Narcissism and the City

Principal Investigator(s): Dr Francesco Proto


About us

Based on the genealogical approach derived from post-Structuralism, this research returns to the origins of contemporary Western visual culture to ascertain the relationship between subjectivity and the built environment today. Jacques Lacan’s notion of the ‘mirror stage’ and Jean Baudrillard’s concept of ‘simulation’ are brought together to theorize the unexplored impact that the Western construction of the modern self has played in shaping, envisioning and realizing contemporary megacities. 

In emphasizing the role played by the ascent and development of capitalism from the Renaissance onwards, the research explains the emergence of contemporary junk space as an effect of a generalized schizophrenic condition enacted by the subject as an extreme reaction against the overwhelming presence of technology in our lives. In this respect, the research also invalidates the simultaneous coexistence of Lacan’s psychoanalytical clinics to suggest a trajectory in the progression of the Western self, evolving by stages that do not match Freud’s recollection of the emergence of hysteria in his Vienna fin-de-siecle. Some chapters have been previously published as journal articles or chapters in previous books: 

Research impact

The research is part of a broader project that intends to supply psychoanalysis with a better understanding of the relationship amongst space, subjectivity and well-being. In this respect, it is the first study of its kind to historicize a prevalent form of subjectivity throughout different epochs as characterized by visual paradigm shifts in architectural representation. 

Forthcoming publications

  • Proto, F. “The Automatic Writing of the City: Ordinary Psychosis and Junk Space”, in Lacan + Architecture, edited by John Shannon Hendrix and Francesco Proto. Palgrave Macmillan (forthcoming). 
  • Proto, F. “The Invention of History: Lacan in Baudrillard Part 2: Torus & the Moebius Strip”  (The International Journal of Baudrillard Studies, in progress)

Past publications

  • Proto, F. “Abject Objects: Perversion & The Modernist Grid”, Architecture & Culture, no. 3-4 (2020): 564-8.
  • Proto, F. “Seducing God(s): Renaissance Ideal Cities as Mirror-images of Western Subjectivity”, in Architecture and the Unconscious, edited by J. S. Hendrix and L. E. Holm. London: Ashgate /Routledge (2016): 121-136.
  • Proto, F. “Fatal Objects: Lacan in Baudrillard Part II (The Third Simulation Stage: Post-Modernity)”, The International Journal of Baudrillard Studies 10, no. 2 (July 2013).
  • Proto, F. “The Invention of History: Lacan in Baudrillard Part I: First Simulation Stage (The Classic Age)”, The International Journal of Baudrillard Studies 10, no. 1 (January 2013).


Francesco Proto

Dr Francesco Proto

Senior Lecturer in Architecture

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