Gilt spires

Ouroussoff‘s latest column gets one thing right: the overwrought starchitect-designed condo towers sprouting up around cities, while glittery, are ultimately a depressing indictment of our own “lost opportunity” economic era: “we may look back at these condo buildings as our generation’s chief contribution to the city’s history: gorgeous tokens of a rampantly narcissistic age.”

The towers’ timing, just as the financial markets have stumbled into an unknowable abyss, might seem odd at first, but surely an architecture critic knows that real estate cycles (encased, as they are, in slow-moving cement) lag general economic cycles by a few years. Just as the Empire State building was financed just as the Roaring Twenties came to an end (and didn’t actually begin construction until the Depression had begun — which might explain the rich interior finishes), cranes topping off new towers will continue to grace our skyline for years after the crash.

The bland interiors he laments? More financial machinations at work. The lords of capitalism profit by commodifying everything, making even the most obtuse product interchangeable — and are doing the same with their condos. Just as the Lords of the Universe exhort companies to “unlock value” by conforming to the tried-and-true, condo interiors reflect that same aversion to (interior-decorating) idiosyncrasy: such risks could hurt the all-important resale value.