Thursday, August 30, 2007

Meet the President's New Architect...

The George W. Bush Presidential Library has finally chosen its architect, the renowned Robert A. M. Stern from New York. My first impression was of mild disappointment, but that quickly faded to an overall lack of surprise. After all, the library is slated to occupy the eastern edge of the SMU campus, a college whose reputation is deeply tied to culturally conservative elite that dominates the political and social scene of Dallas. The president and his library's planning committee made its intention clear to have the new complex blend with the campus' neo-Georgian architecture, and Mr. Stern has definitely been capable of doing that with his firm's many previous projects on university campuses throughout the country. It was clear just by looking over the shortlist released a few months ago of architects considered by the committee that there was no desire to insert a flashy piece of "starchitecture" in the heart of Dallas (actually, it will within the independent municipality of University Park, which along with high-end Highland Park, form an area called "the bubble".) Rather the list consisted of firms that had reputations as large and successful not for their cutting-edge design as they are for providing consistent satisfaction to their clients. The two other finalists for the library, Overland Partners and Page Southerland Page have solid reputations in Texas, having incorporated a handsomely modern regional vernacular in their large public projects. Neither of those firms could be characterized as part of the contemporary design forefront.

That is not to say the Robert Stern lacks the talent to produce avant-garde projects. In actuality, his incorporation of classical styles and planning principals made him one of the leaders in generating and popularizing the versatile Post-modern style during seventies and eighties. Along with his contemporaries Charles Moore, Michael Graves, Philip Johnson and Robert Venturi, Stern recognized a deep desire in the American marketplace for a return to an intelligible style influenced by past historical vocabularies. After beginning his career working for Richard Meier, Stern formed his own practice and pursued a style that responded to the inherent deficiencies of Modernism by restoring tradition and thus calling it "modern traditionalism". Because traditional modes of architecture developed sophisticated rules of composition and scale appropriate to important institutional buildings, Stern's style was embraced by many civic and institutional clients that desired gentle austerity and symmetry wich would relate to the surrounding context yet exhibit a dignified significance.

Stern's embrace of classicism was a particularly defiant stance to take within the architectural context of the seventies. Complementing the surrounding environment by almost literarily imitating stylistic elements and refusing to celebrate technological sophistication of the times were not the hallmarks of the modern architect. Such a subtle approach was at first courageous, but became the default position of an overwhelming majority commercial and civic clients in the following decades. In 2007, Stern has long ago ceased to be relevant in the ongoing evolution of architectural trends. With exception to school of architecture at Yale, in which Stern is the dean, few architectural schools study his work seriously as they did in the eighties during the heyday of the post-modern experimentation. Although he has demonstrated an ability to wield the Modernist vocabulary in some of his projects, many of my contemporaries consider his work a bit retrograde and cite his commercial success as proof of his disinterest in forging new paths in design theory (this is a common irony inherent within the architect subculture). With a staff of more than three hundred people, it is clear he is no "boutique" architect that offers a specialized solution, but he does manage to provide a high quality design, revealing a respectable academic rigor that enhances what can easily become a lazy historicist pastiche.

Such sober characteristics not only shed light on the overall look the future library but it also reveals a little bit the president's own self regard in the urban realm. In recent decades, presidential libraries have become the contemporary version of an emperor's triumphal arch, a monument to a major leader and a repository of all that leader's accomplishments while in office. Only a few have taken noticeably monumental character, in particular John F Kennedy's by I.M. Pei, Lyndon B. Johnson's by SOM and Bill Clinton's by Polshek & Partners. The LBJ library at the University of Texas at Austin impacts significantly the surrounding cityscape. The overall footprint of the library and the attached school of public administration occupies a sizeable area at the corner of the campus. Clinton's library in Little Rock makes a bold gesture in Little Rock, Arkansas, puncturing the city's waterfront with a cantlivering shiny and sleek box of glass and steel. It's apparent that the Clinton library was intended to become a unique landmark to the city and a focal point of local regeneration of the surrounding neighborhood. But because of its bold character, I can't help but think that somehow Mr. Clinton wants as much attention drawn to himself as possible.

