We all have unfortunate associations with things that make us shy away or even bolt out of the situation forcing us to face our fears. So when someone has the idea to realize this concept as a structure, it’s best to stay away for those of us terrorized by the mere thought of it. Below are just a few buildings associated with common phobias for the rest of us (ahem, sickos) delighted by the horrors that keep others up at night.
Arachnophobia: Fear of Spiders
If creepy crawlies send you running the other way, then this year’s annual research pavilion at the University of Stuttgart, in Germany, may be your personal hellhole. The life-size iteration took inspiration from the carnivorous water “diving bell” spider’s self-built habitat, which is formed by injecting a series of small bubbles into an underwater silk web. The designers, hailing from the Institute for Computational Design (ICD) and the Institute of Building Structures and Structural Design (ITKE), first inflated an ETFE membrane and positioned a robot in the interior to print thousands of carbon-fiber lines along its underside. The more fibers that were added on, the stiffer the membrane became, thus creating a self-supporting shell. The 430-square-foot waspy structure is surprisingly sustainable, which can reportedly withstand wind gusting up to 58 miles per hour, unlike it’s biological model which has to be rebuilt on a day-to-day basis. However, the construction process allows for real-time design and fabrication, similar to how an insect responds to its environment.
Heliophobia: Fear of Light
Perhaps you had a traumatic experience with sunlight as a child, such as a scorching sunburn, and the memory of it left you terrorized by the sun's touch. If that’s the case, it would be best to avoid Raphael Viñoly, FAIA's London skyscraper, commonly called the Walkie Talkie, which was blamed for melting parts of a Jaguar in 2013 with the power of its reflected light. If this crystalline, 37-story tower sounds like the bane of your existence, know that you’re not alone. This year’s Carbuncle Cup, a competition highlighting the worst piece of new architecture in the U.K., went to the harmful construction, which has also been accused of creating ground-level wind tunnels that knock nearby pedestrians off their feet.
Chiroptophobia: Fear of Bats
These flighty, webbed, winged animals have had a bad reputation for ages. For one, they’re commonly put in Western fairytales as shape-shifting creatures that morph into bloodsucking vampires (hey, only a couple of species actually feed on blood). But if these little guys do startle you, it’s probably because they naturally perceive humans as predators, giving way to their swarming flights. One person that's fascinated by this phenomenon is Joyce Hwang, AIA, founder of New York–based practice Ants of the Prairie, which focuses on realizing ecologically helpful structures for some of the most feared yet endangered species, like bees and ants. The 2014 Emerging Voices Award winner first became interested in bats during her master's thesis at Princeton University when she realized how many other animals are dependent on them. Her answer to helping them was the Bat Tower—a vertical cave filled with nooks and crannies that they can cling onto and roost in during colder months—positioned in an environment conducive to revitalizing the bat population in New York.
Acrophobia: Fear of Heights
According to the Council of Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat’s annual report (CTBUH), 2014 may not have been your year if you have acrophobia. Published in January, the report says that last year was the tallest on record, with 97 buildings scaling over 200 meters (656 feet), and an additional eleven “supertalls,” which are over 300 meters (984 feet), being realized. And it’s only looking up from here, but not in a good way. The report also estimates between 105 and 130 buildings will be built taller than 200 meters or higher in 2015.
Catoptrophobia: Fear of Mirrors
Some believe that a mirror can be a portal to another unwelcomed realm or figure waiting to pull those who look into it. Located in New Plymouth, New Zealand, is the Len Lye Centre, built in honor of kinetic sculpture artist and filmmaker Len Lye. Known for using stainless steel to create reflections off of his works, New Zealand–based Patterson Associates used the same materials for the undulating 540 panels making up the 46-foot-tall exterior that serve as a distorted reflection of the surrounding city. At first, it comes off as a beautiful homage to the late contemporary artist, but with a second look and an understanding of this phobia, it may seem more like a sophisticated version of fun house mirrors.