Monday, January 26, 2009


building big.. i'm not sure it's worth it. proponents claim that densification is the major objective of bigness, but some of the most densely populated areas of the globe barely have one storey, and if it weren't for the dire poverty and health risks of living there, it might be said that their existence and spread is proof enough that they work. no, i'd propose that the purposes of the big build are of very few things, far less noble: investment return, commercial floor space (rent money), prestige and arrogance. who really owns these buildings? silverstein owned the WTC complex to lease, which would've cost some hundreds of millions -if not billions- of dollars to clear of asbestos (recall the post-collapse respiratory problems locals suffered?), instead he received some 4.5 billion in the insurance bid (to which, due to poor phrasing, he was able to negotiate as if there were 2 terrorist attacks.. i forget the name for it, but there's a phrase for where a private institution lumps the health costs on the general populace.. good thing it wasn't intentional, or else it would seem as if the company benefited) that's an unimaginably large payout on what was technically 5 years away from becoming a nightmare of a white-elephant. but, i digress.

who owns the buildings? credit card companies!? yes, they do. they've got/had the best credit rating around for a while (self-regulation has its rewards, eh?). the nature of credit is that it necessarily swallows asset, and the only TRUE form of asset yet quantifiable is land (though potable water will become so in the next decade).. which the individual can't really own, as why then are they compelled to pay yearly land tariffs, especially if the government isn't distributing it as they see fit. no, most people 'own' through credit, so, to be frank, they are serfs working the land. but, i digress.

credit card/investment buildings have styled their buildings as 'sky-scrapers'. and they seem so intent on raising the sky's limits that yesteryear's sky-scraper is now this year's thigh-draper. they're towers of purposeful religious semblance: since their inception, you'll notice that no cathedrals are yet being built (barring gaudi's, but perhaps there are others). and for what the church lent in absolution, the credit companies can now lend in relativity. the spacious resonance of the cathedral dome has been replaced by hard, phallic, inscrutable presence. and further, the reflectivity of their surfaces are not just for the sake of pretty. they are one-way mirrors, and we're the captives. simply stated: you can't watch the watchtower. the panoptic prison has been developed on the metropolitan scale, and our depressions, our minuscule, compounded worries have been greatly amplified by this further estrangement from the hegemony. this effect, i'd readily argue, has been committed with the utmost of calculation. the reflective planes act as both as paring sheaths and urban[e] limit. you can't SEE the opulence anymore, just feel it, yet not know from whence that feeling originates. but, i digress.

i saw a film on manhattan island a few days ago. it said, that until the advent of the elevator, the most exclusive, prestigious commercial spaces were located on the lower floors. quite a concept in this present era. as the street level has degenerated, until now it is scorned and vilified, even by those who claim to act on its behalf. all streets are now alleyways, where the garbage, in various packages, is pushed, conning us into wanting it, needing it, feeling something about it. in the case of dumpsters, the effect is one of revulsion. in the gaud and bric-a-brac we're meant to buy, desire. but all the lightin and flashy signs, all that fantasy does not disguise the fact that the street has lost its political power: it has been relegated back to an alleyway of the body-politic, where people wander quietly in scream, marginalized on the one level at which they are ENTITLED to feel most powerful. but, i digress.

above all this, shining high, as if we all agree, are these looming symbols of power. but in a few quick months, as snickersnack as a vorpal blade, a few of these reflective windows have been broken and an awful stench has wafted out from what lies within: as symbols, they are not now crumbling as consumer/borrowing confidence has waned, but they've perverted, and twisted themselves to their true form: we are being watched, bullied and manipulated. and all it takes is an elevator to keep you away from stopping it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"i forget the name for it, but there's a phrase for where a private institution lumps the health costs on the general populace.."

= externalities

Great digressions Tommo!