Sky’s the limit, stupidity’s too

The caption in French says : "This giant house has 25 floors and is 102 m tall (about 335 ft) ; the foundations are laid 9m50(29,5 ft) underground. ("Lectures Pour Tous", October 1898)

The caption in French says : “This giant house has 25 floors and is 102 m tall (about 335 ft) ; the foundations are laid 9m50(29,5 ft) underground. (“Lectures Pour Tous”, October 1898)

A while ago, I overheard on the radio that the highest skyscraper in the world was to be erected in Saudi Arabia. The Kingdom Tower is expected to reach 1000 meters tall (3,281 ft). Originally it should have been 1 mile high (1,691 ft) but the surrounding geology was unsuitable for a tower of that size.

Apartments should however be built no higher than 600 meters high. Which leads to a possible 400 meters waste. I am no architect but I figured that the 400 meters waste was actually scheduled to meet security reason. Those superstructures need some kind of strong balance and besides, I imagine that it takes some time to leave the premises, in case of a fire, especially when the view from your windows is a flock of clouds. Apparently I am wrong. On top of the upper apartments, there should be nothing but a pointing arrow in concrete and probably a heap of antenna towers.

Now who’s the boss?

The idea was mostly about bragging. Yes, bragging! “I made it bigger, stronger and it will take some time before another nation can outrank my challenge.” Dubai has currently the highest structure towering over 828 meters (2,716 feet) in the air (Khalifa Burj tower). New York’s Empire State used to be a colossus, at 443 meters high (1,454 ft) including the antenna. The twin towers of the  WTC were on the top on the world between 1971 and 1973 (417 m and 415 m/ 1,368 ft and 1,362 ft). The Sears Tower in Chicago went beyond, eclipsing the WTC by 25 meters (83 ft). But that was yesterday…

Still under construction, the Shanghai Tower will be the second tallest building, as it will stand 632 meters high (2,073 ft). Another supertall skyscraper (Sky City) is to be completed in Shanghai, next year (838 m / 2,749 ft).

Is that so? Are we no more than braggarts in a giant schoolyard? So we have the most shiny and the most leading-edge technical toys but the human race is still sick on a fading planet. Our playground is on fire but we are still playing off-ground touch.

We are superheroes erecting supertall structures, defying heights, getting close to the moon and the stars, still unable to feed and heal the world. We cannot prevent poverty but we can escape from the sight of misery, watching the world from over the top of our skyscrapers. Where sounds are muffled and the scenery is peaceful and the world is slow-paced. From up there, it is impossible to catch a glimpse of the sufferings. From up there, you cannot perceive the sound of war. From up there, you enjoy a spectacular view of the city draped with cloaks of smog. Unfortunately carbon dioxide and toxic fumes will eventually rise up the air, making it impossible to dodge pollution up there. High technologies are taking us where the blue horizons are cleaning our eyes and our ears, our minds and moods with shreds of void.

One day, we won’t have to hit ground anymore. Cities will be built in the clouds. The frightening thing is there won’t be no grass to step on, no dirt to smudge your shoes with. Because the Earth ground surface and undergrounds will be filled with our garbage. Nobody will really know what’s lurking on the surface on the planet and nobody will care anyway. People will be physically connected by giant glass or plastic tubes, tracing roads in the sky ; tubes into which you will be floating and travelling. As skyscrapers would grow higher and higher, breathable air would get thinner an thinner. Hence factories would be located on top of the buildings and provide us with expensive fresh air.

Sky’s the limit and stupidity follows the same trend…


 

A fun parallel - The Saint Paul Building, Notre Dame in Paris and a common 5 floor building in Paris. (Lectures Pour Tous, October 1898)

A fun parallel – The Saint Paul Building, Notre Dame in Paris and a common 5 floor building in Paris. (Lectures Pour Tous, October 1898)

By the end of the 19th century, skyscrapers were called “tall buildings” or “skyscratchers” and they were mostly business houses. In a French magazine called “Lectures Pour Tous”, the buildings go by the name of “monster houses”. Even if Europeans are quite impressed with American engineering, The French points out that those skyscratchers are blocking air and light and besides, the journalist writes, “those structures are ugly”. America’s architecture lacks artistic quality, according to “Lectures Pour Tous”. “Americans are always in a rush and to express beauty, it takes an important thing : time.”


 

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