President Bush seems to have made it clear that in trying to complement the existing campus architecture of SMU, his library will probably appear inconspicuous. It will refuse to dominate its surroundings with the contrived visual rupture common in much contemporary civic architecture, and instead will likely opt for a relatively modest facade and a gently monumental scale. Although the library will bel nestled within a campus, its edge location near a regenerating district north of downtown Dallas will engage the urban fabric of the city, drawing parallels with Clinton's library. I suspect that the selection of SMU as the library's location had much to do with the library's potential as an urban catalyst, since the president may have learned from his father's missed opportunity in situating his library on the remote and rural Texas A&M campus in College Station. The Bush library will be an attraction among many in Dallas, not THE attraction had it been located in Waco, Midland, or in Irving, a Dallas suburb. It will strengthen the connection between SMU and the city at large by complementing its impressive Meadows Art Museum, its only other major public draw. Since it is relatively small campus SMU will doubtlessly be affected greatly by the Bush Library, forever changing its somewhat insular character and forcing it to become more open to to the public.

With such ideas in mind, maybe the anticipated classicism that Stern effectively provides is the appropriate tact in such sensitive project. It will lend the library a dignified presence, temper the transition between the larger post-industrial city and the quiet neo-georgian college campus by not punctuated end in itself, which is often the ultimate result in large Modernist civic buildings. It follows, then, that George W. Bush has not intent to make the building a special monument to his personality either. Rather, as Mr. Stern has suggested, the architecture will serve as subdued backdrop to what the ideas and themes the President has championed during the last eight years:

"The president, if he were here, he'd say, 'Eventually people will not be so interested in George W. Bush but they will be interested in the ideas, the forums and debates and things that can occur,' " Mr. Stern said. "So I think he and I are on the absolute same wavelength in that respect."

It seems the president would rather emphasize library's diverse program, which include archives, a learning center and a think-tank, rather than merely generate a uniquely moving impression of grandeur and power. It's quite consistent with aspects of his ranch in Crawford, and says quite a lot about his self-deprecating personality.

Monday, August 27, 2007

The Lives of Others: Why a Movie About Communism Still Matters

Spoiler alert: While I tried very hard to not give the plot away, you may want to view the movie first before reading these thoughts.

Having heard nothing but rave reviews for The Lives of Others, I was delighted that NetFlix managed to get it into my home the day of its release, last Tuesday. Set in mid-1980s East Berlin, it is the story of a playwright who must decide what to do with his art, and the secret police who are trying to decide if he is a threat. The story focuses on one particularly devout member of the secret service, Hauptmann Gerd Wiesler, played with great restraint by Ulrich Mühe, who sadly died last month of stomach cancer. Wiesler is known as one of the greatest interrogators available to East Germany, such is his skill at getting confessions, we presume mostly from innocent people. Still, I was struck as to why this movie would have much relevance. Hadn’t the Berlin Wall fallen? Hadn’t most of the world come to rid of Communism? What benefit would follow this film, especially in the West?

Well, besides the fact that there remain many state sympathizers and out-and-out communists, even in Berlin, the movie works on a more complex personal level. Ultimately, it is about moral choices the characters are faced with. The background of a state-controlled society certainly serves to make their choices and consequences to follow more pronounced, and often puts the characters in irresolvable moral dilemmas. But the characters are endearing because of their potential for change, and they’re interesting because of their potential for evil. Wiesler, the spy who must decide if his personal liking for the author he is spying on will infringe on his job performance, is in a conundrum where he must decide if he will be true to himself or true to the state, no small decision in Eastern Germany. The author’s live-in girlfriend must decide if she will confess to the state police what she knows, or risk losing her high-profile acting career. It was with (perhaps) morbid fascination that I watched them struggle to make these decisions, knowing the no-win positions their moral courage, or lack thereof, has put them in.

But for those who are still convinced state-run societies are our best option, the movie explores the subtle ways obedience to the state is all-encompassing. To make a joke about your superiors is to risk severe consequences. For a woman to resist the advances of a party official could be career suicide. For an author to write anything that hints of disloyalty risks a loss to all privacy, and certainly his art. Yet the image we often get of Communism is less subtle, and probably, in that sense, less helpful. I often think, and rightfully so, of the Gulags in Siberia, of deserted farms in the Soviet Union, of mass murder, or the sheer brutality of Stalin, Pol Pot, and Mau. The Lives of Others explores the way socialism in the west was mentally brutal, emotionally brutal, spiritually brutal far before it is ever physically brutal. It explores the way it forces people to turn on each other, to perform inhumanely selfish acts, the very acts Communism was supposed to rid society of. In fact, if nothing else, the movie should make clear that a socialist state encourages more greed, more hunger for power, and less cooperation than any free and virtuous society.

