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The Guardian: "Will Self on the meaning of skyscrapers – from the Tower of Babel to the Shard "

"Skyscrapers are all too evidently phallic symbols, monuments to capitalism and icons of hubris. Yet Will Self can’t help but love them. He explores their significance – from JG Ballard to Mad Men, and from ... [Brent Cross] to Dubai"

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"Corrupt developers and their senatorial shills mill around in the Promenade Room, in the 1974 film 'The Towering Inferno'; their celebratory party has been abandoned and now they must fight to gain access to the scenic lifts scooting down the glassy flanks of the world’s tallest skyscraper. With blue-collar probity etched into every angle of his face, Chief O’Halloran sneers, 'Architects!' To which smooth Doug Roberts can only rejoin, 'Yeah, it’s all our fault.'

"Over the next three decades, and now in the new century, the bonfire of the vanities has never wanted for more fuel; the raising of one actual skyscraper is effectively twinned with the destruction of its cinematic doppelganger. Ballard’s 1981 novel 'Hello America' features an expedition mounted from Europe in 2114 to visit the ecologically ravaged remains of the former superpower; and which rediscovers the skyscrapers of Manhattan sticking out – like the bones of a dinosaur – from 100ft-high sand dunes. But Ballard’s fervid skill in conjuring up the sensation of silica on silicate was about to be eclipsed; Hollywood imagineers have a rapacious appetite for displaying the deluging, flaming, death-raying, exploding and otherwise laying waste to the central business districts of American cities.

" 'The Towering Inferno' is filmed with only closeups, mid- and long-shots; with the advent of CGI, it becomes possible – at least in theory – for disbelief to remain suspended high above the skyscrapers, an all-seeing eye that contemplates The Day After Tomorrow for its entire nauseating duration. But by creating the super-viewer – taller, faster and stronger than a collapsing skyscraper – the imagineers have simply reconfigured the problem at a different scale; now we are too big to experience our cities' destruction feelingly, just as before we were too small to inhabit them empathetically."

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