PS at Sheffield Beasts – The Arts Tower and Ontological Security

Without a doubt, Sheffield’s Arts Tower main attraction is the paternoster elevator. The longest paternoster still in service as mentioned here  It was a fascinating experience and I truly understand Tatjana Schneider’s  interest in it and the passion to write a whole book about the Arts Tower starting from this initial fascination (Schneider, T. (2008). This building should have some sort of distinctive shape. The story of the Arts Tower in Sheffield. Sheffield: PAR.).

Again I will not write anything very scientific or about some research that I did about the paternoster. I will write about my first impression of this experience and the way I experienced passing from floor to floor – like passing through successive dioramas. It challenged my ontological security.

Ontological security, as Anthony Giddens put it, “is to possess, on the level of the unconscious and practical consciousness, ‘answers’ to fundamental existential questions which all human life in some way addresses.” (Giddens, 1991, Modernity and Self Identity, pag.47). It creates the “as if” environment related to existential issues so that we may live our daily lives peacefully, without asking ourselves each time what is time, what is life, or our continuity as individuals and personality (how come we are the same us today as we were yesterday). The paternoster in the Arts Tower challenges our ontological security because at each level there is a clock, and only some of them are in sync. Each floor has a new time frame, and combining with the sensation of passing through successive dioramas makes you think that you are passing through different worlds, completely apart. That the world on the floor below is not the same with the floor on the floor above. Ontological security – busted.

I took these photos during a one way trip with the paternoster starting with the ground floor. It takes 10 or 20 seconds to pass from one floor to the other, adding another minute or so to take the picture we arrive at 2 minutes per floor and travelling between floors. Therefore, the time shown on each clock should have a difference of 2 minutes from floor to floor to show the continuity of time (the only floor without a clock is the 9th floor, where I worked for 5 months … the PhD floor – the PhDs are beyond time).

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2 thoughts on “PS at Sheffield Beasts – The Arts Tower and Ontological Security

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