Defined as a building taller than 154 metres, the skyscraper is an unavoidable, phallic feature of every c21st city. They define our lives. We live around them, their shadow falls on our heads.
As a child in the family car driving back to Sydney from a trip to the Blue Mountains, the skyscraper became the beacon on the horizon which called to us like a siren. Approaching a 21st Century city is a process of being drawn in by that beacon, a comet pulled in by the gravitational force of the concrete monument. The CBD skyline is surely the symbol of our times, particularly when it’s lit up at night in all it’s hypercolour, energy intensive glory. Compare it to the view of cities pre electric light. How dark would Paris, London, Rome have been in the long nights of winter. How low to the ground. The tallest buildings were always cathedrals. Now the tallest buildings are removed from God. They belong exclusively to the money cult.
If American was the inventor of the sky scraper, then China has become it’s re-inventor. Now home to more skyscrapers than America or anywhere else, China also claims ownership of 5 of the top 10 tallest buildings. Nothing says more about the political economy and civic culture of our time than the ‘skyscraper race’ between nations.
China is the supreme winner. The most incredible thing about China’s development is how fast it’s occurred- as this image of Shanghai demonstrates. It’s a crazy ride of hyper capitalism, and it will speed up before it crashes. I wonder how many of these newly fashioned sky scrapers will end up empty after economic collapse- like the abandoned CBD buildings of Detroit?