Thursday, August 22, 2013
Greetings from distant places, dear susan,
As usual, travel has broadened my perspective but, more and more often lately, I must shake my head in amazement at the vagaries of humankind. Weary-winged after my flight across the Mediterranean, I'd barely alit on the bow of a passing sloop when what should I see but yet another monstrous edifice blighting this enchanting shore. What you see in this picture quickly snapped by one of the fishermen is the 47 stories tall Intempo Tower that rises head, shoulders, torso and thighs above its neighbors in what formerly was the tiny fishing village of Benidorn, Spain. What makes it eye-rollingly outlandish is that in their haste to construct dwellings more lavish than others nearby, the builders neglected to emplace elevators suitable for carrying people and their furnishings to floors above the twentieth. Yes, the developers decided to add twenty-seven floors to the original design without considering this seemingly essential issue for those born without wings. Their response is a plan to add exterior lifts, but I can't help but wonder how the tenants will react to strangers passing through their bedrooms on their way to their own apartments.
This egregiously bizarre architectural anomaly only goes to prove my long held opinion that people are better off living closer to the ground. High-rises have become endemic in modern cities mostly as a result of the cheap and unimaginative mass production logic of big business. Just as there are famous brand name food purveyors on the corners most everywhere in the western world and beyond, so too are high-rise apartment and office buildings making your cities indistinguishable from one another. True, some of the buildings are entertaining to look at (mostly at night), but they are invariably inhuman in size and scope. Furthermore, there are problems inherent in skyscraping habitations that may not be apparent on first glance but, as energy prices continue to rise, we may yet see the renaissance of human scale architecture - the kind that still exists mostly in old Europe whose central cities are themselves untouchable monuments, but whose outskirts too have often been redeveloped - up.
Here's a charming view of Venice painted by my old friend Canaletto in the days when nothing was taller than a church steeple.
Anyway, let me make a couple of points about why modern high-rises might not be the entirely correct solution to the way people live:
1. Wind speed increases with height. This isn't a problem for birds who may wish to migrate, but you might want to consider that if you open windows for some cross ventilation on the forty-second floor you may want to place bricks on any loose paper.
2. If your windows don't open, especially in a building with glass curtain walls, then on a hot day without power provided by cheap fossil fuels the temperature inside will rise to baking levels.
3. Water pressure to all but the lowest floors of a building will disappear during a power outage.
4. In a period of unaffordable energy costs, people would only be able to occupy floors as high as they could physically climb. For most people, that limit is four or five flights of stairs and may be less if you're carrying buckets of water.
In the long run I imagine skyscrapers might make excellent aviaries. Goodness knows, we birds could do with a break.
Salutations to you and all your compatriots. Please remember to keep the brandy warm and the fruitcake old and dry. I shall return soon.