Sickness of Space

Years before the founding of Kopvol, Tanja C. Vollmer noticed in her clinical work with cancer patients that the changes brought about by the disease and life-threatening conditions are accompanied by a change in perception. This change is initially expressed in spatial metaphors. “I have fallen into a deep hole”, ” I am standing in front of a wall”, “I have lost my perspectives”. In a first joint project, Gemma Koppen and Tanja Vollmer pursue these observations and examine them systematically, phenomenologically and qualitatively. At the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich, they instruct students to give the metaphors of those affected a creative expression. It is the birth of the theory of space anthropodysmorphy: a definition for the change in spatial perception of people with an existentially life-threatening disease. In the book “Die Erkrankung des Raumes. Raumwahrnehmung im Zustand körperlicher Versehrtheit und deren Bedeutung für die Architektur” (Sickness of Space. Spatial perception in a state of physical illness and its significance for architecture), Vollmer and Koppen derive their theory from teaching- and research experiments and place it in the context of philosophical, artistic and scientific considerations of the body-space relationship. The book is later reviewed as the cornerstone of modern architectural psychology. The theory of space anthropodysmorphy is further explored at Kopvol in a series of quantitative studies dealing with the environment-related stress experience of severely ill people.


Vollmer, T. C., & Koppen, G. (2010). Die Erkrankung des Raumes: Raumwahrnehmung im Zustand körperlicher Versehrtheit und deren Bedeutung für die Architektur. München: Herbert Utz Verlag.

Vollmer, T. C., & Koppen, G. (2010). Fysieke en psychische vervreemding. In A. van der Leun & J. Rodermond (Eds.), Hedy d’Ancona Prijs voor excellente zorgarchitectuur 2010 (pp. 50–57). Rotterdam: Stimuleringsfonds voor Architectuur.

Vollmer, T. C., & Koppen, G. (2018). Architekturwahrnehmung und Stresserleben Schwerst- und chronisch Kranker. In Abel, A., & B. Rudolf (Eds.), Architektur wahrnehmen (pp. 207–227). Bielefeld: transcript Verlag.

Rohde, S., & Vollmer, T. C. (2019). Räume der Seele. Psychologie Heute, 46(12), 26–28.