why up?

Post pieced together out of memories of an article I once read, a conversation I once had, and a before and after moment walking past the Shanghai Hotel this afternoon. In reverse order, before (2005)  and after (2011) moment, below.

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The conversation was with several real estate brokers that everyone in Shenzhen wanted to live on the highest floor possible, that’s why developers kept building skyscrapers.The article was about Mumbai as an exemplar of a postmodern city; in conditions of high population density (as in Shenzhen), social stratification is realized by going up, rather than through segregation (as in less populated cities with neighborhoods). Thus, in cities like Shenzhen, street level tends to be a mix of everyone, chaotic (乱) as many often complain, while lives get increasingly rarified the higher one goes.

So if a desire to realize social prestige by moving into the penthouse is not only driving real estate prices, but also driving constant reconstruction of the city, is there any limit other than Babel? Or do we just keep ascending until it all falls down?

(The observant will also notice in just six years how the smog has increased. The Saige Building is actually over a block away from the Shanghai Hotel. The new Rainbow building is going up in that block.)

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