Tower to Tower
Gigantism in Architecture and Digital Culture
248 pp., 6 x 9 in, 62 color illus.
- Published: May 12, 2020
- Published: April 17, 2020
A cultural history of gigantism in architecture and digital culture, from the Eiffel Tower to the World Trade Center.
The gigantic is everywhere, and gigantism is manifest in everything from excessively tall skyscrapers to globe-spanning digital networks. In this book, Henriette Steiner and Kristin Veel map and critique the trajectory of gigantism in architecture and digital culture—the convergence of tall buildings and networked infrastructures—from the Eiffel Tower to One World Trade Center. They show how these two forms of gigantism intersect in the figure of the skyscraper with a transmitting antenna on its roof, a gigantic building that is also a nodal point in a gigantic digital infrastructure.
Steiner and Veel focus on two paradigmatic tower sites: the Eiffel Tower and the Twin Towers of the destroyed World Trade Center (as well as their replacement, the One World Trade Center tower). They consider, among other things, philosophical interpretations of the Eiffel Tower; the design and destruction of the Twin Towers; the architectural debates surrounding the erection of One World Trade Center on the Ground Zero site; and such recent examples of gigantism across architecture and digital culture as Rem Koolhaas's headquarters for China Central TV and the phenomenon of the “tech giant.” Examining the cultural, architectural, and media history of these towers, they analyze the changing conceptions of the gigantism that they represent, not just as physical structures but as sites for the projection of cultural ideas and ideals.
“Through selected modern constructions—the Eiffel tower, the Twin Towers, and One World Trade Center—Tower to Tower offers a fresh, deep, and illuminating probe into the ambition to build bigger buildings, networks, and theories. This book will benefit anyone looking critically into digital culture and the domination of big moves in contemporary design.”
Anne Bordeleau, O'Donovan Director, Waterloo Architecture
“Through a skillful and beautiful analysis of seemingly iconic and familiar skyscrapers in Paris, New York, and Beijing, Tower to Tower is an atlas of new concepts and vocabularies to inspire more diverse, equitable, sustainable, and critical spatial practices for the future.”
Orit Halpern, Associate Professor in Interactive Design and Theory at Concordia University
“We live in a world increasingly characterized by scalar immensity, with buildings, structures, and systems so large and elaborate that we are often lost in our efforts to understand them. Steiner and Veel's lively and provocative book gives us tools to find our way. With their guidance, we move beyond the fixed architectural monument in order to discover the extractive processes that make it possible. Their careful approach takes us on a journey not only from one tower to another, but across a wide range of nodes, temporalities, and conditions, all of which unfold in excess of their material forms. Whether these forms rise vertically or stretch horizontally, Steiner and Veel show us that they are the very stuff of contemporary life in a globalizing age.”
Joseph Heathcott, Associate Professor of Urban Studies at The New School
“Through the concept and phenomenon of 'gigantism,' Steiner and Veel foreground a deeply problematic horizon of spatial and communicative experience which to this point had not been articulated. Beginning with the insights of Walter Benjamin on the redemptive potential of the dream image of the Eiffel Tower for the figure of history, Steiner and Veel develop a subtle and intricate critique of architectural and digital gigantism as Janus figures whose homogenizing tendencies are mirrored in certain relational theories. Taking the World Trade Center site in Lower Manhattan as the primary locus of description and interpretation, and drawing on perspectives from media theory, phenomenology, feminist critique, posthumanism, and queer theory, Steiner and Veel carefully navigate the embodied and intellectual terrain of the gigantic, to reveal its situated structures, hierarchies, and differentiated ontological conditions. This book comes at a critical moment in which the difficult problems of historicity and temporality, of myth and allegory, are emerging from the peripheral vision of theoretical and analytic paradigms that tend toward a flattening of reality. Steiner and Veel, in this highly original work, offer an important contribution—an incisive and at the same time sympathetic critique of the ontological assumptions of certain paradigms of relational thinking—by showing the latency of an embodied and epistemological gigantism within which these are enmeshed.”
Tao DuFour, Assistant Professor, Cornell University Department of Architecture
“Interrogating the industrial urban overgrowth in the shape of huge pointy sticks, the authors of this beautifully written book challenge our culture's desire for the proudly erect. In their interwoven reading of architecture and communication technology, they persuasively demonstrate that 'the digital' is not just a cloud but also a spike. In response, they offer a way of cutting down to size both our habits and habitats.”
Joanna Zylinska, Professor of New Media and Communications at Goldsmiths, University of London; author of Nonhuman Photography