Donald Trump's Hubris

Martin Spellman mspellman at
Wed Sep 19 11:56:41 MDT 2001

	There seems to be an obsession with bigness -- they never say what they are
for and what should be put in them.
	There was a series on British TV a year or so ago about the modern office
and its equipment by the cartoonist and engineer 'Hunkin' (he used to draw
cartoons on the theme 'How Things Work' for the London Observer).
	A point he made was that the office block and the skyscraper, which was a
development of it, was a 20th century invention. Before that there were
shipping and insurance offices but they were quite small things. Lloyds of
London, the insurance brokers, began its life as 'Lloyds Coffee House' and
so on.
	Offices are places where documents and files are created, stored and
destroyed. But with today's technology and productivity what need is there
for these massive buildings? Today most people think nothing of typing their
own documents. Years ago you would have to send it down to the typing pool
and then back again for corrections and amendments. Acres of space were
taken up with filing cabinets. If you couldn't find a file, someone else
might be working on it or it might be in transit or lost for good.
Information technology has brought other problems but at least has
eliminated those. Invoicing and billing were done by separate departments.
Today these functions are generally all part of the same process.
	London is a low rise city but there are plans afoot for about five new
towers. Before the Greater London Council (GLC) was abolished by Thatcher it
published a report showing that London had a surplus of office
accommodation. One of the most notorious buildings was 'Centre Point' the
block at the eastern end of Oxford Street, above Tottenham Court Road tube
station. This was empty for over 20 years just so they could increase the
rent value. Modest by American standards it still has empty floors, although
the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) now occupy much of it.
	The monstrous 'Canary Wharf', London's tallest building, likened to
something out of a Fritz Lang film set, looms over docklands, yet much of it
is unoccupied. So long as you have a security guard in the entrance an empty
office block looks much the same as a full one.
	The skyscraper and large office block are obsolescent. Today's technology
and human needs have no use for them. Capitalism, however, seems to have a
mania for bigger, taller and more ostentatious towers. They seem to believe
that the power and influence of a corporation should be reflected in the
size and design of its Head Office. It would be unthinkable for a vast or
wealthy corporation to be housed in a modest building.

Martin Spellman

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