The Constancy of Carl Jung’s Tower

Carl Jung's Tower, Bollingen, Switzerland

Bollingen Tower, home to Carl Gustav Jung, was a quiet repose for the Swiss

psychologist — his drift away from modernity on the crystalline shores of Lake Zurich.

The tower was a powerful centre, where physical, imaginary, psychological and emotional

factors established the foundations for Jung’s concrete tower.

When we think of home we imagine a building or structure, an immovable mass, but

rarely do we view it as a force or orbit. We might talk fondly about the ‘pull’ of home to

our loved ones; rooted in our arrivals and departures, presences and absences, and the

attractions and repulsions we punctuate our homes with. The art critic and novelist, John

Berger likened the idea of home as the ‘center of the world’, saying that a home was

established ‘at the heart of the real’.

In Bollingen, Jung’s home was oriented on a similar footing to the idea of home as a

centre, where his initial process before building was a ‘confession of faith in stone’. As an

extension to the psychologist’s canon, Jung felt the tower was ‘... in some way a place of

maturation — a maternal womb or a maternal figure in which I could become what I was,

what I am and will be’. In other words, writing in his autobiography Memories, Dreams,

Reflections, ‘It gave me a feeling as if I were being reborn in stone.’

It was settled early on that Jung would build near water. Perhaps this was influenced by

his upbringing, born in the lakeside village of Kesswil, Switzerland. With all its rural charm,

the place had scarcely changed since the Middle Ages. Many posit these beginnings as

the source of Carl Jung’s intimacy with nature and deep affiliation to all living things.

Carl Jung's Tower, Bollingen, Switzerland

Attracted by the ‘scenic charm’ of the upper lake of Zürich, Jung bought land in Bollingen

in 1922. The area of St Meinrad where Jung’s tower was built used to be old church land,

previously belonging to the monastery of St Gall. Building preparations began with Jung’s

original idea of constructing, as he put it, a ‘primitive one-storey dwelling’. He did not

want to build a ‘proper house’, instead wishing for a round structure with a fireplace in the

centre and bunks along the walls.

Jung’s ideas were drawn from the African hut, where the fire burns over a few stones and

‘the whole life of the family revolves around this centre’. Jung notes that ‘primitive huts

concretise an idea of wholeness, a familial wholeness in which all sorts of small domestic

animals likewise participate’. Though these plans were changed for a regular two-storey

house soon after, owing to the fact Jung thought they were too primitive, we can begin to

get a sense of Jung’s urge for simpler, nature-inspired living.

A year later in 1923, the first round house was built; and when it was finished Jung

immediately felt it had become a resting tower, but perhaps more importantly: in Jung’s

mind he was not done. Writing in his autobiography, he said the tower evoked a ‘feeling of

repose and renewal’ that was felt to be ‘intense from the start’. Four years on, in an

attempt to complete his home and centre, a central, annexed structure in the form of a

tower was added. This however did not quell Jung’s architectural desires, and so in 1931

he extended the tower, but within this extension, Jung required a room, and one where he

could exist alone.

Photographs of Carl Gustav Jung. (First Photograph by Henri Cartier-Bresson, 1959

He had in mind something he had seen on a trip to India. It was here he saw interiors that

were separated off by a curtain, where inhabitants could retire and unbend, or meditate

and pray. These areas are essential for privacy in an already overpopulated India. Another

four years passed and Jung added a fenced courtyard and loggia by the lake — ‘I needed

a larger space that would stand open to the sky and to nature.’ Thus, turning the structure

into a ‘quarternity’, four different parts were wedded to the building over the course of 12

years. The small central structure saw an upper section added, with the lower section

representing Jung himself, as he put it, ‘I suddenly realised that the small central section

which crouched so low, hidden, was myself! I could no longer hide myself behind the

‘maternal’ and the ‘spiritual’ towers.’

The Gothic character of the tower features vertiginous roofs, arched windows, shutters

and rough stone wall. Serving as a map for Jung’s individual psyche, Bollingen was his

home and home meant everything. This was a concrete retreat, a place to reconnect with

the primal energies of nature and for Jung to connect with his archetypal philosophies.

