Have you ever felt unease walking around your city?

Have you ever experienced discomfort from a building or urban environment?

The reason might be due to the very architecture that the modern project has crafted around you.
(This will be a very long thread continued over several days. If you don't have the stomach for long threads please read something else rather than complain in the comments about how long this thread is, yeah?)
The beginning of this thread starts with a true story. I was in - of all places - a feminist book store so I could take photos of its colour-coordinated shelves and mock it online. The store was full of the usual trash you would expect... except for one odd-looking book.
Completely out of place, this strange tome lay discarded beneath a stack of books on spirituality. It intrigued me. I asked the cashier about the price but they had no record of the book. They let me buy it for $10. It turned out to be one of my best ever purchases.
The book contained much deep and secret knowledge about how and why modern architecture exerts such a disturbing influence over our collective psyche. I learned more reading this than any other book in the last 5 years. I will share some of this knowledge with you.
Before I do so, allow me to share some of my own thoughts on the subject.

Those who recognise my avatar will know that I have long dwelled on the link between architecture and the horrific psychological effects it can wreck on unsuspecting people.
My avatar is taken from Alan Moore's graphic novel From Hell. It shows Sir William Gull who Moore depicts as Jack the Ripper. Jack the Ripper was a personification of the oppressive effects of claustrophobic urban planning; he embodied the cramped dark alleys of Victorian London.
What elevates From Hell from pulpy horror to a work of philosophical genius is Moore's referencing of the constant influence architecture has on the people who live within it. Jack the Ripper is inspired to commit his murders in order to complete a great architectural project.
Moore's Ripper believes that the architecture of London controls the fate of an age-old battle between the forces of the sun and masculinity versus the power of the moon and femininity. Buildings must be utilised to ensure Apollonian dominance.
Every stone and building placed within a city is a geomantic force for good or evil. Buildings more than anything convey messages and symbols from the past where they unconsciously continue to influence the later generations who walk blissfully unaware beneath their shadows.
Japanese artist Junji Ito knows too of the horror of buildings. His manga often depicts the insanity-inducing effects that evilly-designed constructions exert over its inhabitants. His "Town Without Streets" tells of a population crazed by bad planning. A new Ripper also emerges.
And in his definitive work - Uzumaki - the culmination of the spiral contamination that afflicts the town is the transformation of the landscape into unliveable inhuman narrow spiral streets that send its residents minds into similar insane circles and spirals.
Obviously, good old Howard P Lovecraft knew that true horror stems from buildings and architecture. His books are filled with lengthy descriptions of geometry gone wrong and houses or abandoned ruins twisted into unnatural shapes and angles that should not be.
When Lovecraft moved to New York, it wasn't just the unwashed masses that horrified him. He found the city itself a great and terrible shock; the baroque metropolises of his fiction, infested with monstrous beings, are his response to the spectacle of New York.

(HP in Brooklyn)
Passage from Lovecraft's story "He":
“Garish daylight shewed only squalor and alienage and the noxious elephantasis of climbing, spreading stone … the throngs of people that seethed through the flumelike streets were squat, swarthy strangers with hardened faces and narrow eyes”
Houellebecq makes great note of Lovecraft's fascination with architecture in his book "HP Lovecraft: Against The World, Against Life". You cannot read Mountains of Madness without having a deep impression of the ruined cityscape Lovecraft imagines.
"One discovers architecture progressively and from a variety of angles, one moves within it; this is an element that can never be reproduced in a painting nor in a film; it is an element Lovecraft's stories successfully reproduced."

– Houellebecq
The reader of Lovecraft feels the sublime when reading of soaring cyclopean towers, just as they feel disgust when they read about the twisted angles and unsettling corners of witch houses in New England or Red Hook, Brooklyn.

But why?
Why exactly do certain forms of architecture exert certain influences over our minds?

Why do some designs make us happy, while others make us sad?

Why do some buildings create such widespread feelings of revulsion, while others are acknowledged as world heritage sites?
In this thread that I shall continue over the lead-up to Halloween, I will be using some of the concepts I learned from the mysterious Horror in Architecture book to attempt to explain exactly WHY we feel so horrified by certain types of architecture.
There are deep-seated reasons within our sub-conscious as to WHY we are filled with disgust and loathing at certain types of architectural design that have been inflicted upon us in the modern age. I'll attempt to give examples of the different emotions they raise within us.
Let us begin!

