Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Down the Skyscraper


Ben Grasso
It was Andrew Lawrence, the inventor of the skyscraper index, who pointed out that the building of the world’s tallest buildings is a good proxy for dating the onset of major economic downturns. His index has stood the test of time; the few times when it made an incorrect prediction can be adequately explained by exceptional circumstances, such as the onset of world wars. It is now being put to the test again, and we ignore its advice at our own peril.

In “Skyscrapers and Business Cycles” Mark Thornton writes:

“The ability of the index to predict economic collapse is surprising. For example, the Panic of 1907 was presaged by the building of the Singer Building (completed in 1908) and the Metropolitan Life Building (completed in 1909). The skyscraper index also accurately predicted the Great Depression with the completion of 40 Wall Tower in 1929, the Chrysler Building in 1930, and the Empire State Building in 1931.”


“The Petronas Towers were completed in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in 1997 setting a new record for the world’s tallest building at 1,483 feet [452m] beating the old record by 33 feet [10m] (the two towers were only 88 stories high compared with the 110 story giants built in the early 1970s). It marked the beginning of the extreme drop in Malaysia’s stock market, rapid depreciation of its currency, and wide-spread social unrest. Financial and economic problems spread to economies throughout the region, a phenomenon known as the “Asian Contagion.”

Thornton then goes on to elaborate why this might be so, based on economic theory:

“...the construction of the world’s tallest buildings [is] a salient marker of the twentieth-century’s business cycle; the reoccurring pattern of entrepreneurial error that takes place in the boom phase that is later revealed during the bust phase.”

“The world’s tallest buildings are generally built when there is a substantial and sustained divergence between the actual interest rate and the natural rate of interest, where the actual rate is below the natural rate as a result of government intervention. When the rate of interest increases, the financial effects all reduce the value of existing structures and the demand to build tall structures and when combined with depressed economic activity, the desire to build at all.”

In short, people are born stupid, and this results in a periodic divergence between one artificial parameter not observable in nature and some other artificial parameter not observable in nature. And then people lose the desire to build. If you aren't pleased with explanations of this sort, then here is an alternative one, using just words, without any of the statistical/mathematical hocus-pocus fetishized by the economics profession.

Skyscrapers occur during the terminal stage in the hypertrophy of financial and other control mechanisms. They are optimized for a single function: sucking resources out of the surrounding, low-rise economy, which is actually tied to the natural world in some way, through agriculture or resource extraction or the use of physical human labor. The appearance of very large skyscrapers signals the onset of a new kind of economic vampirism, in which the parasite outgrows the host, and then begins to starve.

Although it is easy to assume that the life blood being sucked out by the vampires is money, it is actually hope. In his novel Empire “V” (“V” stands for “vampire”) Viktor Pelevin describes an entire vampiric ecosystem: the imperial vampires feed not on money but on a metaphysical substance called bablos. Bablos is generated when people, multitudes of them, work for money in pursuit of their hopes and dreams. Bablos is harvested when these hopes and dreams are then shattered. The vampires' bag of tricks includes abstract disciplines such as Discourse and Glamor, which they use to optimize the metaphysical expropriation of the products of human greed and envy. Bablos is administered as part of a special ritual, during which bushels of worn-out currency are burned in a fireplace, but this is only done to symbolize that the money has served its purpose as a vehicle for harvesting hope via greed.

It is hardly unexpected that high belfries would be inhabited by large bats. Skyscrapers crop up when the economic vampires decisively gain the upper hand and feel exuberant about their ability to endlessly expand their numbers and their reach. But the moment at which they are at their strongest is precisely when their quarry—the base of natural resources made available by human labor—is, correspondingly, at its weakest, and can no longer support the ever-increasing load of parasites. The result is a downturn, or a crash, or a collapse.

The ascent to the top of a skyscraper is normally an exhilaratingly rapid ride in a high-speed lift, but, in an emergency, or a downturn/crash/collapse, the descent can be nothing of the sort. As John Michael Greer writes in The Long Descent:

“...as we've climbed from step to step on the ladder of progress, we've kicked out each rung under us as we've moved to the next. This is fine so long as the ladder keeps on going up forever. If you reach the top of the ladder unexpectedly, though, you're likely to end up teetering on a single rung with no other means of support—and if, for one reason or another, you can't stay on that one rung, it's a long way down. That's the situation we're in right now, with the rung of high-tech, high-cost, and high-maintenance technology cracking beneath us.” [p. 168]

Lofty and proud, often endowed with a literal pinnacle of human ingenuity and industrial might, a skyscraper has but two futures: as a smoldering pit produced by a controlled demolition, or as a rusting, teetering derelict, shed of its plate glass and overgrown with vine, serving as a bird rookery, with only an occasional visitor scaling its lofty heights, swatting away the birds, to scrape up some guano, perhaps pocketing a few eggs along the way. This is the career path of the skyscraper: from the lofty seat of the captains of industry to a mighty bird-shit factory in the sky; or is it bat-shit? Let's just call it “sky-scrapings.”

