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Behold: 111 West 57th Street — no name yet, but I would call it The Last Gasp Tower. 57th Street itself has come to be called Billionaire’s Row in this age of degenerate financialization that has enabled supernaturally huge fortunes to accrue via a combination of epic asset-stripping and capital market fuckery. Now of course, we’re at the end of the road for all that. And, readers have learned here, societies facing collapse paradoxically produce their most extravagant architectural monuments just before they founder.

At 1,428 feet high, this one’s only the second tallest residential building in the western hemisphere — the older Central Park Tower up the street beats it at 1,550 feet — but Last Gasp is at least the world’s skinniest tall residential building. The designers, SHoP Architects (exterior) and Studio Sofield (everything else) put the building on a keto diet with intermittent fasting. Pets are allowed and it’s close to shopping.

it’s understood in the annals of psychology that some human personalities delight in feelings of danger. They climb up sheer-faced rock walls without safety ropes,  jump out of airplanes, crawl into the deepest hidden recesses of underground caverns, surf on fifty-foot Atlantic rollers…. But these are a very small percent of the population. Think you could sleep in one of these upper-story apartments on a windy night — which, at that altitude, would be most nights? Now, imagine on the floor above you the intoxicated wife of a Kuwaiti sheik expires of a Xanax overdose in her gold-plated bathtub with the water running…. Oh, the humanity…!

Thanks to Neil Rollinson 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.

12 Responses to “January 2023”

  1. tucsonspur January 5, 2023 at 1:11 am #

    Ahh, NYC, city of superlatives, city of my birth (ha, ha). ‘Last Gasp’, what a great name for this monstrous erection. Picture the old coot taking his last blast of Viagra before he finally croaks, pointedly departing.

    Space is certainly at a premium in New York City, and they say that you can never be too thin. When it comes to buildings however, I doubt if this would apply.

    The Plaza hotel is nearby, as is the old Steinway Hall, and the contrasts between these structures and the emaciated tower at 111 57th couldn’t be more striking. Wonderful architectural detail and ornamentation in the former, Vladimir Horowitz and Sergei Rachmaninoff at the keyboard in the 1920’s at the Hall, the majesty of the medieval French chateaux that is the Plaza.

    Then we have 111 or should it be 000, or better yet, $$$? A monument to the mega rich, a manifestation of money enabling those who have it to climb as high as the angels and view the masses below as mere mortals, undeserving of such ascendancy. Notice the ingratiating stratospheric setbacks.

    Fantastically expensive, luxurious penthouses, yet just a pied a terre for some wealthy billionaire.

    But let me give a nod to the engineers and builders who can construct these skyline slivers on a postage stamp. Any availability for those who really deserve it?

    Is 111, along with others like it, a stake in the heart of the voracious vampire that New York can be, can it realize that it has reached the heights and cannot go much higher? No, probably not.

    The magicians of Modern Monetary Theory and the wizards of Wall Street say with certainty that this is not the time for entrepreneurial elegies. Rather, consume or perish, grow or die is still the elan vital, the eau de vie of our coming misery.

  2. John K January 6, 2023 at 9:47 am #

    And I thought this was an “artist rendering” until I looked it up. Well, I guess it’s more elegant than the world’s FATTEST skyscraper. The ego that built it seems plenty fat enough, though.

  3. Ulpian January 6, 2023 at 11:03 am #

    Am I the only one who feels just a bit queasy even looking at the photograph? In reality a lot queasy.

  4. DrTomSchmidt January 6, 2023 at 11:58 am #

    I don’t think this really qualifies as an eyesore. It’s not as gracious as the Art Deco masterpieces of the 30s, but it’s at least interesting and not ugly. If I had a billion dollars, I doubt I’d buy in here, though.

  5. clamb90 January 7, 2023 at 3:56 am #

    thank you

  6. Ishabaka January 9, 2023 at 9:59 am #

    In 2012, Hurricane Sandy produced wind gusts of up to 95mph in this building’s locale.

  7. Weaver Revolt January 9, 2023 at 4:48 pm #

    In the ancient world, verticality expressed a yeaning for transcendence. Today, its sterile technocratic realization merely expresses the obscene desire of the nouveau riches to elevate themselves above the commoners. I imagine Pacino’s Satan in The Devil’s Advocate would occupy a penthouse suite here.

  8. BackRowHeckler January 14, 2023 at 8:08 pm #

    I wonder how stable that building really is? Maybe as stable as the Milleneum Tower in San Francisco.

  9. Greg Knepp January 15, 2023 at 8:32 pm #

    When the once-flourishing Easter Islanders were on their very last leg as a society, they were in the process of carving a 70-foot tall behemoth of a statue. It was to look exactly like the numerous other statues on the island, but twice the size of the largest one sculpted to that date – itself a 35-foot monster that had preceded its big brother by only a year or so.

    The giant was mostly chopped out of its soft volcanic rock matrix, but before it could be moved into place and erected, the islanders – already a depleted and desperate lot – fragmented into chaos, and were consequently unable to put the damned thing in place. (Engineers have speculated that, even at their society’s zenith, the islanders would have lacked the technology or muscle power to transport and erect such a massive piece.)

    The pipe dreams that may precede an enterprise’s final Supernova event are many and varied. But a keen eye can spot them occurring throughout history: the extravagant St. Peter’s Basilica, intended to awe both the majesties and masses in a world fast losing its faith in the sclerotic Catholic Church, Napoleon’s last hurrah in his futile super adventure – the invasion of Russia, the weird construct called Dubai, and your New York example…The list goes on.

    I like Weaver’s take on society’s lofty monuments – it has much merit. But the grandiose efforts of societies in collapse all seem to make the same sad declaration – “Looky, mine is bigger than yours!”

  10. SG-71 January 16, 2023 at 4:18 pm #

    Are comments no longer allowed on old eyesores? the webpage won’t let me comment on 12/2022, but I can comment here…

    Anyway, these razor thin scrapers are structures that will be the first to go when the electricity goes down and the dewatering pumps of NYC turn off….

  11. Amman January 17, 2023 at 9:27 am #

    The Spike protein building. RIP.

  12. bymitch January 27, 2023 at 6:34 pm #

    There is a certain logic behind things pointy, especially when it comes to skyscrapers.
    However, I think that you need a fairly low threshold of excitement to continue to be impressed as to how these things meet the skyline.
    Where they hit the ground is what does it for me, but this junction doesn’t often get the attention it deserves, this one no exception, as highlighted in the image.
    As for an eyesore, I can imagine taking your eye out on this one.