Ether 9 The Fluid Metropolis

In his essay “The Fluid Metropolis,” [Domus 496, March 1971] Andrea Branzi tracks the downfall of the skyscraper and the urban core. He observes that “the skyline becomes a diagram of the natural accumulation which has taken place of capital itself.” Once capital takes over “the empty space in which [it] expanded during its growth period” and when “no reality exists any longer outside of the system,” the skyscraper’s representation of the accumulation of capital becomes obsolete. Branzi concludes that the horizontal factory and the supermarket – in which the circulation of information is made optimum and hierarchies disappear – would replace the tower as the foundational typologies for the fluid metropolis.

Branzi is, of course, correct. The increasingly horizontal corporation, organized along super-Taylorist and cybernetic principles of communicational efficiency, would construct low, spreading buildings for its offices in the suburbs. Consequently, in Los Angeles as in other cities, the congested vertical urban core began to empty. One Wilshire’s once beneficial vertical signification of “office building” and “valuable real estate” began to get in the way of its own economic sustainability. By the mid-1980s, One Wilshire was obsolete.