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We once built tall structures to get closer to the heavens, literally closer. We arranged buildings to align with celestial phenomena, with gods. Then tall was employed for other means: for walls, for fortifications, to view threats from above. But we could only get so high. The practical occupancy of tall was limited by the strength of building materials and gravity’s effect on water. Then came steel and elevators and the pressurization of water, and buildings grew taller. Engineering advanced.
Taller we continue to build, and in greater numbers, but it’s no longer about getting closer to heaven, at least not in the literal sense. There are many reasons why: a symbolic gesture of power and cultural influence; a city’s emergence on the “global stage”; a stable investment opportunity for international finance portfolios; an efficient use of land. Whatever the reason, however, erecting tall buildings, or more totally, tall cities, has numerous negative ramifications.
A tall building is essentially a vertical gated community. They’re good at creating exclusion, or exclusivity, if that’s more your thing. Where there is economic disparity you tend to get walls and fences — exclusion and exclusivity. Vertical gated communities, however, employ more subtle barriers, such as beautifully articulated glazed entranceways requiring security swipe cards. Being granted access to the building doesn’t necessitate full access mind you. Each floor is its own container of exclusion requiring the same steps to enter as required for initial entry.