The prospect of collapse is built right into the very concept of the skyscraper. The best case scenario of a controlled demolition requires explosive charges and electronic sensors to be placed in key areas all along its steel frame. The explosions must be triggered in a specific sequence, precise to the millisecond and dynamically adjusted by a computer so as to steer the accumulating avalanche of rubble into the footprint of the skyscraper's basement, to be excavated using heavy machinery once the entire mass stops burning and cools down. Without such precise and active control, things are guaranteed to go sideways because errors multiply rather than cancel. The idea that a skyscraper can collapse down into its own footprint by itself has been disproved by every generation of little children who played with stacking up blocks and knocking them down: the blocks don't land on top of each other in an neat little pile; they scatter all over the living room floor. The worst case scenario is that the entire structure will eventually start to lean a bit, then a bit more, and eventually topple, forming a trench forced with twisted steel. Where the skyscrapers are packed close together, as they are in the many “downtowns” where skyscrapers are to be found, there is a chance of a domino effect, with one skyscraper knocking down others in a chain reaction.

What better metaphor is there for our entire collapse-prone, highly temporary living arrangement than a skyscraper? An update to the ancient Greek myth of Icarus who flew too close to the sun, which melted the wax holding together his wings, causing him to plummet into the sea and drown, the modern skyscraper—a phallic challenge to the heavens—is an object study in failed ambition. Perhaps most significantly, no other type of building intended for human use goes so quickly from comfortable and posh to potentially lethal. Having worked in many of them over the years, I have been forced to watch, and even to participate in, situations that have convinced me that I don't want to spend any significant amount of time either inside or near any skyscrapers.

While working at 100 State Street in Boston, I once witnessed an emergency involving a window washer. One of the two cables holding up the platform that travels up and down the side of the building, allowing the window washers to do their job, snapped. The platform then hung vertically, held by a single cable, with the window washer barely holding on. The various fashion victims who inhabited that floor of the tower (it was in an advertising agency) crowded next to the window and signaled their shock with theatrical gasps and pantomimes of horror. The fire department was called, and the following routine played itself out. First, the entire building was placed under lock-down: nobody could enter or exit the building. Second, a security perimeter was established around it; traffic was stopped and cars parked within the perimeter were towed away. Third, firemen used axes to smash the plate glass window next to the window washer from inside, sending a cascade of glass shards tumbling down to the now empty street below. It took a surprising amount of force to bash through the glass. It sounded like gunfire when it finally broke away in large, irregular-shaped pieces, which, after smashing into the pavement below (I went down to check) looked like coarse sand. Finally, two more firemen standing inside the building grabbed the window washer and pulled him in.

On another occasion, I was working across the street from 1 Broadway in Kendall Square, an MIT-owned building in Cambridge, when that building suffered a transformer explosion in its basement. “Workers described suffocating smoke that smelled like burnt rubber and was so thick in places it was hard to see even a few inches.” wrote the Boston Globe. Since lights went out in the entire area, our building was evacuated as well, and I went over to observe. I saw hundreds of people emerge from the building over a period of many minutes, at least a hundred of them bearing the telltale smoke inhalation soot marks under their noses. Some collapsed, some bent over retching, some just stood there trying to catch their breath. What they had inhaled was burned plastic from office carpeting, furniture and partitions (loaded with dioxins) and burned transformer oil (loaded with polychlorinated biphenyls). In a short period of time they had absorbed a load of toxic chemicals which, lodged in their lungs, will last them the rest of their life, hastening its end. Mercifully, this building had only 17 floors; had it been a scraper, more people—perhaps everyone in the building—would have been forced to breathe smoke for a longer period of time.