Much of its message transcends its era. In a society devoid of choices, a man makes a choice that goes against his training, against his profession, against his previous loyalty. And it is a powerful thing watching him make this choice, and quite a sympathetic moment. To watch his character evolve to the point where he understands right and wrong, on his own terms, shaped by his own value system, is to be reminded that our freedom of choice is not to be taken for granted. Communism, more than economic control even, is about killing the ability to think for oneself, to enact groupthink on a mass scale. Money, or the market, is merely the conduit by which we express our free thoughts; the GDR seemed hell-bent on never letting those thoughts occur.

A final thought on rebellion. The movie’s hero is an artist, an artist who must decide if he will, like his friends and mentor, use his art to speak against the inhumanity in his country. As I compared his moral struggle with artists of today, I had to wonder why it is that artists so often call rebellion art. Certainly, I was sympathetic to his cause, as he would use his art not to navel-gaze and advertise his personal philosophy, but instead show the devaluing nature of his state. But many of today’s artists strike me as rebelling against all the wrong things. And I am not merely overreacting to Piss Christ…I am talking about most of the modern art I see in film, music, or museums. What is “popular”, at least from what I have seen, is rarely a defense of virtue, of nobility, of honor. It is much more about deconstruction, about “speaking truth to power”, and championing Post-modern cynicism. It was immensely rewarding for me not only to cheer on the artist who made this film and brought new awareness to the dangers of Statism, but also its hero, who is an artist who takes his art beyond himself, a rarity in his profession.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Charitable Choice: Should We Help Via the Marketplace or Via the Church?

Someone came to me with an interesting proposal recently: for my church to sponsor an African native in the U.S. while he gets Information Technology training for two years. The man whose idea this is has a great heart and a mature understanding of charity, so I listened carefully. There are several unique pieces to this proposal. First, we would sponsor someone who is a Christian, but not someone who is officially engaged in the life of the church in Sierra Leone, where he’s from. In other words, he’s not a seminarian, missionary or pastor. Second, that we would not only give some money to help someone in need, but we would full-scale sponsor a person with only the hope that he would proclaim the gospel in Africa through his business. And this is no small proposal; the total would be at least $50,000 for the two-year program.

What makes the proposal even more risky is that we would be sponsoring someone to get Information Technology training, only to go back to a country that has minimal infrastructure for such a position. That he could get employment is no guarantee; in fact, we might need to rely on his entrepreneurship skills to start a business rather than work for someone else. But we are trying to look beyond that, to see what could take place in Sierra Leone in the years to come, and to consider the role technology will have there. I have to admit, it is a bit of a daring proposal, but it comes as frustration mounts with bad charity, government aid that seldom seems to help, and seeing our brothers and sisters suffer while we know there is more we could do.

It should be noted that a majority of charitable propositions related to Africa seem to revolve around a few cornerstones: its people are poor so they need money, they are hungry so they need food, they are thirsty so they need water. Most of which is true, and some charities have become more innovative to provide lasting solutions, like digging water wells instead of shipping food, or donating money for an entire calf instead of a little money that gets spread around to varying food distribution charities. This way, the food and water are self-perpetuating, and the building blocks are there for ensuring health.

Still, perhaps the most popular “charity” to emerge for Africa is Bread for the World, through the One Campaign. ( I’ve written more about them here. Essentially, this is less of a charity and more of a lobby, an effort to redistribute American wealth to a country that has very little. The fact that we have been doing this for decades and the problems still persist there seem to phase them not even a little. Worse, I find this star-studded approach (their website chronicles the many celebrities who champion the cause) to charity pandering and un-thoughtful. Apparently none of these celebrities (who quite probably did not finish high school) bother to consider if their proposal would actually work. Perhaps helping with such causes helps them assuage some guilt.

So let me iterate again how unusual the proposal I’m considering is compared to so many others I’ve seen. This charity would full-scale (instead of piecemeal) sponsor someone who will spend the majority of his employment in the marketplace. The church would have no way of ensuring a good “return on investment”; we would only trust he would be a faithful witness after he has received his training here, mostly on our dime. But the more I thought about it, the more biblical the proposal was. Consider these biblical figures who only spent part of their lives with their ministry: Jesus, Paul, Peter, and pretty much every disciple who ever had a day job. In fact, few Biblical characters were full-time prophets or spiritual leaders, including Abraham, Moses, Luke (he was a physician). It is true that the major prophets like Elijah, Elisha and John the Baptist seemed not to have day jobs, but to spread the gospel without it being a full-time occupation is an entirely biblical principle.

