RE: Fear Inserted…Fear Removed

Anish Kapoor’s Cloud Gate in Chicago, commonly and endearingly referred to as “The Bean”.

In their recent post, JBernardy wrote about how the strategic use of glass can incite fear in buildings.  They used the example of glass stairs where people are nervous about them breaking and falling through, and glass-walled bathrooms, whose transparency negates most feelings of privacy, even when they are in fact designed so that people on the outside cannot look in.  For me when I look at this observation, I see the incitement of fear as one manifestation of a larger phenomenon by designers, which is to provoke emotions from the user during their experience of a building.

When you have an emotional experience with something your bond between you and that thing strengthens.  With people, these experiences can be very dynamic and complex because there is a constant interaction between beings.  With architecture and design however, when one of the two sides of the relationship is an inanimate object that has to appeal to hundreds or thousands of people, this relationship is likely much more simple, and so in order to create an experience for a user that is likely to create an emotional bond, it is necessary that the emotions provoked are stronger and more straightforward, and even almost overwhelming.  What other emotions can a building provoke to create a stronger bond between it and its users?

Although it is not a building, Anish Kapoor’s sculpture titled the Cloud Gate but almost always endearingly referred to as The Bean, is an example of a designed and built piece of work that creates an experience for its visitors that includes awe, giddiness, excitement, and curiousity.  People the world over love The Bean, and their near unanimous and rare love proves my point: it is difficult to produce something that successfully provokes an emotional connection that results in the creation of a strong bond between a person and their environment.  Using glass at high stakes to incite fear or discomfort is just one of those methods…


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