You see, skyscrapers are not really like other buildings. They are more like space capsules hanging in the sky, closer to ships and planes than to buildings. But ships have life rafts and lifeboats and planes have oxygen masks in case of decompression and inflatable chutes and life vests in case of a water landing, and buildings have fire escapes and windows reachable by the fire department's ladder trucks, while skyscrapers have... stairwells. These stairwells are some of the most frightening places in which you might find yourself: featureless, claustrophobic, and endless. Often these stairwells are not accessible from the elevator halls directly, but require going through areas secured by electronic access cards, which require electricity to work: if a power cut finds you in the elevator hall, that's where you will stay.

In an emergency, you and your co-workers, two-thirds of whom (in the US) are obese or have bad knees or a bad heart or are wheelchair-bound, are expected to giddily trot down tens of flights of stairs. Since such processions are only as fast as their slowest participants, they progress very slowly. If there is a fire, the stairwells can quickly fill with smoke. Panics, stampedes and jams are not uncommon; beyond a certain density, people form a solid plug of bodies, and then nobody can move. Efforts to simulate the behavior of crowds exiting a skyscraper using fluid dynamics, to try to find a better way, have run into a problem: in such situations, the crowd does not behave as a fluid should. It forms clumps. The state of the art is to simply try to hold people back until the stairwell clears.

What might trigger such an evacuation? There could be many reasons, but the two common ones are a fire and a power outage. A fire automatically triggers a power outage, to avoid the possibility of further fires started by electrical equipment that has been soaked by the sprinklers. Some skyscrapers are equipped with diesel power generators, which can provide emergency power, even in case of a fire, but then only to emergency systems.

If the idea of slowly trudging down an endless stairwell while inhaling toxic smoke does not appeal to you, here are a couple of options. The first is to buy a “Personal Escape Device” (the base model is $500 down plus $50 a month with a 10-year commitment, according to the web site.) You will also need an axe to smash out the window, since in a skyscraper none of the windows open; good luck smuggling one past security.

The other option is for the active and adventurous vampire bat: learn BASE jumping, and keep a chute and a wing-suit (and, of course, an axe) with you at all times. This may seem dangerous, but, given the nature of this sport, the list of known fatalities is actually fairly short. No self-respecting skyscraper-dwelling vampire bat should be without a bat-suit. Good luck!

Gazprom Tower
But where is the skyscraper index pointing at the moment? One project worth watching is the Gazprom tower being planned in Lakhta-Center in St. Petersburg. This is the second attempt to get this project off the ground; the previous attempt was called Okhta-Center, and was sited in Krasnogvardeisky District, where I happened to have grown up. There, the residents proved far too combative for Gazprom's PR machine to handle. The public meetings went very badly, and Gazprom opted for a change of venue. The new site, in Primorsky District, is far on the outskirts, on the Gulf on Finland. Its centerpiece a 96-floor, 470m office tower, going up in a city where there are, at present, exactly zero skyscrapers. In fact, the existing height restriction in the zone of the planned construction site is 27m. The soil there is soft and boggy, land is still relatively cheap, and so building tall structures there is strictly for the foolish. Nevertheless the planning phase should be completed this year, and the project is to be completed by 2018. There is still hope that the unfolding economic debacle in the Eurozone, which is Gazprom's major export customer, will prompt Gazprom to rethink this vanity project. If the project does proceed, then the skyscraper index will come to point squarely at Gazprom, and at the Russian Federation, in an accusatory fashion.

1 WTC
The other project worth watching is the so-called Freedom Tower, a.k.a. One World Trade Center, going up in lower Manhattan, on the site of the destroyed twin towers of the World Trade Center. It will be a symbol of your freedom to work an office job until you get laid off. It is going to be 541m tall, have 104 floors (plus 5 more underground), and will dwarf every other skyscraper in Manhattan. It is scheduled to reach full height this summer, and to open for business sometime next year. Given the unhappy history of the site, the project will include a massive blast wall. Security at this location is bound to be very tight; perhaps too tight for you to smuggle in your wing-suit, chute and axe.

Nervous watchers of the skyscraper index may wish to take this opportunity to consider strategies for geographic diversification: away from Manhattan, away from the United States, away from Western financial institutions. As for the rest of us, let us work to diversify away from all of them. Let us stop pinning our hopes and dreams on a paper currency which the vampire bats will use to light their fireplaces once we are done slaving for it.

28 comments:

yvesT said...

What is interesting about skyscrapers, is that the "moral excuse" that usually goes with them, is that they allow to increase density, and in fact this is false ! (especially for housing skyscrapers).