Unconsciously, we link the construction of buildings to the construction of our own bodies. Witnessing a structurally incorrect building brings the same feeling as looking at a deformed human or accident victim. It is body horror written in stone and glass.
We will often link body horrors and their counterparts in architecture. "Deviant anatomy" is the basis of many of our reactions. Our oldest myths are filled with monsters who possessed too many heads and arms, whose limbs were mismatched, or transgressed standards of beauty.
Despite what modern architects would have you believe, there really are standards of beauty & design that when transgressed fill us with horror. It is the same with buildings as it is with human bodies. Playing around with the natural order of things creates unease in the witness
If sizes are not in proper proportion, they create a feeling of fear. Many architectural horrors are simply due to the wrong size of objects which is normally a manifestation of designers trying to do too much or cram too many people into one space.
For our first example, look at the old Grandstand that used to exist in Washington Park, Chicago.

(We will be visiting Chicago frequently in this thread as it is probably one of the most cursed places on Earth in architectural terms.)
The designers wanted to build a very large building, but used the design of a simple country cottage scaled to monstrous proportions. The windows and chimneys are inflated gigantically, making the people beneath look too small or a special effect of trick photography.
We see this again in a proposed design for the Chicago Tribune Tower where architect Adolf Loos submitted a gargantuan single Doric column that would have been like the overly-large objects of 1950's horror sci-fi films or Japanese kaiju movies.

Thank God it was never built.
The techniques of classical design were sodomised in the early 20th century by the tendency of modern buildings to move away from the exceptional in favour of the aesthetics of mass quantity - hence the oversized buildings that appeared. Another monstrous tool was repetition.
Unnatural size appears in our myths in the form of giants. Unnatural repetition appears in the form of many-headed hydras and the multi-armed gods of the subcontinent. If designers shied away from inflating their buildings, they often made the equal mistake of repeating its form.
Look at the old Pullman Building that used to "grace" Chicago. It's like Thomas Hobbes' Leviathan. A grotesque repetition of endless windows and arches again and again and again.

There's a reason why that area of Chicago is called "The Loop".
If you want to see the finest examples of buildings that contain the horrors of deviant size or repetition, do a google search for expo centres. Especially ones from the early 20th century. These are often enormous monstrosities too large to be given any kind of identity.
"Horror is the leitmotif of an architecture forced to continually transform; an architecture that, in this process, appears beleaguered by, and ambivalent about, aesthetics."

Buildings are such horrors because they transcend time. They remain while the world around them changes.
Almost every cityscape features buildings that are "out of time". These buildings represent foolish trends from past ages; reminders of old forbidden truths or follies. They sit surrounded by other buildings from other times creating a panorama of anachronisms.
The most horrifying facet of buildings "out of time" is when they are dead but still a permanent fixture in our urban landscapes. Nothing reveals the death of America more than burnt out ruins in Detroit - their death and corruption spreading outwards like that of a corpse.
Other ruins are not even from long ago, but from that most misremembered part of our past: the day before yesterday. The abandoned New South China Mall consumes you with not only its emptiness, but with the fact that its death was swift and recent.
Buildings convey horror when they show the death of society or an ideal. They also convey horror when they unwittingly show the death of your identity or place in the world. Everybody likes to think they are unique. Mass repetition of buildings enforces that you are not.
Doubles and clones are mainstays of classic horror (see Dostoyevsky's The Double or Invasion of the Bodysnatchers) because they cast doubts on our individuality. If something can be copied identically, then it is not special, not unique, even soulless.
The most basic and common architectural clone is the semi-detached house. Semis are distressing on multiple levels. First, the mirror image of the house it is conjoined to. Second, the forced and often unwanted intimacy of the two-family house that cannot be severed.
Even the word "semi-detached" is unsettling. It represents a failure to separate, a failure in achieving independence. It captures the atomised nature of our empty lives. Their existence is neither one thing or another but something occupying a terrifying in-between space.
Their juxtaposition begs the two houses to be compared. With many houses we envision cloning, but with pairs/doubles we tend to think of opposites like the contrasts of Cain and Abel or Jacob and Esau. A Jekyll and Hyde atmosphere hangs over the semis even when they're identical.
Ironically, even when the semis are not identical, it is no less horrifying. If the two halves are too different then the viewer feels the house has turned in on itself; one half fighting the other. This warring state is unnatural and exaggerates any freakish defects.
For some reason the warring semi-detached is especially prevalent in Singapore. The island is littered with bipolar houses that clash inharmoniously with one another. These represent not the death of individualism, but self-expression run amok and allowed to turn ugly.
Twin buildings are the embryo of cloned architecture before it mutates to the next stage. They can stop at the twin stage, or continue into bland repetition. The twin towers of the World Trade Center represented trade and capital. Each was poised to proliferate... but they didn't
The horror of suburbia is the most famous of all the architectural horrors because it skewers square at the heart of what young 20th century Americans hold dear. The suburbs provided security at the cost of individuality. For this they are an easy target for trendy film makers.
(I used a still from Edward Scissiorhands in that last tweet. Of course, in Tim Burton's vision, the identikit pastel-coloured little boxes of American suburbia were meant to be the true horror, not the out-of-place mad scientist's gothic mansion. So edgy that Tim Burton.)
The clone is a touchstone of the uncanny. Freud shuddered at the thought of endlessly re-encountering the same people and places. The "eternal recurrence of the same" that Nietzche feared. Don't mass cheaply produced housing constructions embody this fear like no other?
Reproduction on a scale as vast as the suburbs suggests a mode of cloning fundamentally post-human or even non-human. This is the inhumanity of our identical suburbs, malls, and global cities. It is also felt to be unstoppable and never-ending: a growing cancerous blob.
Each house in the suburb or terrace is not an individual unit but one of many units that has been consumed into a larger mass. They are like the shifting eyes on a shoggoth, or even worse, tombstones in a sprawling graveyard.

