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Babel

August 4, 2019

The word Babel means “Gate of God”

It gained the meaning of a cacophonous gathering of incoherent speaking. That was 4,000 years ago, BTW.
In a time when all of technology is literally a new language, – incoherant, mysterious, of seemingly effortless empowerment created by extreme effort of millions of minds and hours. The metaphors are almost too obvious.

We want to touch that we which we do not know, so we know more and more, to the point where we undersrand that we know less than we ever thought possible.

New York City is, to we of the Western World, the cutting edge of human progress. There, more of us do more, make more and do it more loudly than anywhere else.

In the last world wide recession, before World War 2, the still wealthy sought to maximize their worth by creating a place named after their money: Rockefeller Center. It was taller, slimmer, more civically designed than any singularity. It was a Center.

80 years later more wealthy humans saw the latest economic depression and wanted to maximize their value and found an open flat side of New York City, sewed seeds of individual architects whose job was to max out the cubage and get a killer ROI. They have just finished their first stab.

A cluster of gargantuan stagmites reaching up, completely untouched by the city, each other, or the humans who use them. In place of the skating rink of Rockefeller Center is a Folly, a nest of stairs leading nowhere, dissasociating humans into meandering, rather than gathering to skate and be watched.

The Folly is a tiny turd at the feet of the stalagmites. It was the one shot at human scale in a set of things that could be a six story apartment buildings or a missle harboring all of humanity to another galaxy.

Rockefeller City is its own little City. Harbor Yard is a Yard, with things rising up from it, reaching to…what?

Like all skyscrapers they are stacks of money, piled high, by humans for humans, but obviously part of our culture, and reflecting it, maybe projecting it.

Yet another group of monied humans saw a different way to maximize their value by building tall. They changed New York’s Zoning Code, like the other two groups of moneyed humans, but to make a new building, in random places of a tiny footprint – making the Needle Tower possible.

Rather than built to gather society, these slivers of one or a few apartments on each floor rise to heights many (many) times their plan widths to isolate those using these buildings from everywhere else, and allowing them to see The Others.

They disdain the surroundings, but preserve the surroundings of any number of other places by buying the space that the Zoning Code allows others to build higher, preventing those places who sold their “Air Rights” from getting taller, by making the new one site use all the height of the others, as purchased.

Beyond this limitation of height, only gravity, transportation and money limit height. We are making Towers of Babel built up to our most human God, money.

No Starchitect Expression, No City, No Folly, not even a skating rink. Needle Towers and Harbor Yard have but one mission: make money.

I know an architect who makes money executing the interiors of these extemely expensive homes made. They worship views, that are as calm as the views are insanely complex – the higher, more expensive and harder to get to they are.

A human reality of Self that is only possible when humanity creates these very tall places is reaching away from the commerce and humanity that created them.

Ironies are not new. That book written 4,000 years ago depicted the same human desires: reaching up to get beyond our culture to a Higher Truth. We once thought it was God. We now, seemingly, think it is each and any one of us that aspire to isolation, despite being wholly made in the complete suffusion of faith and culture.

We will soon be speaking many different languages in the Artificial Intelligence Age. We are understanding each other less and less.

Architecture only reflects, it never leads, except by example of what already existed that made it.

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