Architecture and Economics


While organizations as
occupy and documentaries like inside job point at bankers as the reason for our current economic crisis, the guys from Barclays Capital have now found the solution: let’s blame tall buildings!

Their recently published skyscraper-index (pdf) shows the link between the construction of the world’s tallest building and an approaching financial crisis. The report -written in the 42th floor of a Hong Kong office building- states that skyscrapers are not only the ultimate symbol of capitalism, welfare and power, but also a monument of hubris and megalomania. The development of the world’s highest building, so they say, is often representing a world wide construction boom: initiated in times of easy credit, rising land prices and excessive optimism, although completed when the economy has already slipped into recession.

The world’s first skyscraper -the 8 stories high Equitable Life Building in New York (1873)- is directly a textbook example since its completion went hand in hand with the five-year recession, known as the long depression. Many others followed. The Chrysler building and the Empire State building were completed on the eve of the 1929 Great Depression. The twin-towers opened their doors just before the oil crisis, the Taipei 101 when the Dot-com bubble popped and we don’t have to mention what happened around 2010 when the Burj Khalifa was completed.

Fortunately, there is currently no higher building under construction, but plans are made to reach the kilometer. At the same time Renzo Piano will this year top-off Europe, the Chinese won’t wait, and also Rotterdam’s high-rise ambitions and the forced construction of de Rotterdam does not predict a prosperous future. Maybe architects among us should think twice, before taking a commission for projects like these and watch out for the skyscraper curse. But well. Who trusts bankers now anyway?

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