As I write this, I’m on the 20th floor of a 45 story high rise apartment building in Dubai. That means there are 25 more floors above me, stacks of people doing what I’m doing, checking Facebook and email on their laptops, sipping coffee, glancing out the window to watch the sunrise over the desert. I just got an email from a friend in Turkey, who complained that in his coastal city of a million inhabitants, there appears not to be even one single family dwelling. It’s all high rises. To us Americans, where most people live in houses surrounded by ample yards, this high-rise way of living seems….strange.
In this building the elevator system is super-modern, fast and efficient. You key in your destination when you initially summon the elevator, and then it remembers it so you don’t have to it again. But there above the elevator buttons is that same, familiar, ominous sign one sees in all tall buildings “In case of fire, use stairs.” None of the windows open to the outside. As long as the air-conditioning and elevators are running as intended, everything is great, if you’re idea of fun includes looking down at the city below you.
I remember being in an apartment in Water Tower Place on North Michigan Avenue in Chicago during the Pope’s visit in 1979. Looking down on all the people filling the street below me, I felt both artificially superior to and disconnected from the rest of the human race.
For me, that’s the biggest problem I can see in a city of high rises: the increased burden of loneliness. That, and being burned to death or asphyxiated. But what a view!