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Behold the proposed Affirmation Tower by Brit architect Sir David Adjaye for a site adjacent to the Javits Convention Center in New York City. At 1,663 feet, it would be the new tallest building in the city, surpassing the Freedom Tower (One World Trade Center) by 295 feet and the Empire State Building by 413 feet. But, what is being affirmed here exactly? To quote the character Inigo Montoya from the movie The Princess Bride: “I do not think it means what you think it means.”  I think Sir David is affirming every misunderstanding about what the city requires in the way of buildings going forward.

New York does not require any more skyscrapers. That type of building is obsolete. There are too many of them now — including scores of office towers that are 30-percent-or-less occupied these days, due to Covid-19 and the new mode of working-from-home, now firmly established as a corporate money-saver. The destiny of these buildings is a humongous problem for the city. At those ruinous occupancy rates, the reduced revenue cannot pay for taxes, mortgage-financing, and maintenance. The city has also seen scores of hotels go out of business as tourist industry revenue dropped from $4-billion pre-Covid to $531-million post-Covid. These are now long-term trends. The city will continue to contract. There will be a lot of empty skyscrapers, and many of them will not be cared-for.

By now, you have surely noted the peculiar design of the Affirmation Tower. It’s intended to produce the unsettling effect of defying gravity. Cute. But guess what? The human brain does not really appreciate buildings that even just look like they are liable to fall down — especially post-9/11, when several gigantic buildings actually did fall down. The cultural memory of all that will thunder through generations. And, contrary to the current dogmas of the architecture clerisy (Libeskind, Koolhaas, Mayne, et al.), city life is not improved by inducing additional anxiety in the people who live there. Since we are moving swiftly now into the next era of capital scarcity and social disorder, the darn thing probably has zero chance of getting built.

Thanks to Derek D. Markovic for the nomination!


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About James Howard Kunstler

View all posts by James Howard Kunstler
James Howard Kunstler is the author of many books including (non-fiction) The Geography of Nowhere, The City in Mind: Notes on the Urban Condition, Home from Nowhere, The Long Emergency and the four-book series of World Made By Hand novels, set in a post economic crash American future. His most recent book is Living in the Long Emergency; Global Crisis, the Failure of the Futurists, and the Early Adapters Who Are Showing Us the Way Forward. Jim lives on a homestead in Washington County, New. York, where he tends his garden and communes with his chickens.

24 Responses to “December 2021” Subscribe

  1. Cactus Girl December 1, 2021 at 4:56 pm #

    Don’t worry about it falling, Jim. Anyone with half a brain can see it is built to telescope gently down to ground level.

    • Walter B December 1, 2021 at 10:08 pm #

      Yeah, just like the Twin Towers.

  2. Walter B December 1, 2021 at 10:14 pm #

    On a lighter note Jim, I think that the proper quote from Inigo Montoyo would be, “Hello, my name is Inigo Montoyo. You killed my father. Prepare to die!”

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I73sP93-0xA

    So many scenarios today where this needs to happen in real life…

  3. MaryMaryFullOfPride December 1, 2021 at 10:30 pm #

    Whut.

    +

    OMG.

  4. tom clark December 1, 2021 at 11:01 pm #

    Wont ever be built so fuggetaboutit.

    Focus instead on the shit in the world we need to get rid of.

  5. Druuge December 2, 2021 at 2:45 am #

    Am I the only one who sees this building mentally tipping to the side and have to adjust my eyes and brain?

    How lovely it would be for NYC to get one fantastic building downtown that looks like it belongs there from ages ago.

    • Chippenhook December 2, 2021 at 6:39 am #

      I agree. Some buildings age well design-wise. Others, like this one, have no aesthetic appeal from day one. Something happened post-WWII that resulted in few buildings being built that have a timeless beauty to them. Most have been bland boxes, others assaults on the eye.

      • BackRowHeckler December 4, 2021 at 4:33 pm #

        Yes, the Empire State Building still looks pretty good after almost 90 years

  6. Chippenhook December 2, 2021 at 6:29 am #

    I’m not a structural engineer nor do I pretend to be one, but I doubt building an exceedingly tall top heavy structure is not something that will end well. If I had to bet on Mother Nature’s power vs the architect’s ego, I’m going with Mother Nature. Whatever storm level this monstrosity has been designed to, mother nature is capable of sending one even stronger someday, and that’s before the inevitable design, material, and construction flaws are taken into account.

  7. tucsonspur December 2, 2021 at 6:50 pm #

    New York City is a serious place, and so you’ll hear no bravos for this Brit’s Brobdingnagian buffoonery in proposing this brutish block of banality. Far from it, as cries are sure to ring out for the bastinado.

    Is this the architectural equivalent of an upside down cake, or the structural affirmation of asininity? Did Adjaye go for the overhang instead of the setback because he was hung over? See the Paramount building on Broadway:

    https://medium.com/@ZonerApp/setback-basics-in-the-new-york-city-zoning-code-1a4aabe0f572

    David Adjaye says that there is a social agenda to his architecture. As with all architects, some of his work is better than others, but see his forlorn looking, carboniferous, giant cinder block here in Harlem:

    https://www.dezeen.com/2015/10/05/david-adjaye-sugar-hill-housing-museum-harlem-manhatten-new-york-new-images/

    Which one of his works is the cream of the crap or the piece de repugnance?

