The Nietzschean concept inspired Thomas Mical, a doctorate in the subject, his subject of focus being De Chirico’s metaphysical paintings, who pursued his degree in Architecture from Harvard University and works towards architectural theory. He has also worked in Tokyo and Chicago as a designer. At present, he is an Assistant Professor of Architecture at the University of Oklahoma. He is also an affiliate faculty member in Film Studies, Art History, and International Studies at the University. 

“I believe in the future resolution of these two states, dream and reality, which are seemingly so contradictory, into a kind of absolute reality, a surreality, if one may so speak.”
-André Breton

Book Review: Surrealism and Architecture by Thomas Mical
Surrealism and Architecture ©

Surrealism, a concept of exploring and unfolding the truths and creativity of the subconscious mind, has been a topic for discussion. The book, ‘Surrealism and Architecture,’ compiled by Thomas Mical, is an anthology of 21 essays exploring the idea of the metaphysical elements involved in architectural designing. 

Surrealism began as an Avante-Garde Movement in the 20th century found in Paris, to bring out the hidden truth that disguises itself in the normality of everyday life. It erupted as a movement against the ills of industrialization. It was a revolution that outbreaks against the societal conventions of the bourgeois society that contradicted the interest of the subconscious mind. It has been a thought overlooked for a long, long time. The surrealist thought in architecture is yet unidentified and undefined. The transformation of the notion began from written to visual art and then towards the spatial voids. Surrealism is a fine line that exists between solids and voids, dreams and reality, subjectivity and objectivity. 

“Space is nothing, yet we have a kind of vague faith in it.”

-Robert Smithson

People occupy the voids, yet they have a sharp focus on the solids. The void is the nullity that paves way for the energy to flow. Humans occupy the voids yet they fail to understand the meaning of the unseen energy forces that are felt through the experiences they encounter while inhabiting that particular personalized void that is the physical manifestation of the memories and imagination of their own. The metaphysical aspect of architecture lies within the fact that it influences the user experiences of their inhabited voids in the line of time. It connects the past to the present and brings about a psychological and emotional connection. An environology master, David Koh, stated, “When people built the house, the energy inside the house is static. Once the people live in, the energy inside the house is dynamic. People may affect the building, and the building may affect the people. And it’s not positive thinking that the people need, but it’s the energy that makes people think positively.” The energy flowing through the various spaces creates an imbalance due to the dynamism of the humans living in. This, in turn, creates a flux within the dialects of energy within the physical, emotional, and psychic connectivity of the people. Architecture is a living tapestry and a constantly changing phenomenon. The connection of the energy within the human body and outside impacts not only buildings but other elements too that together build the abstract and hypothetical whole. 

The book, “Surrealism and Architecture,” by Thomas Mical, explores the architectural possibilities derived from the artistic movement. Various contributors with their diverse opinions, ideologies, and methodologies, voiced their idea of the relationship of the surrealist thought and tendencies with that of architectural theories and practice. The objective of the book is to understand the concept of surrealism in light of modernism. It provides an insight into the least-examined artistic movement in association with architecture. 

In these essays, the authors tend to establish the techniques of destabilization of the dividing line of the aesthetic and social elements that affect the architectural elements and their psychological impact on the users. 

“Surrealism and Architecture” not only portrays a multiplicity of voices and thoughts of various writers, artists, architects, and urbanists emphasizing the different models of perception and observation incorporated with an artistic effect in the essence and expectation of achieving the desired result. The interdisciplinary character of the book allows it to be a means of further discussion, also in other fields. Thomas Mical declares the book as incomplete as the ideologies of architectural theory. He wanted to deflect the focus of interest towards the scope of achievement, development, and research on the subject. The modern technological advancements and the voices of many great theorists of surrealism are not included in the anthology of essays, many are not yet written and are currently unexplored. The idea of surrealism in architecture is still in the process of being fully explored and hence, is rendered incomplete. New methodologies in the multidisciplinary field of architecture are still being explored leaving prospects for study, analysis, and research.


  1. Surrealism and Architecture by Thomas Mical
  2. Awang Lah, Nor & Abdul Wahab, Mohamad Hanif & Koh, David & Saruwono, Masran. (2015). Metaphysical Approach for Design Functionality in Malay-Islamic Architecture. Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences. 202. 273-284. 10.1016/j.sbspro.2015.08.231. 

Dania Irshad, a prefinal year student, pursuing B.Arch from Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi, focuses her intent as an architect with a social conscience who not only wishes to design only for the users for also in consideration of the environment. She is a voracious reader as well has her passion in writing.