That is if you compare "generic urbanism" made of slabs, towers, or courtyard buildings, using the same natural light constraints and having the number of floors as a variable, towers do not give better result at all.

This was studied in the sixties by L March and Leslie Martin, if interested you can check the two papers (pdfs, in English) linked below :
http://iiscn.wordpress.com/2011/05/15/densite-etages-lumiere/

Lidia17 said...

Indeed. Were you in the Boston area in the early 1970s, when the Hancock Tower was losing its windows on a regular basis? In that case it was a design flaw from the outset, but what I wonder is how long the glues will last which hold the panes in on these things.

One advantage of being older (52) is that one can see (although it is depressing) how short the effective life-span is of materials that seemed eternal in one's youth: the crazing of ceramic mugs, the deterioration of vinyl flooring and its adhesives, the yellowing and embrittlement, or alternately, impossible stickiness and melting, of plastics from which everyday items are made, even the erosion of stone is perceptible to me now. All my once-nice new things increasingly resemble my parents' old junk. It's quite sobering, and makes one wonder "what were we thinking"? Skyscraper short-sightedness can't be put down to the exuberance of youth, though, as most of these buildings are projected by old men.

In a stick-built house, it's at least theoretically possible to up/down-grade the original materials, even if it means crafting wooden windows to replace broken vinyl ones. A skyscraper has such strict performance requirements that that's fairly impossible even were it desireable.

Paul said...

Great article, Dmitry. May i just add Ireland's 2 small contributions to the Skyscraper Index- Dublin's Liberty Hall scheduled in 2006 for demolition and replacement with a 22 story block. Just as the Republic's economy went down the pan (and it's still not built). And Belfast's Obel Tower (actually got built, almost) started in 2006. Right before Northern Ireland's economy went down the pan

Karl K said...

Excellent post and you didn't even mention Jim Kunstler's point about needing electricity to operate the elevators! At least not directly.

Very droll writing (as usual) and why I keep coming back!

Keep up the good work!

Jeff said...

Depression follows mania like night follows day (roaring 20s/great depression). Low interest rates lead to all sorts of malivestment, real estate being one of the most obvious.

On another note I heard a story on the radio about John Deere exporting tractors to Russia for the increasingly technologically complex Russian farms. Russian farmers picking up our bad habits? They'll be sorry.

Sixbears said...

As a former Firefighter, I see you hit the nail on the head. Good post.

Don't stand too close to a disaster, be it a building fire or the collapse of tenological civilization. Too easy to get hit by falling debris or toxic waste.

Lance Michael Foster said...

"The Green Frog Skin – that’s what I call the dollar bill. In our attitude towards it lies the biggest difference between the Indians and the whites. My grandparents grew up in an Indian world without money. Just before the Custer battle the white soldiers had received their pay. Their pockets were full of green paper and they had no place to spend it. What were their last thoughts as an Indian bullet or arrow hit them? I guess they were thinking of all that money going to waste, of not having had a chance to enjoy it, of a bunch of dumb savages getting their paws on that hard-earned pay. That must have hurt them more than the arrow between their ribs.

The close hand-to-hand fighting, with a thousand horses gally-hooting all over the place, had covered the battlefield with an enormous cloud of dust, and in it the green frog skins of the soldiers were whirling around like snowflakes in a blizzard. Now, what did the Indians do with all that money? They gave it to their children to play with, to fold those strange bits of coloured paper into all kinds of shapes, making into toy buffalo and horses. Somebody was enjoying that money after all.

The books tell of one soldier who survived. He got away, but he went crazy and some women watched him from a distance as he killed himself. The writers always say that he must have been afraid of being captured and tortured, but that’s all wrong. Can’t you see it? There he is, bellied down in a gully, watching what is going on. He sees the kids playing with the money, tearing it up, the women using it to fire up some dried buffalo chips to cook on, the men lighting their pipes with green frog skins, but mostly all those beautiful dollar bills floating away with the dust and the wind. It’s this sight that drove the poor soldier crazy. He’s clutching his head, hollering, ‘Goddam, Jesus Christ Almighty, look at them dumb, stupid, red sons of bitches wasting all that dough!’ He watches till he can’t stand it any longer, and then he blows his brains out with a six-shooter. It would make a great scene in a movie, but it would take an Indian mind to get the point."

- John (Fire) Lame Deer, "Seeker of Visions"

Glenn said...