The basic problem is the same temptation towards big government; it is easier to trust a large, anonymous institution than to take the risk of personal involvement. It would be easier for my church to write a check. It would be easier to trust another institution whose heart seems to be in the right place. But that doesn’t seem like enough anymore. In my economic philosophy, I trust the marketplace. Why not with regards to evangelism as well?

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Recommended for Further Reading...

Below are a few links that may interest you:

  • Like many other people, I believe that how the young are educated determines how societies adapt to future challenges that will play a part in daily life. My own life-long experience attending public schools in below-average districts contributes much to my skepticism to standard solutions in improving our education system. However, I refrain from prescribing reforms since I've never known what it's like to be a teacher in these mediocre schools. One blogger who is very close to me, "Scott Walker", has made a commitment to become a teacher in the large and mismanaged Dallas Independent School District. Walker is fresh out of college and naturally full of ambition, and has an exceptional mastery of the humanities and literature of the great Western cannon. Walker has numerous stories to tell from his days working as a substitute teacher at all grade levels around various public school districts in the area. His blog"The English Teacher" features keen insights complemented by a highly literate writing style. It's definitely worth a gander.
  • One of the joys of writing about architecture on a blog is the connection made with other young designers who understand the blog as useful promotional medium for their work. "Emiliano", a seemingly talented Italian architect, shows off one of his projects. I cannot completely understand Italian, but the images of his cultural center in Brescia reveals a sophisticated understanding of structural and cladding systems. There are thousands of young talents like Emiliano, so don't hesitate to remind me to link to your blog to promote your projects.
  • Want to find out what a self-described anarcho-syndicalist structural engineer thinks of Le Corbusier? It's a new blog full of opinions on everything, from a solidly left perspective. What has life been like After Corbu?
  • As a catholic, I have some major reservations on the effects that the second Vatican council had on the Church. Dr. Philip Blosser writes from a similar perspective in his blog, "The Pertinacious Papist", a superbly written site on all things catholic. For those you who are annoyed by much of the post-Vatican 2 repertoir of worshisp music, browse this particular post if you are familiar with some of the listed songs.
  • Apeman wrote a thoughtful response to my observations while traveling to Mexico City a few months back. To answer his main question: the blog's name "Architecture and Morality" is not really a literal description of the content of the blog posts on this site. Rather, for those who have searched the blog's title on the internet, the title comes from an album recorded in 1981 by the English synth-pop group OMD. As soon as I was considering establishing a blog, that album title seemed to perfectly encapsulate the nebulous intentions of what I wanted to write about. Sure I would want to write about architecture, but I am also interested in thinking about other broader but related topics that most architecture writers would never care to tie in. It's kind of a coincidence that my co-blogger and I tend to write on our areas of expertise, he on religion and morality and me on architecture. Other than that, I have no intention to produce content consistent to the blog's namesake. With that being said, Ape Man makes some interesting points about how architecture can reflect a society's moral values.
  • I don't know if Andrew Yen is still writing, but his short-lived blog, "The Suburban Bourgeois" contains some nice litte posts about life in the suburbs and skepticism about the advantages of a more dense and 'urban' lifestyle promoted by the architecture and planning orthodoxy. I admire the fact that he writes from the perspective of a non-expert on matters of urbanism, and refuses to defer his opinion to so-called "experts".

Saturday, August 04, 2007

The Panopticon of Celebrity: The Image of the City in the Age of Luxury Condominium Towers

At some point in my theoretical education in architecture school the French philosopher Michel Foucault's ideas were introduced. One of the concepts that I learned was about Michel Foucault's description of the Panopticon. From my brief exposure to Foucault's philosophy, it seemed to have centered significantly around power relationships. All forms of cultural expression were subtle manifestations of power of an elite group of people and ideas over everything else. As an example, the language with which we speak is structured in such a way as to assume particular notions of hierarchy and influence that favored a point of view, particular a patriarchal and rationalist one. Many of today's academics apply Foucault's kernel of ideas in order to give meaning to their deconstructive pursuits. By supposedly revealing the inherent bias in power in all that we communicate and even think, it becomes possible to cast doubt on any knowledge we've inherited. This logic has been a driving force in dismantling the influence of centuries of accumulated wisdom, from the Judeo-Christian tradition all the way past the enlightenment up to post-structuralism.

