FOR SALE: Air
From The Guardian:
It is rare in the history of architecture for a new type of building to emerge. The Romans’ discovery of concrete birthed the great domes and fortifications of its empire. The Victorians’ development of steel led to an era of majestic bridges and vaulted train sheds. The American invention of the elevator created the first skyscrapers in Chicago. Now, we are seeing a new type of structure that perfectly embodies the 21st-century age of technical ingenuity and extreme inequality. A heady confluence of engineering prowess, zoning loopholes and an unparalleled concentration of personal wealth have together spawned a new species of super-tall, super-skinny, super-expensive spire.
Any visitor to New York over the past few years will have witnessed this curious new breed of pencil-thin tower. Poking up above the Manhattan skyline like etiolated beanpoles, they seem to defy the laws of both gravity and commercial sense. They stand like naked elevator shafts awaiting their floors, raw extrusions of capital piled up until it hits the clouds.
These towers are not only the product of advances in construction technology – and a global surfeit of super-rich buyers – but a zoning policy that allows a developer to acquire unused airspace nearby, add it to their own lot, and erect a vast structure without any kind of public review process taking place. The face of New York is changing at a rate not seen for decades, and the deals that are driving it are all happening behind closed doors.
The results range from the sublime to the ridiculous, or even both at once.
Photograph by Doc Searls via Flickr (cc).