    However, let’s not single the black man out. Abhorrent architecture abounds:

    https://www.artsy.net/article/artsy-editorial-amid-surging-sales-art-basel-miami-beachs-vip-preview-new-class-collectors-emerge

    I wonder what Howard Roark would think.

    “What in hell are you really made of, Howard? After all, it’s only a building. It’s not the combination of holy sacrament, Indian torture, and sexual ecstasy that you seem to make of it.”
    “Isn’t it?”

    ? Ayn Rand, The Fountainhead

    • tucsonspur December 2, 2021 at 7:00 pm #

      Forgive please, the last link is unintended.

      https://www.artsy.net/article/artsy-editorial-these-13-architects-will-change-how-we-live-in-new-york-city

    • SvrzoH December 9, 2021 at 9:20 am #

      Howard was into modern box design, affirmed by the movie version
      of the book. As I recall, Ayn made mockery of traditional design approach in modern times in the book passage where “team of architects” was designing the building. Everyone was trying to outdo the other in adding cornices, classical columns, corbels etc into the contraption.
      So much for the conservative lovers of Rand.

      Beside that, true, this one is right on the mark as an eyesore for the reasons explained.

  8. Warren December 3, 2021 at 11:22 am #

    I hope they try to build it.

    Because it will never be finished and nothing will so scream civilizationary collapse like a partially constructed sky scrapper rotting away in a city center.

    • Warren December 3, 2021 at 11:25 am #

      …and what better a book end to mark the death of our civilization than an unfinished, upside down version of the Tower of Babel..

  9. anmariwakaranai December 4, 2021 at 2:15 am #

    They sell boxes at the dollar store that fit inside each other like Russian dolls and look just like that.
    No. Boxes look better in the dollar store.
    Maybe a few bows would improve it.

    • SvrzoH December 9, 2021 at 9:21 am #

      Good one anm.

  10. BackRowHeckler December 4, 2021 at 4:30 pm #

    In San Francisco the 58 story ‘Millennium Tower’ is tilting and can topple over any day or at least when the next earthquake strikes. Or maybe just a tremor will bring it down.

    These are luxury penthouses that sell (or did sell) for several million $$$ each.

    Rumor is the building was designed by the Diversity Architectural Committee.

  11. AKlein December 6, 2021 at 9:47 am #

    Many years ago I worked on the 26th floor in a 51 story midtown Manhattan skyscraper. When it was windy I could easily feel the building sway in the wind – especially in the evening and night when the structure’s creaks and groans were not masked by ambient office noise. This proposed building is clearly top heavy and has significant wind resistance at the top, both of which will cause shear and torsional stress. This stress must be relieved, and the ways such stress is relieved is to allow movement. Net-net, this building, especially considering its height, will sway like a branch at its upper floors. That’ll be a selling point! Guaranteed vertigo.

  12. JackStraw December 7, 2021 at 5:59 pm #

    In the upside down world that we now live in, I would say that this building is perfectly appropriate.

    It will collapse appropriately, too, when the ground starts showing signs of instability.

    Bonus design point: One can step out the window without worrying about hitting the building on the way down.

  13. JCalvertNUK December 11, 2021 at 9:52 pm #

    Stacked lazarettes for the 1% to crap on the proles below.
    It would be better called Evacuation Tower.

  14. bymitch December 24, 2021 at 2:45 am #

    I’d give it an 8 out of 10 for unusualness, and an 11 out of 10 for degree of difficulty.
    About the same score I’d give for holding a knife and fork at the pointy and sharp ends, while trying to eat a plate of peas.
    I guess someone has got to do it, or we might all be none the wiser for the experience.

  15. albertoeley December 26, 2021 at 9:30 am #

    Amazing Post! Really I am very glad to see this beautiful view of the Affirmation Tower in New York City. There are lots of skyscraper buildings in new york but this is an exceptional design. I live in London city, So I am very interested to visit this place. Actually, I am a professional online gamer, recently I found this website https://casinosters.com/banking-methods/rapid-transfer/ with a good list of rapid transfer casino gaming platforms that can help to win money by playing online games. I love to play online games and travel around the world.

  16. JJR1971 December 30, 2021 at 12:09 pm #

    If that thing collapsed it would fall onto and smash the Javits Center, aka the Big Glass Box On The Hudson. Hopefully this won’t get built, at least not like this. I was in NYC for the first time attending Anime NYC at the Javits Center. New York is a strange and wonderful place but I agree, more Skyscrapers in Manhattan are the last thing it needs. See it while you can, before climate change gets even worse and really f*cks up NYC beyond repair. I’m glad I came, glad I wore a KN95 the whole time and glad I apparently didn’t bring COVID home with me, knock on wood.