High above San Diego, perched precariously over the edge of the roof of a high tower, sits Fallen Star, a house that was designed to make you feel bad. And with the same impulse that leads us to actually smell whatever our friend has just told us stinks horribly, we knew we had to visit this terrifying curiosity. Because how bad could it really make you feel? It’s just a house, right?
Built in 2011 by artist Do Ho Suh, Fallen Star was created to simulate the feeling of displacement that he himself felt upon arriving in the United States from Korea back in 1991. The house is built to disorient, while also making the guests feel at “home.” One could be forgiven for thinking it was a New England cottage, furnished with all of the comforts one might expect. Just don’t expect to be comfortable.
We first saw the house on our way down the hill from the parking garage. Note to visitors: there is almost no visitor parking at UC San Diego, where Fallen Star is located. It took some time, and parking suggestions from multiple people, before we were able to leave the car and begin our journey to the engineering building. But even from afar, the thing is gloriously off-putting. There, sticking out the side of a building, is…another building! Did a twister from Kansas put it there? How could such a thing come to be? And would it be safe to enter?
Fallen Star is California earthquake-proof, or at least it is up to code. It can withstand winds of up to 100 mph, and so even though it looks tenuous, it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. Visitors are able to enter only twice a week, Tuesdays and Thursdays from 11-2, but still, many people have been in and out and the thing hasn’t fallen down yet, so we figured we were good.
I couldn’t believe it. Once we were off the elevator and onto the roof, I started to get dizzy just looking at the house. Every angle is wrong, every line askew, and yet my brain was attempting to make sense of it all. But it couldn’t. No matter how powerful I seem to think my brain is, it could not make sense of this place. Even looking through the doorway was enough to turn my stomach. And then we went inside.
The only thing that is actually straight in the whole house is the chandelier, which is hanging straight down via gravity. It looked crooked to me. The guide, who must have a brain of steel, sat on the couch explaining to us how this house had come to be, and how it worked. We played a game, where we put Ruby on one side of the room, and Edward on the other. It was like being in Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. These pictures cannot describe to you just how dizzying it felt to be in that room.
Stare at any one thing it looked perfectly normal, for a moment at least, but let your gaze wander to the adjacent item and the vertigo would begin anew. Finally, when I couldn’t take it any longer and felt that I was either going to throw up, fall down, or pass out, we left the house. I checked the time. I had been in there for five minutes. It had felt like thirty at least. Even as we took the elevator back down to the sweet, sweet ground, I had trouble clearing my head and readjusting my senses to the normal world. But everyone agreed it was one of the coolest, and weirdest, things we had ever seen.
The house will make you sick. You totally have to check it out!