By Pierluigi Serraino
An unknown episode in the annals of modern architecture and psychology—a 1950s University of California, Berkeley, evaluation of creativity with subjects including Eero Saarinen, I.M. Pei, Philip Johnson, and 37 other major architects—is published for the first time.The story of midcentury architecture in America is dominated by outsized figures—Richard Neutra, George Nelson, Louis Kahn—who were universally acknowledged as creative geniuses. Yet virtually unheard of is the intensive 1958–59 study, conducted at the Institute of Personality Assessment and Research at the University of California, Berkeley, that scrutinized these and dozens of other famous architects in an effort to map their minds. Deploying an array of tests reflecting current psychological theories, the investigation sought to answer questions that still apply to creative practice today: What makes a person creative? What are the biographical conditions and personality traits necessary to actualize that potential? The study’s findings have been gathered through numerous original sources, including questionnaires, aptitude tests, and interview transcripts, revealing how these great architects evaluated their own creativity and that of their peers. In The Creative Architect, Pierluigi Serraino charts the development, implementation, and findings of this historic study, producing the first look at a fascinating and forgotten moment in architecture, psychology, and American history.