recent fires involving stately old Victorians occurred immediately after those houses' residents had got divorced.
And it wasn't just insurance fraud.

What really happened, the psychiatrist proposed, was that the houses themselves had been blamed, or scapegoated, for the interpersonal strife that once occurred within them – and those houses had thus been destroyed.
It was anti-maritally inspired arson – another front in the war against architecture – with the house as the enemy to be destroyed.
At least that's what I think the speaker said.

(Note: I'm sure there were many other factors involved in those fires – and this is, by no means, some over-arching explanation for all domestic fires in the United States – but it did make a fascinating anecdote: desperate people depressed, even enraged, by architecture, setting fire to the very thing they think has limited them).

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2 Comments:

Blogger PeteO said...

I am unavoidably reminded of Daphne Du Maurier and Alfred Hitchcock's Rebecca.

September 21, 2007 12:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Could it be that the stresses of renovation/maintaining such high maintaince buildings were the cause of the break-up in the first place?

September 22, 2007 3:38 AM  

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