I loathe conspiracy theories, on the principle that "three can keep a secret if two of them are dead". But your remark on the precision it takes to bring a tower down in it's own footprint revives (in my mind) the question of how the twin towers of the WTC miraculously managed to do that.

Sigh. Back to pondering.

johnny-kick-a-hole-in-the-sky said...

Brilliant post, Dmitry. I love the way you come at things from different angles. Always thought provoking. I'm surprised that you didn't mention the Burj Khalifa tower in Dubai, which represents the pinnacle (pun intended) of unsustainability and resource misallocation. The new Tokyo Sky Tree also warrants a mention as an example of a fantastic waste of resources by a country that simply cannot afford to waste resources (think of Japan's incredible debt to GDP ratio).

Also, perhaps this is not an issue you ever want to touch on directly, but I couldn't help but notice that you dwelt at some length on the difficulty and unlikelihood of a steel-framed skyscraper falling into its own footprint. Perhaps you were referring to something that happened in New York? Forgetting WTC1 and WTC2 for the moment, surely the well-known footage of WTC7 collapsing into its own footprint as though it was being sucked into the earth (YouTube it if you haven't seen it, people), is enough to make even the most hardened sceptic and Occam's Razor-wielding cynic believe that that collapse was a planned/controlled demolition.

Furthermore, whatever brought those towers down, the symbolism of them coming down is surely the ideal symbolism for what's happened and continues to be happening to the American Empire. Indeed, when future historians discuss the fall of that empire, surely they will refer to those collapses as the start of the descent into almost vertical freefall. And remember the name of those buildings. World Trade is a synonym for Globalization, no?

Dethe Elza said...

I visited Sofia, Bulgaria shortly after they switched to a "market economy" (i.e., let the mafia run things directly without having to go through communist intermediaries, or at least that's how it appeared to work when I was there). There had been a building boom shortly before, but then their new economy went into hyperinflation, so there were half-finished shells of towers everywhere, looking like bombs had gone off, and in a way they had. I think of those economic bombs whenever I look around my current home of Vancouver, Canada. It is a city of cranes, building condo and office towers everywhere which then sit empty because no-one can afford them. So far, the building hasn't stopped or slowed, but continues to pick up pace. It won't be long until these empty monuments to stupidity run out of fools to throw bad money after good and sit like steel cobwebs, half-formed and unmourned.

planningdown said...

Nice post. I agree - skyscrapers offer very little to the desireability of an urban area. They lack human scale, are impersonally huge and disengaged, are energy hogs, and are dangerous (as you pointed out).

Planners suggest them when they argue for increased density. This is a bit of a red herring, as density can be provided by much more modestly scaled and liveable 10 story buildings (think DC or Paris). In this way, compactness is much more of a guideline than general density. The drawbacks of skyscapers make this clear.

-glaucus
www.planningdown.wordpress.com

procrastinationembodied said...

Quite a few things in the tertiary sector could be seen as attempts to keep the wheels of the economy rolling, actual utility be damned. For example, given a certain amount of money, it would make more sense to build several small theatres all over the country rather than one big (admittedly impressive) opera house, yet the latter is what is usually done, with the motivation of putting place X on the map. So, it should not come to a surprise that such impressive buildings are built when crisis is just around the corner.

Unknown said...

Thanks for the post Dmitry. I remember reading the studies done by architects that show that skyscrapers are actually much too expensive to maintain and the best building height is about 4-5 stories (if you think about it, that's what romans built too in theif biggest cities).
The only reason for building skyscrapers is the same reason that other civilizations used to build pyramids or giant stone heads: because we can.

MilesN said...

Bad news. Moscow, Federation towers. Completion is due in 2013.

Syd O said...

Now that there's a very real possibility of Fukishima exploding and/or nobody properly decommissioning the reactors in America I'm highly considering diversifying my geography down under, Kiwi style.

Bog-Host said...

This piece resonates with the nightmare I was having on the morning of 09/11/01, when I was rudely awakened by my housemates that "we were under attack". In my dream the whole world had been converted into vampires and they were all after me, since I was the the last source of fresh blood left. Though I was able to hold them off for a long time, things were not looking too good before I woke up. What I woke up to wasn't much of an improvement.

Anyone who has had repeated experiences of officialdom telling them that "this is how things are" when you know, and they know that you know, that things are otherwise, should discern that there is a tone or inflection in this kind of communication which becomes very recognizable. What I was awakened to that morning was that tone pegged to its limit pouring through the airwaves. I found it all rather boring and mundane and was just embarrassed by the way everyone was soaking it up.