(City pictured is the Iranian city of Pardis)
Let's move onto less familiar horrors. There is an artistic term called "exquisite corpse" which describes that game you played as a kid where friends would add to a drawing on a folded piece of paper without seeing what the others drew. The result is always a mismatched monster.
The avant-garde trend to mix and merge architectural forms that should never exist together produces real-life examples of the exquisite corpse. The results are never pretty. The Netherlands Pavilion for the 2000 Hannover Expo resembles nothing except an Arby's brunch sandwich.
Exquisite corpses are found in the unlikeliest of places. One of the best/worst examples is the Norton House by Frank Gehry at Venice Beach, California. The artist claims it represents the chaos and diversity of Los Angeles. I'm inclined to agree, though I don't find it positive.
Sometimes attempts are made to bring order to the hybrid abomination. A common substance embraces the diverse parts but the results still revolt as they resemble cancerous growths that upset us. You can see the effect in Henrique Olivera's Tapumes installation.
A similar example on the other side of the world, and one I have visited personally, is Hang Nga Villa - or "Crazy House" in Vietnam. Again, we are reminded of invasive growths that threaten to dominate. This is architectural Cronenbergism.
Exquisite corpse constructions exude the same vein of horror as classic creepy film The Thing. We are revolted at the sight of disparate objects and shapes welded together in a violation of natural norms. Again, we see the consumption of different identities into one.
There is much more ground to cover, but that is all for today. We will delve into even greater architectural horrors as we get closer to Halloween.
We're back to discuss more horror in architecture. The posts today will cover a lot of ground but there will be a large focus on death and how buildings bring death or partial death into our cities and spread their corruption to the rest of their surroundings.
There can be beauty in death or the process of death if handled with enough respect and consideration. I have written before about the Japanese concept of wabi-sabi which is based on the acceptance of transience, entropy, death and imperfection. The fleeting beauty of decay.
"Wabi" refers to the loneliness of living in nature, remote from society. "Sabi" means "lean" or "withered". Good examples of pretty wabi-sabi architecture show forlorn constructions gracefully receding back into nature.

None of the following buildings will contain such beauty.
Our cities are filled with death. We have already mentioned those ruins of Detroit, those ghost malls of China, but there is another kind of urban death.

The partially dead.

That which is dead but still functions.
The partially dead does not recede like the wabi-sabi aesthetic; it's bulging zombie-like corpse continues to dominate its environment and provide a function when it should be destroyed or forgotten.

Undead buildings that refuse to die gracefully.
Such zombies take several forms: the rundown council estate full of corrugated iron and broken glass but with residents still hiding in its bowels. The half-dead British high street refusing to die. Faded seaside towns that still eke out a miserable existence.
Britain is particularly rich with zombie towns and buildings, especially amongst its Victorian seaside resort towns that no longer see visitors since cheap travel to Spain arrived. People still live a post-apocalyptic existence there. Attempts at revival are made but always fail.
Zombie spaces often resemble abandoned places (like Varosha, Cyprus or Bodie, California) except that they have not yet completely died and cling onto life. Think of the dead mall, like Mountain Farms Mall in Hadley, Massachusetts, that still has a few stores that just won't die.
Our urban nightmares - the dead mall, the dying industrial town, the ghetto - commonly fix upon wasted lots and apartments, either destroyed or now home to that genuine proto-zombie - the junkie or crackhead. They are urban decay made flesh.
I think of Nabakov when I see buildings like these:

"I looked at houses and they had lost their usual meaning - leaving nothing but an absurd shell - all that was abolished - there remained in front of me a mere something - not even a creature - but merely something moving past"
There are other types of deathly buildings aside from the zombified ruins of rustbelts and seasides. More subtle, but no less insidious, some buildings are not only dead but have never even once contained life despite outward appearances.

