Architecture professor honored for contribution to medical field


Claire Trammel

Dr. Stephen Sonnenberg, adjunct professor for the School of Architecture and the  Plan II Honors program, is a recipient of the Distinguished Service Award from the American Psychoanalytic Association last Friday. Sonnenberg’s desire to help people in addition to his love of humanities was the inspiration for his research in psychoanalysis.

Samantha Grasso

Adjunct architecture professor Stephen Sonnenberg received the Distinguished Service Award from the American Psychoanalytic Association in New York last Friday.

Sonnenberg was presented the award for his contributions to psychoanalysis and service to the association. 

Psychoanalysis, a field which was founded in the late 19th century by Sigmund Freud, is based upon the idea that some disorders that manifest as physical or psychological conditions are caused by the unconscious. 

Sonnenberg, who has studied psychoanalysis for more than 40 years, said he first developed an interest in the field while attending medical school.

“It was a combination of wanting to help people, feeling I could do that as a physician and, at the same time, having a love of the humanities,” Sonnenberg said. 

Even though he is a medical doctor, Sonnenberg said psychoanalysis applies to architecture by promoting health and well-being through a physical environment. Sonnenberg said understanding psychology allows architects to be more creative and artful in scientific design.

Sonnenberg co-taught an architecture course last year that established the Veterans Community Park and Pavilion project. The project aims to use architecture and psychoanalysis to contribute to the wellness of post-combat veterans and their families,

Professor Tom Palaima, who teaches the plan II honors junior seminar course “The Myths of War” with Sonnenberg, said Sonnenberg shows passion for the human intellectual process and brings a deep sense of the health of the human spirit to the course.

“This really is one of the highlights of my career — to teach with him,” Palaima said.

Brina Bui, plan II honors and biology junior, first met Sonnenberg her sophomore year. Bui said auditing the architecture course Sonnenberg co-taught broadened her educational experience.

“It was really cool just seeing … a more artistically creative approach to [medicine],” Bui said.

Sonnenberg said in the future, he would like to contribute to the development of the medical school on campus and hoped psychoanalysis would become an integral part of the University. 

“Psychoanalysis has been in existence for more than a century, but it continues to evolve,” Sonnenberg said. “I feel that today’s version of psychoanalysis deserves a place on the research university campus. I hope that my work here at UT has convinced my colleagues that it deserves that place.”