My opinion is that Foucault's ideas have had a destructive impact, canceling many times over any gains in the freedom to rethink knowledge on a different set of power relationships. His separation of truth from knowledge ironically did not lead him to doubt the integrity of all ideas. In fact, Foucault was an avowed Marxist, and many of those influenced by him have used his ideas to reinstate socialist ideology as the base of power for a new body of knowledge (which accounts for much of what passes as scholarship in the humanities these days.)

One of his more architectural concepts was that of the Panopticon, an opaque tower at the center of a circular array of prison cells from which the prison guard can watch the inmates without being seen. This image of a prison represented the broader realization of a pervasive yet unseen power that governs much of daily life, where one will not transgress because of a fear that we are being secretly watched. It is ironic that Foucault wrote about the Panopticon as a way of defending the rights of the imprisoned and the insane but was personally in favor of a political system (socialist tyranny) that used it with brutal efficiency. I was interested in the idea that power over others could be polar, in which one person or thing could command the attention of all those around it. The Panopticon is not only a means of exercising oppressive power but also one of attracting attention in order to exert influence. In an age where much of what we call "news" consists of reporting the whereabouts of an unaccomplished celebrity, the public at large sometimes is compelled to lend its focus on people who by what they are subtly influence what is important in the world.

The emergence of celebrity is relatively recent, the product of mass media that needed to provide images that captivated and stimulated many people to imagine another imaginary world in vivid detail. Whereas not too long ago, a celebrity would express regret of having their privacy invaded, now we can find ambitious individuals aggressively seek as much attention as possible and willingly expose all aspects of their life simply to become the center of a celebrity-based panopticon. Reality television is nothing more than an attempt by talentless people seeking to wield the power of celebrity for their own personal gain. It seems to be the aspiration of more an more people to be seen or at least to celebrate ourselves publicly, often by showing off their possessions. Conspicuous consumption represents a natural human impulse to attract attention through the ownership of special objects from a wide range of scales, from fashionable clothes, cars, private planes and ultimately private buildings. Flaunting one's personal trophies is nothing new, but the way it can become so unavoidably visible to so many is.

From the earliest of times, buildings have probably been the most effective way to wield a "panoptical" power over others due to the way that they permanently occupy and dominate a landscape. Monarchs often would situate their palaces on visually prominent sites while wealthy and politically influential families built their sprawling family compound in the middle of the town to remind subjects or average citizens who was in control. With the rise of large-scale commerce, especially beginning from the Industrial revolution onwards, wealthy tycoons would build that most visible and most literal of panopticons, the high-rise office tower. In the capitalist city, business enterprises become a king of sorts, employing many people within the community, brokering deals with city leaders and lobbying with national politicians. Despite some popular paranoid perceptions, corporations are not watching individuals from their opaque glass towers. Instead, they sear into the memories of citizens a constructed communal identity of which the corporation is a primary element. How many Detroit residents could imagine their city without their monument to their dominant Automobile companies, the Renaissance center? In my home city, where many of its citizens lament the lack of a traditional communal life, could never imagine itself with the seventy-two story Bank of America tower. The unspoken message given by these gleaming towers is: You fellow citizens should not attempt to push any policy that would harm the interests of our business, since the community as you know it would cease to exist without us being part of your cherished urban landscape.

The past couple of decades have seen a change to this commercially-based panopticon. After the real-estate bust that followed the overbuilding of downtown commercial office buildings throughout many cities in the U.S during the 1980s, many large companies decided it wasn't necessary to locate at the center of a big city in a vertically hierarchical tower. They preferred to build more horizontal corporate campuses on cheap land in the suburbs. Efficiency gains from computers and networks shrank the size of corporate staff dramatically, leaving vacant many floors of space that once was alloted to an extensive administrative bureaucracy once required by large companies. Corporate tenants come and go in these office towers, with most citizens unaware of who occupies them at the moment, just that some sort of business is going in there. Municipal governments value the presence of a major corporation in forging a distinct communal identity for the city, and therefore they continue to offer enticements to companies to move downtown with generous tax rebates.