Consider this building for example.
This is Singapore's Telephone House. Situated in the business district it appears to be a normal high-rise until you realise it has no windows or doors. It is what is known as a "cable hotel"; a looming metal tower that only contains telephone wiring. There is nobody inside.
Think about that for a moment. An entire tower block in a busy city centre with nobody inside; only haunted technology where unseen signals speak to one another and disembodied conversations float around. Its dark empty rooms are full of the chatter of ghosts. Utterly terrifying.
It isn't just "cable hotels"that inspire terror; regular hotels are often viewed as repositories of noisome influence. Partly this is because hotels are a "halfway space" between the public and the private, and they imply all manner of furtive exchanges and violence.
The already horrifying hotel is imbued with additional levels of terror when you consider the common hotel practice of "decanting" where hotels undergoing renovation decant part of their floor area by removing areas of floor plate making pockets of space uninhabitable.
Areas of the hotel are effectively amputated, creating ghostly voids & abandoned interiors. This creates the horror of "liminal space" to which many people online obsess over. If you are unsure what is "liminal space" think of that weird place David Lynch characters always end up
Liminal spaces are whole topics unto themselves; much bigger than this thread can do justice. They are in-between spaces that don't feel quite right. I recommend this article for a primer on the topic.

It shocks us when parts of buildings are amputated off, voided, or transformed into non-life. It reminds us of Gothic horrors like forbidden rooms and sealed attics or basements. Vacuums where vacuums should not exist like Deleuze's "body without organs". Repulsive lifelessness.
Sometimes old buildings are not abandoned, but parts of them are used as fragments to conceal newer constructions. The remains of non-viable old buildings are stretched across new developments like the skin suit from Silence of the Lambs or the mask of Leatherface.
The results are often monstrous, but increasingly common, especially at riverfront/waterside developments that try to give character to post-industrial districts.

Look how the Victorian facade of the Cardiff Gas Light and Coke Co lies stranded at the base of this tower in Wales.
Another abomination: like a death mask the portico of the old Unitarian Chapel on Stamford Street (London) is glued onto the body of an ugly modern apartment building.
These are Frankenstein monsters of buildings. Look at how they are constructed. Random lifeless parts of old buildings are welded onto other parts or buildings without any dignity or due given to their respective anatomy.
There was even trend in 90s America to construct new abandoned factories and brand them as fake post-industrial mall redevelopments like Providence Place in Rhode Island and Cambridgeside Galleria in Massachusetts. Fake economic failure branded as fake renewal.
Some buildings, of course, exude death for much simpler reasons. It can be as simple as being much darker than its surroundings, acting as a black hole sucking in all nearby light, like a photo negative imposed on reality. Brewster Apartments in Chicago is a good example of this.
Brewster Apartments inspires fear for reasons we covered earlier: the repetition of windows and crennalations, the uneven angles, the thought that its repetitive nature could continue indefinitely. Movie fans will recognise it as the home of Chucky in the first Child's Play film.
Today we looked at how different buildings represent death. Tomorrow we look at buildings that represent sickness - an even worse architectural manifestation because buildings can rarely kill us but they can make us sick.

(Photo: village from original 1931 Frankenstein film)
This is the Sibley Breaker that used to stand in Pennsylvania. Its image is unsettling and disturbs us when we examine it, But why? Apart from its gloomy nature, what is it exactly in this building's facade that instills us with dread?
The answer in this case is that it is deviantly reiterative. Many small little replications of the building as a whole look they have been cloned and transplanted onto the surface. It is osmotic - like a clone emerging from a host. I've circled the parts that do this.
When a plant suffers environmental stress, it attempts to replicate itself by using its own tissue instead of soil. This is called reiteration. A tree suffering issues in its roots will produce external roots called water shoots. It's how dying trees attempt to survive when sick.
The problem is that each replication is never perfect. It will always be smaller with some defects that get bigger and bigger with every reiteration. The original host is not ensuring its survival, it is instead producing a series of stunted and deformed clones.
Apply this concept of reiteration to the human body and it is naturally horrifying to us. It instinctively reminds us of tumours and deformed foetuses, especially if they grow out of our own bodies.

(Photo: the 2nd head emerging in the awesome "How to Get Ahead in Advertising")
Returning to the Sibley Breaker, we can now understand why it unsettles us. The parts I highlighted resemble miniature stunted versions of the whole that are growing out of the host body - each one more stunted and warped than the last.
Healthy replication is fractal or kaleidoscopic like the regular branching of a normal tree. Smaller and smaller regular repetitions are like the Xenomorph's grotesque tongue in Alien.

