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Published 24th February 2023

On Balance

Architecture and Vertigo

Visit Publisher's Website Davide Deriu

Since the construction of the first skyscrapers in the 19th century, urban environments have been increasingly marked by verticality. The advent of the modern metropolis transformed the experience of gravity in ways which resonate acutely today. At a time of instability, the rise of tall buildings poses new challenges to our sense of balance, yet the implications of vertigo remain unacknowledged. This book reflects on the precarious equilibrium at the heart of contemporary cities, where the drive to conquer ever greater heights has reconfigured our notion of abyss. Exploring the spatial thrills as well as anxieties associated with vertigo, it traces how different subjects experience, represent and transgress buildings and the spaces in between.

On Balance tackles this complex subject through an interdisciplinary approach informed by social and medical sciences. After providing a historical overview of how the discourse on vertigo has permeated Western culture, it explores the work of modern and contemporary artists who have engaged with architecture as a field of dizzy visions. It then shifts focus to spatial practices predicated on the mastery of vertigo, such as climbing and funambulism, which have found in cities new stages for gravity-defying performances. Moving into the realm of architectural culture, the book offers a critical analysis of design projects and spaces that challenge the user’s stability, from the modernist quest for weightlessness to the states of suspension that have emerged in recent decades. This broad-ranging exploration of vertigo reveals architecture to be central to our perception of balance at multiple sensory, spatial and social levels.