Fear Inserted…Fear Removed

Would you walk on “floating” glass stairs?

After today’s lecture (Thursday October 4th) regarding glass and the implementation of glass stairs into buildings I began to think about how architects design to accommodate fears in certain places within a building as well as heighten them in other ones. This stemmed from the discussion of the frosted glass stairs and how they alleviate the fear of somehow “falling through” the floor. It is interesting to think about this. The rational side of our brain tells us that most likely those stairs, even though they are made out of a breakable material, will not crack on the first foot to step on them. Then there is the irrational side that begins to panic. What if these stairs break and I fall three stories down? Can glass really support my weight? In design these fears must be accommodated in order to create a more comfortable experience for users of buildings. Another aspect of the glass stair and/or floor is the privacy issue. Here is where everything is turned upside down.

Designers have often sought to value the privacy of individuals when creating structures of public use. For example frosting glass stairs and floors for both mental sanity and for privacy against viewers below. What happens when you completely flip this notion on its head and create the least private glass setting? You get two bathrooms. The first is the Bonvicini bathroom installation “Don’t Miss a Sec” (2004) in which Monica Bonvicini created a two way mirrored bathroom where patrons can see translucently outside to passers-by but people outside cannot see in. Surprisingly people were intrigued by the design and made full use of the latrine. The other is the floor to ceiling clear glass bathroom at the Moon Nightclub in Las Vegas. This throne preys on the “idea that you’re in a bathroom with a full glass window. No one can really see you — but there is that fear” (Las Vegas Sun). Both of these design iterations push privacy to the very millimeter of its limit. Is this design progressive or invasive?

Bonvicini “Don’t Miss a Sec” Los Angeles

Perceived fear truly heightens the experience of the user. This is why so many bathrooms in bars and nightclubs are designed with either two way mirrors or shared sinks between men’s and women’s bathrooms. In the same nightclub, Moon, one of the toilet stalls (in the women’s room) opens up to a secret bar where ladies can spy on their unknowing dates from a two way mirror. Do boundaries exist within design? Or should they exist?

Floor to ceiling CLEAR windows view from bathroom at Moon

1). Bonvicini, Monica. “Don’t Miss a Sec” Los Angeles, CA. 2004. Art Installation.

2). Finnegan, Amanda. “Lavish Bathrooms are the Life of the Party in Las Vegas” 11 March 2010. Las Vegas Sun.

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One comment

  1. Pingback: RE: Fear Inserted…Fear Removed « Architecture in Transformation

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