A Building Can't Scare Me


August 10, 2020 / Gillian Navarro


Architecture is more than sketches come to life.


Sitting in the park with the sun kissing my cheeks, I become overwhelmed by the metropolis Austin staring at me. Across the water, I see buildings larger than the scale of me, telling me to do better so I can one day be worthy enough to walk through their glass, utopian doors. Metal frames line the building, making the staring contest overwhelming. They are structures that hold a sense of power that can make you feel inferior.

How can the scale of a building make me feel this way? We are constantly being shaped by our surroundings. Some places make you feel comforted and welcomed. Others are awkward and uninviting. Staying in the same place will eventually warp the way you see things, what you feel, and what you do.

In San Antonio, a house on a hill made me feel at home. I was surrounded by tiles of random designs and bright hues. The windows were never closed, and the roundness of each room made me feel included. Conversations bounce off walls so that no one ever misses a word. The stained glass windows fill the rooms with color. Lying on the ground, I let a spectrum shine on my face, pretending that I was a piece of art. I’ve never felt more beautiful than when I walked around that house. Every time I set foot through the front door, I felt remodeled. That’s how a home should make you feel. Walking up to my Austin apartment in West Campus, all I can do is share a faint sigh. “My crypt awaits,” I say to myself.





I’ve been scared of Austin for a while. Moving here was a big change for me, and as I explore this city, I find new things to fear. Never being able to walk amongst the buildings that make up the Austin skyline is an insecurity of mine. As this place is ever-changing and developing, in time, there will no longer be buildings that embody comfort or joy. I know it’s weird to say that I’m scared of an inanimate object, but I can’t help it.

Staring at my apartment in the distance, I felt its dull, concrete walls making fun of me. I cried. The sidewalk felt never-ending. I looked at the building up and down. Maybe I just wanted it to feel how I felt sometimes: insecure, lonely, and sad. The palms of my hands vibrated with heat, and the bottoms of my feet were numb. Anxiety bubbled under my skin. My home for the next five months made me restless.

Being here, I took the time to look at the structures that surrounded me. We tend to look but not take anything in. Sitting outside my apartment building, I took five minutes to look at details on its exterior. At first, all I observed was a plain gray wall, but then I considered the windows. Massive and beautiful, yet every apartment had their blinds closed, including mine. I complained about where I live and how it makes me feel, yet I’ve had control over it this whole time. No matter where we are, we can create our own personal space to comfort ourselves.





I went to the fifth floor to gain my daily dose of serotonin. Barging through the metal door, I run to the windows and wind up the blinds. Light filled my apartment and decorated the walls. I opened the door to the balcony and let the cool spring-ish air in. Taking a deep breath, I felt relief. Suddenly, I didn’t hate my apartment that much after all. I added posters to my room and hanging lights. I covered the puke-colored floor with carpets of a variety of colors. The furniture moved around to create more fluidity and space. I’m okay. While my house on the hill is still a house on a hill, I can strive for it and make my apartment a second home.

In the beginning, I went to the park, stared at buildings, and cried. Now, I stare at them with confidence. I exposed the windows in my apartment. I placed the furniture on the outskirts of social interaction. I flooded my room with hues outside my comfort zone. A person can only do so much to conquer their fears. I’m still scared, but that is inevitable. I don’t know where I’m going or what I’m doing, but what I do know is that I’ll continue to surround myself with what makes me feel both happy and scared. I’ll walk through buildings that make me want to conquer my fears; that make me want to do better. A building can’t scare me. ■




Story by: Gillian Navarro

Layout: Maya Shaddock & Mia Macallister

Photographer: Nick Barnes

Stylists: Diariza Lopez & Vincent Luu

HMUA: Sara Tin-U & Yasmine Daghestani

Models: Chiadika Obinwa & Justice Beverley
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