The Shard, the Gherkin, and societal evolution.

Roger Ebert wrote a blog post last night about city planning and his own traditionalism in choosing where to eat and relax.  The springboard for his discussion was The Shard, Britain’s as-yet uncompleted entry into the world of skyscrapers.

I found the idea of The Shard interesting, so I did some more reading about it and found this diagram of The Shard and another recent and unconventional tall building in London, 301 St. Mary Avenue–“The Gherkin.”

So, here we have a comparison of the Burj Dubai, the Shard, and “The Gherkin.”  The Shard is/will be one of the tallest skyscrapers in Europe by the time it’s completed.  No matter how big it is for Europe, however, it’s not remarkable by worldwide standards.  Kuala Lumpur, and now Dubai, set new precedents for what can be accomplished, in terms of both design and structure.  Gone are the straight lines and futuristic optimism of the American Art Deco skyscrapers of the 1930s and 1940s.  The future is here, and this is how it turned out.

But it has me thinking.  This isn’t a scholarly-sound post, just my impression of the way things are.

If we look at science fiction, there is a trend.  I don’t mean Star Wars or the kind of blockbuster films that abandon ideas for the sake of spectacle.  The best science fiction deals with ideas of human character, leadership, society and progress.

There are some common themes and trends.  One of them was best exemplified in the recent film “Wall-E.”  The idea is that technology in human society leads to decadence and material excess.  I think such a state of being is taking root right now.  Our triumphs are no longer celebrated at the individual level; we display our wealth and intelligence through the construction of massive buildings in which to house offices and apartments.  We are intelligent enough to design tablets and smart phones to facilitate our increasingly and unnecessarily complex systems of networking and interaction.

Homo sapiens have great big brains.  And now our lifestyle and diet is going to make these wonderful brains shrink like raisins.  We eat and live the way we do because we afford to.  We ignore the downside of things because, well, we don’t want to deal with it.  It disrupts our comfort.

Our great success will be our downfall.  Technology is always a crowning acheivement in society, from the wheel to fire to the space shuttle.  But what do we do when we allow technology to be the tie which binds us to our world?

Links:

“I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled”Roger Ebert’s Journal

“London’s Shard half a kilometer shorter than Burj Khalifa and Dubai has 15 taller buildings” – ArabianMoney.net

Shard London BridgeWikipedia

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