Am I an architect and my mind forgot to inform me?
October 8, 2012 8:13 PM   Subscribe

Pseudo scientists, humor me: What does it mean/say about me that I dream about buildings?

I know that dream symbols aren't a real science, so I don't expect a "right" answer, but I'm curious if there's a reason/explanation for my dreams being focussed on buildings all my life. I've looked up several "dream symbol" pages, but the entries are only about specific buildings (i.e. a farm represents childhood and so on). I dream of all sorts of buildings and remember them vividly - one night, it's a tropical hotel made of glass, the next night a dark medieval castle, then an appartment building. I rarely remember other details from dreams; people/faces, conversations, things that aren't buildings are blurry at best.

Many, but not all dream buildings are large - skyscrapers, big event locations like stadiums, castles, you name it.
I have always dreamt about buildings. Some of my best childhood memories are the awesome places from dreams and trying to build them with Lego blocks.
I am not an architect or have any other job that deals with buildings.

Are there any resources for "dream themes" rather than "symbols"?
posted by MinusCelsius to Grab Bag (11 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
In your waking life, do you spend a lot of time around buildings?
posted by Nomyte at 8:15 PM on October 8, 2012

Not to threatsit, quickly throwing this in before bed: Not more than the average person. I worked in event management, and have dreamt about such locations, but they aren't more common in dreams than other buildings.
posted by MinusCelsius at 8:19 PM on October 8, 2012

Dream interpretation is up to you. Anyone can throw out an idea, but if it doesn't fit for you, that's not what it means for you.
Here are a couple of ideas that have merit for me, YMMV:
Houses and buildings and parts of buildings can be a fairly common way of representing youself in your dreams.
Examples that click for me:
Doorways represent movement to or from myself, letting people in , keeping people out.
One person filling an entire doorway = important person in my life, whether I like her/him or not.
Drawers and boxes may be aspects of myself, things that I compartmentalize, things that I don't acknowledge, things that I secretly wish for but don't think I can have, don't deserve.

And then dreams will play on these images. Grandmother's house. A house with termites. Castles. A building I can't get into. Moving into or out of a house. Helping someone else move.

Water = subconscious (for me). Doing things underwater means delving into my subconscious. So, houseboat ...WTF?

I'm just throwing all this out there, please don't pick it up if it doesn't help.
posted by SLC Mom at 8:30 PM on October 8, 2012

In Depth psychology a building is usually a representation of The Self, with the various floors corresponding to levels of consciousness or, for Freud, the Id, Ego, and Super Ego. See if you notice parallels between the condition of a building and our current situation.
posted by Mertonian at 8:50 PM on October 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

I had a really striking, memorable dream in high school about a city (or at least a group of buildings) that I can still recall in some detail. In that case, and in most of my more memorable dreams, I don't think the actual symbols have all that much meaning, but the emotions that were associated with them were the point - that city of glass was a happy place, a joyful, open, free place, which was something I was not getting in my daily life and badly needed. Likewise there was the pit of lava I got thrown into from a high cliff in an earlier recurring dream - and that was a warm, safe, relaxing dream, which would probably not be the first assumption an interpreter would leap to.

So if I were you I would think about it in emotional, rather than directly symbolic, content. I wrote a lot of poetry, which helped - YMMV.

(I also only have super-vivid dreams when I'm under a ton of stress - otherwise they tend to be pleasant and forgettable.)
posted by restless_nomad at 9:41 PM on October 8, 2012

Most of my dreams are situational, rather than narrative-driven. A few days ago, I dreamt I was in this abandoned church on the US-Mexican border; I can still see its bell-tower, its moorish spires, limey-white plaster on its walls, weeds and moss on its outer walls, the Spanish-isque "lining" on the edges. I knew a stand-off was *going* to happen there, but that it wasn't happening just as yet.

Of course, after a bit, I woke up and turned off the chime alarm on my iPhone, but here's the crucial bit: nothing actually happens in my dreams. It's more atmospheric film-noir than Sergio Leone's rapid-fire close-up duels, if it makes sense. Or more precisely, an ambient Ruskin Bond-isque high-adrenalin montage.

It's also why I liked Inception immensely. Particularly the scene where that girl sort of replicates Paris' neoclassical skyline into her own. I've done precisely that, with Indo-Sarcenic architecture myself, in my dreams.

As you can see, I tend to look at my dreams lately as a form of narrative-based entertainment, on par with novels and films, albeit one highly customized and unique. I sort of explore this energy in some creative ways; at work, we've had to do a prototype mobile app for a fictitious European bank. Guess where I took the inspiration for its logo from, that abandoned Mexican church I dreamed of.

In short, I don't know what it tells about me, but I know what it tells me. I like it this way.
posted by the cydonian at 10:49 PM on October 8, 2012

Well, you invited speculation, and for you, I have speculation.

First, visual dream content often has the character of a rebus, a picture which calls to mind a word, only in reverse, because in dreams a word which is on your mind brings to mind a picture in your dream.

For example, I believe this has happened to a person on Metafilter who had dreams of a creek running through her house when she lived in a house which creaked a lot at night when she was asleep.

And in a thread involving dreams, Skygazer wrote:
I've found in the last few years that there are times that the dreams I have, if I decode them according to the imagery, and make words from the pictures like in a rebus, and connect the words, my sub-consciousness is making immature and sarcastic wiseass dirty remarks about certain events in my life.

