New Yorker Finance Totems

Peaks of Speculation


When the Twin Towers of the original World Trade Center in downtown Manhattan were felled by fundamentalist fanaticism, many augured the end of high-rise construction. But the stubborn economy always contradicts predictions and soon came two new waves of skyscrapers. The first wave appeared in a China totally surrendered to capitalism, whose financial capitals mushroomed with giants, and the second emerged in the wealthy countries of the Persian Gulf, whose economic impetus was further augmented by an uninhibited desire to beat United States height records with soaring Babels exceeding 800 meters.

The American response was easy to foresee, although it has not come from the large corporations that were always the ones in charge of raising colossi. This time these companies have barely managed to reconstruct a powerful symbol at New York’s Ground Zero, and the answer has again come from the economy itself, which has found new market niches in the seemingly exhausted soil of the narrow island of Manhattan. So it is that the apartment buildings of old-money families have been giving way to disconcertingly slender columns of concrete and glass whose minimal bays are occupied by coops and penthouses reserved for oligarchs of the financial and political worlds who may never even enter them at all. Architecture only in the most vicarious of senses, these columns are really nothing but deposits for money, icons of inequality, totems which with their sheer snobbery are violations of the taboo of owning and handling indecent amounts of money.

Included Tags: