Oh, snap! Youve got to be kidding me

April 20, 2007

As a kid, I used to love things like astronomy, airplanes, and tall buildings. No, I mean really love them. My homework would be covered with drawings of the planet Saturn, the Concorde, and the worlds tallest skyscrapers. Since I couldnt fly on a plane that often, let alone go into outer space, my favorite places to go would be the observation decks at the tops of buildings.

When I was about nine, a babysitter took me to the Skywalk, the 50th floor observatory at the Prudential Tower here in Boston. I dont know why, but I was hooked. Soon I was nagging my family to take me to New Yorks highest buildings whenever we went back there for a visit. Some of them, as we know, are gone now;

others have simply closed, and few new super-tall buildings with public observation decks have been built in our lifetimes, but even now I love to visit the ones that still exist.

Friends, let me ask each of you this most unfashionable question: What inspires you? What feats of technology, real or envisioned, do you see in the world that still give you the giddy sense of wonder and excitement you often had as a little kid? Hypersonic jets? Men on the moon? Ultra-fast trains levitated by magnets? How about flying cars? Not too many things, Ill bet

What is it in lifes experience, or in our very genes, that conspires to make us so blas? Does growing up really make us cease to become excited by the worlds wonders, or do we just learn the folly of admitting our excitement to others? Tell me if these answers sound familiar:

Yeah, right;

thatll never happen.

It would cost too much.

Shouldnt we spend our money on poverty and more pressing human needs?

O.K., you get the picture. Dreaming big is clearly out of style. And so, dear readers, those of you who just cant stand to read about something totally amazing and impractical may now turn the page. As for the rest of us, its our turn now. Come out and play.

Imagine what the view might be like from the 142nd floor of a glass skyscraper. Imagine taking the fastest elevator in the world to get there. Picture a needle-shaped structure with between 163 and 216 floors. The height: From 2600 to over 3000 feet;

the exact figures are being kept secret. This is real.

Its called the Burj Dubai, and its being built in the United Arab Emirates. Its concrete structure has just surpassed 120 floors, ten more than the World Trade Center had.

Have you guessed Im kind of excited?

One thing that bothers me is that its not in the United States. Sure, Im glad to see other nations realize their own visions of greatness, but still I wonder: How could the country that invented the skyscraper, not to mention the airplane and the Apollo program, have fallen so far behind?

Well, we dont have our own Burj yet, but get ready for the Chicago Spire: At 150 floors and two-thousand feet high, this twisted marvel just might bring the race for the sky back to America. On the verge of final approval, the tower will be given a design review next Thursday Yessss!

And what about the one were all waiting for? Thats right, the Freedom Tower, the World Trade Centers replacement. Currently in its third design incarnation, it wont set any height records. Dont believe what they say about it being 1776 feet high either;

thats just the antenna. It will be exactly as high as the old towers. But at least it will be there soon. And it will be ours.

Oops;

hide! Here come the naysayers

What if they attack it?

Who will have the nerve to rent there?

We could help the poor with that money

I thought I told you boring people to stop reading;

this articles for visionaries! Say, I think theres a yawning festival going on over in Gzang 121. Better go get a good seat

There, I told em. By the way, if youre concerned about spending money for human needs, as we all should be, consider that the project, by current estimates, will cost the equivalent of no more than two weeks worth of our countrys war expenditures. If we can afford that, then Im sure we can manage to both build high and combat poverty. Besides, the cost of the tower will be more than recovered in office rental and retail revenues, just as it was for the buildings it will replace.

There are few limits to what this nation can do, if only our generation chooses to have the vision.

On an ironic note, I cant show you any drawings of the Chicago Spire or the Freedom Tower, as the very freedom theyre supposed to represent is compromised by a principle called copyright law. A newspaper thats free of charge and meant as a vehicle of information isnt free to reproduce the developers images.

I guess that leaves us with their official websites and, yes: Our imagination. So, in the meantime, Ill just log on and wait for the day when I can look for you up on the observation deck. Will you be there?

The futures coming, friends! I just bought a new camera

horseradish

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