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In LA itself this is already the case. Here we have 'Ruinenwert'. For there is a downtown in LA. There is Broadway, the great stretch of buildings of the forties to the sixties; also more recent buildings made, in a last bid for the centrality of a "downtown", in the seventies and eighties. Broadway itself has been taken over largely by the Hispanic communities and very raffish and vibrant it is too, but the twentyfirst century Los Angeles residents would not choose to go there. Guide books more concerned with Homes of the Stars and Disneyland give it short shrift. Walking down it we are looking at the high street of one of those western ghost towns, but this is monumental; we are looking at monumental dilapidation, epic dilapidation. The same shock can be found in Detroit. I find myself at the coach station in Detroit with an hour between buses for I am travelling from Toronto to Chicago. I sit uneasily in the neon lit waiting room. At one end huddles a bunch of black boys in puffa jackets. At the other end another huddle of Men in Black: Amish people. I walk out of the coach station and gingerly go for a walk round downtown Detroit at dawn. And I find myself looking up at derelict skyscrapers, boarded up to the tenth or fifteenth floors and there is a feeling of massive abandonment. The photographer Camilo Jose Vergara is hoping to preserve parts of downtown Detroit 'as an American Acropolis—that is, to allow the present skyscraper graveyard to become a park of ripe ruins'. What will be the fate of the sinking airport Kansai? Walking through Bangkok along Phahonyothin Road away from the Chatuchak Market I see, a mile ahead, a crystalline, multifaceted skyscraper; twenty minutes later I am beneath it. 800 feet high and empty, its sheer glass flanks dusty and unloved; not even a guard on duty.

In Jakarta, at the top of Jalan Hayam Wuruk, before you hit Kota, a trio of apartment blocks, fifty storeys high, their construction interrupted (or immobilised for good after the 1999 riots?): an abandoned building yes; but the sublimity of a never-finished project of such size! My Jakarta contact insists the towers will be completed. I'll believe if when I see it. At present they stand as one of the great follies of the world.

I walk up a London street at dusk. That familiar old racket above: and yes! Out of the cloud, landing gear lumpily at the ready, drops a 747, a lattice of vapour and light playing about its great indistinct bulk. Oh, Sublime!

   
 

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