Just the vampires and BAU. I just kept my mouth shut and went about my own business.

DeVaul said...

Interesting post. I have heard others speak of this too. I also read that the biggest bath houses and other recreational buildings in Rome were built in the 40 years prior to its fall to the Visigoths.

Not a good sign of the times.

Rebuilding the World Trade Tower is the ultimate form of hubris. It shows we have learned nothing.

john john said...

The Mayans built their gaudiest pyramids at their peak, I imagine it holds true right back to the ziggurats. The planes hitting the twins was David's sling shot. The noise in Iraq and Afganistan the sound of Goliath falling

Jeff Snyder said...

Great post, Dimitry. I loved the way you tied the skyscrapers with insights into the nature of vampiric society.

@Lidia17, having lived to 56, and spent far too much time rebuilding/refurbishing houses I have lived in, I share your sense of amazement at how short-lived our building materials are. Having replaced some appliances recently only to discover how quickly something goes wrong with them, and contrasting that with memories of the stoves, washing machines and refrigerators of my youth, which seemed unkillable, I am convinced we reached peak quality some time ago and are on an accelerating downward slope. I suspect that soon even the wealthy won't be able to obtain long-lived quality. The repairmen who come to my house to replace broken parts in these appliances tell me that, with only a few exceptions, the same crappy parts are used in the really expensive machines as well.

As for dwellings, I have become fascinated with cob houses. Cheap to build, and can last for centuries.

Unknown said...

Not only that they are being built, they are given Platinum
LEED certificate which stands, I guess, that it can not be more "green-er" than that:

1 Bryant Park Tower, NY

Biasedpenguin said...

I think the rule could be extended to include tall buildings as far back as the middle ages. An example is the Cloth Hall in Ghent, a large medieval building started when the cloth trade was about to go into decline.

Reason's Whore said...

That was hilarious. Very insightful and interesting as well.

Christian S. said...

And here in Texas, we've just opened the world's largest convenience store.

http://www.chron.com/news/local_news/article/Wait-is-over-for-fans-of-Buc-ee-s-its-restrooms-3540830.php#photo-2909054

HeyZeus said...

Dmitry... it is fascinating how much of an indicator, the phallic stretch to sky is of a civilization, in how many ways it represents a cancerous growth in the system. I am working on developing an indicator that will show (hopefully) when an urban form stops being a useful organ and starts being a tumor. Using just the very basic complexity mathematics we can now identify projects/topographies/urban forms which can be deemed inherently unsustainable owing to geometry. In a way, all we need to do is draw inspiration from eco-systems, which are complex-adaptive systems that exhibit very specific scaling properties, nip any system with the potential to become 'too big to fail' in the bud and nurture functional redundancies and decoupling within constituent systems (niche growths). Check out my slideshow for more details http://www.authorstream.com/Presentation/fouadmkhan-1380533-fractal-dimension-of-cities/. There is potential here for alternative narrative to spout.

subgenius said...

@ Jeff Snyder

Yeah, if you look after it, cob lasts for ever. If you want to modify it you wet it down and dig it out. If you leave, it turns into a field.

Wolfgang Brinck said...

Picking certain sky scrapers from among the rest and correlating them with economic events might be questionable from a statistical standpoint, but it is certainly an attractive thing to do. Perhaps we can add other boondoggles such as the manned moon missions - precursor to peak oil production in the US and the CERN accelerator in Europe, precursor of something, perhaps the dissolution of the European Union? Although neither the moon missions and the accelerator were not privately funded like the skyscrapers, they also were and are indicators of a certain kind of overextension of resources, final grand gestures just before collapse or long decline.

John Rushton said...

Oklahoma City is celebrating the near-completion of it's sparkling new Devon Energy tower as we speak. It is by far the tallest structure in the city. Meanwhile, Aubrey McClendon of Chesapeake is mired in financial scandal, and experts outside of the mainstream begin to warn that the fracking process that both OKC-headquartered companies specialize in could drop off a cliff very soon.

Me said...

South Africa has the Carlton Centre and Ponte Tower both of which signalled the nations' economic might during the apartheid era.

Since 1994, the newly democratic country has seen its currency plunge in value while these two buildings - and the surrounding areas - have since become derelict, home to thousands of illegal immigrants.