(HR Giger would also use this effect in his concept drawings for Harkonnen bases in Dune)
(You can see more closely what I mean if we place the Xenomorph's tongue to the extended rooftop of this house)
This residential tower in Argentina highlights the effect perfectly. Each bump and lump sticking out of the vertical stem resembles a boil or growth that has burst out of the original unit sickening us with each repetition.
It should be no surprise that Chicago has an example. The Boston Department Store expanded in different stages with consideration given to commerce over aesthetics. You can see from the stages of development how the offshoots grew but always remained out of proportion.
The stunted clone is horrific enough to consider, but every extension has to emerge from somewhere. Where do these things emerge from in nature and in man-made monstrocities?

They seep out from one of the most terrifying things that have ever existed.

I'm talking about holes.
The building in that last photo is the one of the revolting Tours Aillaud in Paris that I happy to say I have once drunkenly urinated against in protest. Art critic Robert Hughes described them as "a piece of social scar tissue, gimmicky, condescending alphaville modernism".
Holes disturb us. They remind us of scars and wounds at best, soul-destroying voids at worst. Placing a hole on a human takes away the autonomy we have over our own bodies. Alien things can penetrate these holes. They can also come out.
Fear of holes is real - there's a word for it - trypophobia (shout out to @AlhameedMarjan). It's an evolutionary response to disease, parasites, and other infectious conditions that are characterized by holes & bumps. Larger holes scare us for different reasons - fear of the void
The Elbphilharmonie Hamburg, the Broad Museum LA, Ballena Mexicana, and the ABC Building in Seoul are all going to give you a bad time if you suffer from trypophobia.

The Ballena Mexicana is especially foul.
Holes on our body allow our internal organs to spill out where they should not go. humans feel real visceral disgust when they encounter on the outside what which should be kept inside. It brings back collective primal memories of violence and dismemberment.
Yet some architects have failed to grasp this truth and insist on displaying the interior organs of a building (wiring, cables, even sewage pipes) on the exterior in open public view. The results are unspeakable. The Pompidou Centrein Paris is the most egregious example.
The effect is the same as that of Japanese tentacle horror. Unless you're Kurt Eichenwald, tentacles us because it is like seeing our own internal organs waved dangerously on the outside where they can be damaged or even penetrate others.

(Photo: Dubai Towers project proposal)
My favourite film - Terry Gilliam's Brazil - understood this well. The retro-futuristic dystopia in the film has ducts continuously bursting into people's homes and offices. The opening line is even "Let's talk about ducts". Yet another touch of genius related to this film.
Humans value their privacy. If the interior and the exterior are played around with too much then the effect is like that of the dollhouse - a fourth wall has been taken away allowing anybody and everybody to peer into our insides. These things should not be.
Post-Katrina house in New Orleans transformed into a nightmarish dollhouse.
Sick houses mirror sick societies. The literary definition of this trope is Poe's famous House of Usher. Built on a bog, its foundations are rotten from the start, just like those of the family that live within. Our Western cities are undergoing Usherfication as our values wither
Spiritual malaise manifests in architectural horror. Chernobyl was an apt metaphor for the USSR that created it: sick, dying, and corrupting anything within its grasp. The brooding dark reactor core spreading its poison across different nations.

There are many such portals.
Tarkovsky's 1979 masterpiece Stalker is the pièce de résistance of showing a bleak landscape where the noxious influence of sick buildings has contaminated and twisted the surrounding landscape.
The problem with sick buildings is that we, rightly, fear that their sickness is not confined to the building alone. The horror comes from being afraid that its sickness will spread and take over anything and everything under its influence.
Sometimes the influence is unseen like radiation. Vegas hotels release curtains of cool air from their entrances to lure you in from the outdoor heat. Supermarkets blast out the scent of baked cookies to tempt you to enter and consume. They influence you with invisible power.
That's it for today. Tomorrow, as Halloween draws ever closer, we shall discuss an even greater horror. One that came from the cold wastes of the frozen north but can now be found in almost every land. Truly terrifying stuff.
I wanted to include a section on IKEA given how I had more than a few passing remarks on that establishment during my Sweden thread. It doesn't fit perfectly into the topic of architecture - more interior design - but there is so much that it would be a shame to not mention it.
Everybody knows there is something wrong with IKEA as soon as they set foot within the place. Instinctively, anybody with an ounce of awareness feels that there is something off about the place. It's no surprise that IKEA has inspired more than a few horror ideas.
There is even an interesting looking horror book based on an IKEA catalogue named Horrorstor. Sadly the concept is better than the execution and I am sad to report that it is a mediocre book at best - going more for laughs than for screams.
First of all, IKEA is a trojan horse of a building. The exterior is typically a large blue box with no hint at what the interior holds. The actual interior is a turmoil of different interiors and environments. The inside does not match the outside. This is immediately unsettling.
Secondly, furniture itself has unintended effects on our well-being. When somebody furnishes a house they are creating a world apart. A visitor to that space has to surrender themselves to another's miniature kingdom. The interior is its own domain.
Edgar Allan Poe understood this and hence felt obliged to pen a "Philosophy of Furniture" to alert readers that furnishing a room always entails a sort of existential crisis as no rationality exists to guide it. It's no coincidence that a horror writer wrote a guide to decorating
Poe's book is essential. He emphasises good carpets as "the soul of a room". Gaudy patterns "glorious with all hues" are a cloth version of a kaleidoscope and only serve worshipers of Mammon. He also recommends "200-300 magnificently bound books".