Such incentives indicate a desperation to stall the shift away from commerce occupying the role as the icon of authority in a cityscape. Beginning in the 1990s and expanding rapidly in our current decade, construction residential towers have become the most prominent urban event taking place in our downtowns. Vacant office buildings are rapidly being converted into residential units, and city skylines are being changed by new towers with smaller floorplates and highly articulated walls punched by private widows and balconies. They avoid monotonous glass curtain facades and lobbies engulfing entire city blocks. Many of these towers are surrounded by more pedestrian low-rise mixed use buildings with ground level retail. These residential highrises almost exclusively house the city's elite, and cater the natural desire to enjoy dramatic views of the surrounding city. The structures also accomplish for those who dwell in them a sense of importance shared with monarchs and wealthy families of long ago: a reminder who is important, who stands above the rest of average society.

And yet there are differences from that earlier time help explain the particular nature of panoptical power in our time. The most obvious is that this power is much more democratically distributed. Instead of one large palace for one family, there are now hundreds of luxury units attached to a tall vertical structure for all to be reminded who's important. Another difference is that today's mini-palaces in the sky are not literal political symbols like their ancient predessors. Whereas political leaders used their grand residence as a projection of their power over others, luxury condo towers serve as monuments to the occupants' apparent success and their association with an elite leisure class. Many among us aspire to become part of that leisure class due to their seemingly boundless sense of freedom and financial security. Yet the lifestyle of leisured elites resembles that of celebrities, who seem to make news simply by attending some leisurely event like movie premiers, awards shows and parties.

Buying property to upgrade one's social status happens frequently at the private level. But the times we live in are quite unique in that climbing for personal prestige is becoming our most significant built legacy. Only a few weeks ago, it was declared that tallest building in the world is now in Dubai. The 160 story tower contains mostly condominium units and an Armani brand hotel. In Chicago, there are plans to build an extremely tall spire on the most prominant waterfront site in the city, containg luxurious condominiums spiralling to the top. Currently the first ninety-plus story building in decades is underway under the Trump brand on the Chicago river, featuring condos and hotel sharing personal concierge services. Flying over Miami recently, speculative condo towers seem to have be growing like weeds, utterly changing the landscape of that city forever. The magazines on the airplanes were full of ads promoting spectacular towers in a place that not too long ago was briefly occupied American troops-Panama.

What particularly made me realize the significance of the rise of the residential tower in cities was when it was announced not too long ago that the first major addition to my home city's skyline would be a forty-two story condominium tower in the Dallas Arts district. The units in the tower are selling for no lower than a million dollars each. A stone's throw away, the most significant downtown development since the 1980s is going up. Called "Victory", it consists of a series of condo-hotels and upscale retail catering specifically to the leisured elite. The project's "cherry on top" could be represented by the private helipad roof sitting atop the tallest unit above the W hotel, belonging to none other than the Victory primary developer himself.

What does this say about the contemporary big city? The rise of corporate commercial towers often conveyed the general economic prosperity of the city, giving it regional and national prestige. A newcomer arriving to a major city would view the skyline on the horizon and say to himself "this is where important business is conducted...this a city on the move!" As condo skyscrapers begin to dominate the skyline of important cities, can one necessarily say the same thing? My first impression upon seeing these new skylines would be that there are a lot of wealthy people who live there that want to enjoy views. They say little of that city's overall economic health, or what life might be like for the majority of people who can't afford to live in these vertical mini-palaces. Gleaming downtown office towers connote opportunities for work and advancement. Glitzy condo towers symbolize the opportunities already taken, a city reserved for those who have already made it. They do not produce marketable commodities and ideas like their commercial counterparts, but merely display the byproduct of those successful producers themselves in a memorable and highly monumental form (the high-rise). One critic of the condo boom in American cities notes that many of those who own units in these towers are not even residents of the city in which they are located. Like the office towers that preceded them, many of the towers are pure speculation, built to no compelling overall civic need.

Imagining how future urban historians will regard the developments at the turn-of-the millennium American city (and a few international centers like Dubai), it seems to me evident that the story will involve the rise of luxurious high-density living anchoring the revival of old downtowns as well as the establishment of new satellite city centers. As the nineeteenth century turned into the twentieth, the story of American cities was their exuberant commercial growth, the development of the high-rise as a response to speculation as well as the creation of a new class of workers--the office worker. New architectural vocabularies (Gothic revival, art deco, Chicago style) responded to the overwhelming drive to build vertically in order to accomodate an army of office workers helping produce the massive quanities of goods and services for the industrial age. Nowadays the need for towers comes from a fast-growing upper class benefitting from the opportunities made possible by the post-industrial information age. Business has opted for low-rise suburban campuses or spec-office parks while the new rich's growing desire to show off becomes one of the only remaining reasons to build higher and higher.