It's like a mischievous imp in there or something...
I didn't realize how Freudian this approach is until I tried to Google up some support for the idea of dream images as rebuses for the purposes of answering your question:
Interpretation of Dreams
Sigmund Freud

"The dream-thoughts are immediately comprehensible, as soon as we have learnt them. The dream-content, on the other hand, is expressed as it were in a pictograph script, the characters of which have to be transposed individually into the language of the dream-thoughts.

If we attempted to read these characters according to their pictorial value instead of according to their symbolic relation, we should clearly be led into error. Suppose I have a picture-puzzle, a rebus, in front of me. ...

But obviously we can only form a proper judgment of the rebus if we put aside criticisms such as these of the whole composition and its parts and if, instead, we try to replace each separate element in some way or other. The words which are put together in this way are no longer nonsensical but may form a poetical phrase of the greatest beauty and significance.

A dream is a picture-puzzle of this sort and our predecessors in the field of dream-interpretation have made the mistake of treating the rebus as a pictorial composition: and as such it has seemed to them nonsensical and worthless."

But from the tiny bit I know of Freudian dream interpretation, I believe it would go in a very different direction and much further than the relatively simple and straightforward view I have to offer you of your dreams of "buildings."

Second, in glancing over your previous questions to try to get some clues about this dream, I noticed that your first question referred to a situation you had been in while living in Germany, and had a flash that your dreams of a building seen as a rebus might not refer to the English "building", but could instead be tied to the German "Bildung":
The term Bildung refers to the German tradition of self-cultivation, (as related to the German for: creation, image, shape), wherein philosophy and education are linked in manner that refers to a process of both personal and cultural maturation. This maturation is described as a harmonization of the individual’s mind and heart and in a unification of selfhood and identity within the broader society, as evidenced with the literary tradition of bildungsroman.
In this way, fulfillment is achieved through practical activity that promotes the development of one’s own individual talents and abilities which in turn lead to the development of one’s society. In this way, Bildung does not simply accept the socio-political status quo, but rather it includes the ability to engage in a critique of one’s society, and to ultimately challenge the society to actualize its own highest ideals.
So I would say that these dreams of "buildings" over all these years have been about your education and development as a member of society and the attainment of the skills and understandings which could lead to the achievement of your highest aspirations.
posted by jamjam at 12:28 AM on October 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

Two things. I must reply because I often have what I call "architectural dreams" -- and yes, Inception also resonated heavily with me for that reason. Vast temples, skyscrapers, bits and pieces of cities I've lived, rarely small and homey spaces. Hell, if I could remember them more accurately, I'd make one doozy of a movie set designer. Second thing is that I spent about a year doing a dream journal, achieved "waking dream" states, and to this day can generally turn off an anxiety dream by realizing that I'm dreaming. I was slouching toward dream interpretation, but after a while doing it, I soured on the idea. I think for the most part it is misleading specificity, even when it's fairly well grounded as opposed to some kind of ancient meaning symbology (Freudian, Jungian or otherwise).

That said, the generalities I accept are that there is frequently some level of anxiety associated with the dream -- I'm not where I want to be, I'm unable to get someplace, I've forgotten to do something (I don't have traditional anxiety dreams such as falling or being naked in class/work -- usually). At this general level, I could concur that buildings represent society, stability, structure -- things with which I can have a fractious relationship on a good day. There have been times in my life when I've had great corporate jobs and worked in high towers or just downtown (NYC/Chicago), but those days are long out of reach for me, so a sense of letdown or failure is also likely part of the equation. I can't remember any specific dream, ever, where I've been notably happy, although I know I've had neutral/positive emotions while dreaming.

Does this fit with the rebus thesis? I would reject things associating, say, a pen with a penis, but I think this less didactic approach has some merit -- even if it's just confirming a sort of gut feeling that I didn't feel right.
posted by dhartung at 1:14 AM on October 9, 2012

I think it says that you appreciate the physical constructs of civilization. In a presentation I give about historic buildings I make the connection that, "buildings are books that hold stories." Meaning that all the events and experiences that people have happen within buildings and the buildings store those experiences. Maybe they don't store them in a physical sense but in your memory those buildings are containers for certain experiences. In your dreams they are containers for happy experiences.
posted by JJ86 at 6:02 AM on October 9, 2012

I'm afraid that I cannot give anywhere near as learned an answer as above, but I also dream a lot about buildings. I have recurring dreams of a number of places. There's a play park in a valley, a waterworks/dam on a hillside and, the place I return to again and again, a large library/office with a tall tower.

I seem to have a recurring obsession with trying to climb this tower. Although once I was compelled to find 'the director'. When I did walk into his office, there was something about him which more than just a figment of my dream. I delivered my line "we are all just ghosts in the machine." and walked out. I still wonder if someone else woke up the next morning wondering 'WTF?"

I gradually realised that all the places I dreamt of were linked; not only would buildings appear in different guises in different dreams but all of the buildings were part of the same 'country'. One night I was given a map and it all made sense; I've been dreaming about my body. The buildings are different parts of me; exactly as Mertonian described.

I'm kind of out of the habit of it now, but I used to be able to lucid dream and figure stuff out before.
posted by BadMiker at 6:30 AM on October 9, 2012

I think JJ86 is onto something. In my dreams, I "know" each building's history and significance, even if it is just a random appartment block. Also, the buildings are either in good condition and look plain awesome, or I rent/buy/visit old/worn down places with the plan to restore/renovate them to their original awesome state.
posted by MinusCelsius at 8:34 AM on October 9, 2012

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