Not color coordinated obviously
IKEA being a cavernous building devoted to furniture already exerts mental power over its captives. However it also employs a range of other dastardly tricks to manipulate and coerce anybody who walks through its damned Swedish doors.
You'll have noticed that IKEA uses the same psychological ploys as casinos. There are no clocks or windows cos they wish to remove any external reference points - social, temporal, environmental - so you are focused on shopping. They eradicate anything outside the IKEA context.
Another casino ploy that IKEA utilises is to add mediating zones between the access points and the shopping areas so that you stay inside the store longer. That's why the restaurant always appears about 3/4 of the way into an IKEA store.
When you are in the restaurant, those Swedish meatballs and $1 hotdogs are deliberately low-priced to make you think everything in IKEA is cheap. You know that $1 is cheap for a hotdog, but do you know if $800 is a good price for a table? The $1 hotdog assures you it is.
The layout of IKEA is Borgesian labyrinth designed to lure you in and keep you trapped inside. Like Mordor, one does not simply walk into an IKEA. To find your way out again to the exit you must traverse miles of shopping area all laid out so you don't just buy that simple chair.
The "Main Aisle" through the store curves every 50 feet, to keep customers interested in what's around the bend. A path that is straight for longer than that is called "an Autobahn" - "a big, boring mistake" in the words of IKEA. You WILL view every product before you can leave.
Like the Minoan labyrinth, IKEA likes to place its mazes in distant faraway places. This is not due to cheaper rents. They deliberately want it to be an effort for you to get there so that you you feel you need to buy a lot to get the most out of the trip and make it worthwhile.
The labyrinth eats you. The absence of a simple straight path makes you walk in circles, returning to the same place over and over again. An hour after walking like this and you are completely disoriented. You have forgotten why you even came to IKEA in the first place.
(Helpful note: shortcuts exist yet in typical IKEA fashion they are hidden and sinister. They are hidden behind curtains or made to look fake or for security purposes only. They are frequently changed so that you can never find them twice. Even staff struggle.)
The disorganised nature of IKEA makes it even harder for you to escape. There are no points of reference. Worse, those random piles of cheap pillows and stuffed toys dotted around the kitchen area are not only disorienting you, they are there to make you spend even more.
Those huge piles of cheap tat are called the "bulla bulla" technique. The customers’ thinking goes like this: if there is a lot of something: it is cheap. You will buy those spoons not because you need them, but because they are sold at a very cheap price (spoiler: they’re not).
The Showroom & Marketplace sections are the most evil. Avoid. The Marketplace is psychological crack cocaine to women.

Lights are used to entice. The bright yellow bags are placed so they are always visible at any point in an IKEA. They lure you forward like will o' the wisps.
Well-lit escalators guide you towards enticing showrooms. Lights highlight the areas they most want you to see. They’re watching you and they know what you like. The brighter an area the more desperate they are to see the items in that section.
Do you know that IKEA has an official company song? Here are the words. It tells you all you need to know:

As long as there's human life on earth
A strong IKEA has its worth
We satisfy the many needs
A strong IKEA that succeeds
Our culture leads us on our way
That's the IKEA way
Today was a more light-hearted look at horror in architecture but these are still serious things you should remember when visiting IKEA. Tomorrow we return to the external side of terrifying buildings and continue our discussion on what makes them so frightening.
Following our trip to the IKEA store, we are back to discussing the external architecture of buildings and the horrors within. The sprawling blue boxes of an IKEA outlet do still have one last lesson for us though: the horror of gigantism.
Market forces push familiar objects towards extremes of dimensions. Capitalism, and Communism as we will see, wants everything "upsized" to increase output. Simultaneously, technology miniaturises all it touches. Big IKEAs & Walmarts are dumping grounds for tiny tat.
The 50s were the heyday of the horror film that embraced the idea of irregular size. Yet the 20th century allowed us all to feel like 50 Feet Women or Incredible Shrinking Men by making us either giants in tiny urban apartments or ants crawling in endless retail spaces.
Sometimes the cursed building is pulled within two different directions. You can feel the cursed energy in this miniature of the old Met Life Building in New York that is trying to be both small and large at the same time.
The Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco is a beautiful series of buildings but they also contain an understated feeling of horror. The scale is just too big. Entering gives an otherworldly feeling that one has slipped through a portal and entered an ancient Karnakian temple.
New regimes and ideologies often try to proclaim their glory with oversized buildings meant to intimidate the citizen who walks in its shadow. The proposed design for Moscow's failed Palace of the Soviets was an absolute behemoth...
... as was Hitler's Volkshalle that would have been so large that clouds would have formed beneath its coffered dome and rained upon the Party rallies gathered within.
Ideology isn't even necessary to create giant monsters. This 1920s Hamburg design for an Office and Exhibition Building by Hans Poelzig wasn't fuelled by fanaticism, but by mere commercial pressures that push everything to higher and higher extremes.
We must include a Chicago example. It is well worth reading through the 1909 Burnham and Bennett plan for Chicago which would have seen the civic centre populated with giants. The City Hall would have been the Pantheon, Parthenon and a cathedral dome all merged together.
There even exist some buildings that are grotesquely inflated replicas of everyday small objects. They tread the line between comical and horrific. Good examples include the Longaberger Basket Building (Ohio), the Kansas City Library, and Bangkok's elephant and robot buildings.
China has a ton of these. If you visit that country you will see buildings shaped like alcohol bottles, old gods, musical instruments, and this absolutely terrifying teapot.
(One of the scariest buildings I ever encountered in China was the Linda Haiyu Plaze in Beijing. The size, shape and shading of the plaza gave me nightmares of a giant hungry caterpillar bearing down on me)
On the other end of the scale, commercial pressures can shrink a building as well as enlarging it. While the gigantic intimidates with its size, the unnaturally small unsettles as it taps into our age-old fear of homunculi.
The homunculus plays on our fear of the abnormal. Traditionally, a little person is neither adult nor child, but an untrustworthy category in-between. Our myths about leprechauns, familiars, and evil dwarves all stem from this fear.
The untrustworthy quality of the homunculus can be especially felt in the miniaturised replicas of Las Vegas. The deflated Eiffel Tower, the shrunken New York cityscape, and the plastic Venice squeezed between fast food joints try to lure you with their faux-childish complicity.
Like the Chicago Grandstand we saw earlier, the problem with homunculi buildings are that they are scaled down proportionally (making them different from the stunted clones we've also seen). You see this a lot in the narrow houses of Vietnam (built this way because it is cheaper)
The mushrooming narrow plinths of Vietnamese housing are due to government tax on width but not height. The squashed homes with gaudy temple fronts and Rococo flourishes give them a bizarre hybrid energy of pomposity.
Since value cannot be communicated through size, it instead is expressed through unnecessary superfluous ostentation. The resulting mess brings us images of corruption - like an over-sugared wedding cake left out to decay.
Of course, the real horror of tiny apartments if for the unfortunate residents trapped inside. Real estate prices make Hong Kong one of the expensive places in the world. In response to this, "coffin homes" have emerged where all rooms are cramped into one claustrophobic space.
Don't for one moment believe this problem is confined to Hong Kong alone. Our elite plan for us in the West to live in similar pods, but they believe that if they give it a spin and an IKEA touch then we will willingly embrace such cells in the name of sustainability.
We move on from size to the other vector that defines an object: solidity. Solidity is horrifying. A truly solid object provides no space. It is impenetrable, heavy, mute, and indifferent to the wants and needs of people. It is the lumpy earth that makes golems not men.
Just as our traditional myths feature giants and imps of irregular size, they also tell of our fear of stone. The ancients knew of this link which is why we have the word "petrified" and its duel meaning of fear and being turned into stone. Medusas and Basilisks haunt us.
The encroachment of untamed stone into our living space horrifies us for several reasons: the danger of its heaviness, the reduction of our living space, and a return of a cruder age when men cowered in caves. We associate caverns with inhuman creatures like dwarves and dragons.
There are some wonderful examples of this. The town of Setenil De Las Bodegas in Spain looks like it will be crushed any moment by the rocky projection that hangs over it like the wrath of God.
The Chapel of St. Gildas in France appears to be frozen in time at the moment a deadly landslide is about to wipe the chapel from the face of the earth.
Zhongdong Village in China's Guizhou province looks like it has been cast down a pit where the inhabitants will never be able to escape from.
Such perilous cohabitations of man and rock even exist in the United States. The Sleeper family of St Louis, Missouri, live within this cave home built within the recesses of an old mining cave.
Especially "petrifying" are the stone churches of Lalibela in Ethiopia in the 13th century. Each church stands within its own pit raising ambiguity whether this was the creator's intention or if it sank down into the earth over time. A negative aura hangs over the pits.
If a building is too "dense" or "solid" its darkness and heaviness instills the same sense of impending petrifying doom in the intimidated passer-by. The absolute master of creating horrors of solidity was the early 20th century German architect Hans Poelzig.
His designs for factory buildings that were built around Germany in the early 1900s are incredibly nightmarish. They would influence the art-deco horror films of Weimar Germany like Nosferatu. This chemical factory built in Luban (Poland) terrifies inside and out.
Another nightmarish Poelzig factory – this time in Breslau.
And this water tower in Hamburg not exudes the horror of solidity, but also includes the revolting trypophobia holes and windows we covered earlier.
Poelzig was, however, able to sometimes use his love of stone and solidity for beauty. His interior for the now destroyed Berlin Schauspielhaus is awe-inspiring in its replication of a subterranean cavern complete with stalactites and calcification.
It will come as no surprise that Poelzig used the same effects of solidity and thickness" for the sets of horror movies. His reconstruction the Prague Ghetto appears in 1920 film Der Golem which depicts the Jewish quarter as dark, cramped, earthen and lumpen.
(Of course, the concept of a Golem in itself is the embodiment of the fear of lifeless stone and solidity that we have been discussing. It is the horror of dead heavy stone become life - or something imitating life)
Though we seldom encounter the primordial fear of cavernous rocky spaces in our modern life, we feel something akin when entering those dark sprawling spaces known as underground car parks.
Again, it is no coincidence that horror and thriller films choose the car park as a frequent place of murder, robbery and rape. These spaces bring us back to our deepest darkest past living primitive lives huddled in dark cold cracks scarred into the stony earth.
If you look again at the film Der Golem, we can also see another architectural element that adds to the horror in addition to the solidity. This is most obvious on the film's poster: the distorted twisted angles of the buildings.
This again goes back to how we see buildings as extensions of human bodies. If a building is distorted, deformed or disproportionate, an irrational part of our subconscious correlates that deformity to ourselves.

