Environment of Fear 

Mariedl Kleemann

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In order to orientate and to balance the body, the brain converts informations from the eye, from the balance organ in the ear as well as from the proprioceptive system. The proprioceptive system gives information about each part of the body and each muscle. In terms of height perception there are three different types:

- Vertigo is a common physical reaction of the body, caused by a data conflict in the brain. It is generated by the eye that perceives distances and that mediates the feeling of a secure condition to the body. In order to estimate distances the body is balancing. If a fixed object is nearby it creates a greater angle to the eye than for large distances. Therefore the balancing of the body increases if objects are observed in a greater distance. If an object which acts as a visual reference surface, appears within peripheral visual field, the balancing of the body is decreasing.

- Acrophobie is the fear of heights. We speak of acrophobie if in addition to physical responses of the body phobic reactions, like palpitations, sweating, nausea, panic attacks, are developing. 

- Sensationseeking is described as a phenomenon of people who are constantly looking for new extreme attractions. In order not to get bored they expose themselfs to dangerous and risky activities like skydiving or bungee jumping. 

The aim of the project is to intensify the sense of height and to lead it to the extreme. By assembling individual units to one building like a tower it was the intention to minimize the visual reference areas and to reinforce the feeling of height. This was achieved not only by stapeling the different kind of units on the top of each other, but by shifting, first one floor as a whole, then each unit separated. This reduces the visual evidence that is usually taken by the facade. A sense of instability is created. The further up the tower is ascending, the stronger the shifting and twisting until finally smaller individual towers are developing. Because of the twisting and of stability reasons, this individual towers get together and are connected again on different levels. New visual reference surfaces are generated, whereby the perceived height is reduced and the continuous increase of the peak experience is interrupted.

Several types of residential units were developed, each of them with a different length and width and a different size of window opening. A box open on one side to look out was taken as a basis. The “least dangerous” unit has the greatest depth and a window 4.5 m wide. The user can choose how far he wants to expose to the height experience. He has four visual reference surfaces, two walls, a ceiling and a floor. The “most dangerous” unit has a window of 13m length. The whole flat is oriented along the window, therefore the user is constantly exposed to the experience of height. In maximum he has one visual reference surface, the floor.