Carl Jung's Tower, Bollingen, Switzerland

Through the silent language of architecture, Bollingen tower reflects the cyclic process of

the mandala, representing its structural beginnings to its end (Jung was fascinated with

mandalas often drawing them in his works). For contemporary architect, Mark Larson, the

construction of Bollingen Tower was a ‘mystical emergence’ that came to be in stages,

starting with the primitive hut.

Bollingen’s small round tower is inwardly focused and self-referential, and is noted as the

‘maternal tower’ since Jung associated its construction with the death of his mother. The

singular tower is almost entirely composed of stone, originally mined from the quarry on

the opposite side of the lake, with timber framed floors and a hexagon, cone-shaped roof.

Bollingen’s second phase of construction starts to resemble the family home. A two-

storey wing was added to the lone tower, and the house was now aligned with the

shoreline, creating an outdoor space that connected both house and lake. A second

larger entrance, replete with larger windows and more living space suggests Jung wanted

to extend the time he spent there and receive his family for longer periods. The

developments of a foyer, a lower study and a guest-room all added to Jung’s physical and

mental ease at Bollingen; where he lived in relatively crude conditions, ‘I pump the water

from the well. I chop the wood and cook the food. These simple acts make man simple;

and how difficult it is to be simple!’

I pump the water from the well I chop the wood and cook the food. These simple acts make man simple; and how difficult it is to be simple!

Carl Jung, Memories, Dreams, Reflections, 1961

In 1950, Jung made a monument out of stone to express what the tower meant to him. He

ordered the stones from a nearby quarry. And although the mason wrote down Jung’s

exact measurements for the triangular stone, the quarry sent the wrong measurements

and a square block — as Jung puts it, ‘a perfect cube’. A latin verse by the alchemist

Arnaldus de Villanova came to Jung as the inscription for the stone, and the verse refers

to the alchemist’s stone, the lapis, which was despised and rejected by his peers. Its

translation reads:

Here stands the mean uncomely stone, ’ Tis very cheap in price! The more it is despised by fools, The more loved by the wise

Another inscription on the stone is in Greek and corresponds with three fragments from

Heraclitus; a passage from the Mithras Liturgy and the last from Homer (Odyssey, Book

24, verse 12). On the third face of the stone, another inscription written in Latin reads:

I am an orphan, alone; nevertheless I am found everywhere. I am one, but opposed to myself. I am youth and old man at one and the same time. I have known neither father nor mother, because I have had to be fetched out of the deep like a fish, or fell like a white stone from heaven. In woods and mountains I roam, but I am hidden in the innermost soul of man. I am mortal for everyone, yet I am not touched by the cycle of aeons.

Jung’s architectural shaping of Bollingen over the years came and went in cyclic rhythms,

much like the mandala, freely traversing and dreaming through time and space. And the

psychologist’s ‘expression in stone’ still stands today on the banks of Lake Zürich. It is a

place where Jung proved a harking back to the past — a simpler, more considered way of

living — is to venture into your own psyche, as a gesture or journey of foundation. The

sense of place itself can be constructed, and thus the cyclic formation of our


I will leave you finally with this, reader, written by Jung in his chapter on ‘The Tower’,

taken from his autobiography Memories, Dreams, Reflections, where Jung reflects on the

modern age and its immediacy, which does not necessarily increase our collective

pleasure or contentment. Jung rather presciently warns us of the unease technology will

bring to our frenetic lives:

We rush impetuously into novelty, driven by a mounting sense of insufficiency,

dissatisfaction, and restlessness. We no longer live on what we have, but on

promises... We refuse to recognise that everything better is purchased at the price

of something worse.... new methods or gadgets, are of course impressive at first,

but in the long run they are dubious and... dearly paid for. They, by no means,

increase the contentment or happiness of people on the whole. Mostly they are

deceptive sweetenings of existence, like speedier communications which

unpleasantly accelerate the tempo of life and leave us with less time than ever.


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