(Photo: Ironically, this is a center for mental health in Nevada)
(Alan Moore emphasises this point well in From Hell by having his Ripper meet with the Elephant Man Joseph Merrick. Merrick's advanced state of deformity was widely seen at the time as a metaphor for the ills of urban Victorian Britain. See also David Lynch's 1980 treatment)

- The Crooked House, Sopot, Poland
- The Peter B Lewis Building, Cleveland, US
- The Dancing House, Prague, Czech Republic (nice bar on the roof though, had good times there)
- The Chicago Spire, US (Cancelled project, thank God)
It doesn't even take much deviance for a building to appear unsettlingly distorted. The famous church spire of this church in Chesterfield, England, is a subtle but stunningly clear example.
The simple act of turning a building to one side or upside-down is enough to bring trauma to a cityscape. The offices of Slovak Radio in Bratislava cast a dark shadow of all who draw near.
In fact, the more subtle the deformity the more horrifying it often is. The slight distortion to the angles to this office lobby make it maddening. The fact that this is the HQ of major Dutch architectural firm MVRDV should tell you what sociopaths these architects really are.
It is almost as if certain architects derive a sadomasochistic pleasure from inflicting these insanity-inducing angles and distortions on the general population. Imagine living in the Epi Apartment block in Seattle pictured here. You'd be driven mad by the balcony angles.
We must hold modern architects responsible for the horrors they have inflicted on our society, on our cities, and on our people. Horrific architecture has real-life consequences. The residents of the infamous Pruitt-Igoe housing project in St Louis will testify to this.
Originally lauded as a wonder of modern design, Pruitt-Igoe quickly became a dysfunctional urban abyss. Some of the blame for its failure must be laid at the design itself: a high-density array of blank blocks guaranteed to instil misery. A concrete manifestation of pure horror.
To conclude this thread on horror and architecture, I return to Alan Moore's graphic novel From Hell. As he completes his final murder, Dr William Gull AKA Jack the Ripper finds himself transported to the future of 1980s London.
Far from being pleased at the outcome of his grand architectural ritual, William/Jack is instead horrified at what he finds London - and society in general - has become.
What William/Jack witnesses is the modern bugman - a shell of a man who has been destroyed by his plastic cubed environment.

"Spirits lacking in vitality"

"Morose barbaric children playing joylessly with their unfathomable toys".
"Where comes this dullness in your eyes? How has your century numbed you?" roars out Jack the Ripper. They are soulless, he concludes. The monstrous murderer is repulsed and frightened by the degradation of modern man in his modern cities.
You don't need costumes this Halloween to encounter horror. The horrific is all around you in the buildings that have seeped into our environments like toxic mud. I hope you have enjoyed this thread and understand a little more why exactly these designs fill us with loathing.
One final recommendation - if you enjoy this topic I do recommend not only the Horror in Architecture book and From Hell, but also House of Leaves by Mark Danielewski which is a clever book about a house that is out of proportion.
Happy Halloween and don't have nightmares!
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