Ether 8 The Palace of the Empire of Ether

If the empire of ether were to have a palace, it would have to be the 39-story One Wilshire tower in downtown Los Angeles. Constructed at the apogee of modernism by Skidmore Owings and Merrill, One Wilshire unequivocally declares that form follows function. Perhaps the worst building SOM ever designed, excusable only as a product of the provincial San Francisco office, One Wilshire appears to follow only two guiding principles. First, in order to create a visual identity, One Wilshire was designed as a tower. Second, One Wilshire’s window areas were maximized to provide light and views for the occupants. Throughout the design, expression of any form, including the expression of structure, was eliminated as superfluous. One Wilshire is the pure modernist building. Its neutral grid lacks symbolic content, making it a tower without qualities.

One Wilshire embodies the desire of the bourgeois metropolis to appear at all cost. Awkward in proportions, and off-axis with regard to Wilshire boulevard, One Wilshire’s only feature is height, incessantly affirming the value of the land beneath it. But this one symbolic affirmation would also be the building’s downfall.