space. One Wilshire has become the focal point of a little community of thirteen adjacent Telco Hotels all featuring sublimely powerful electrical backup equipment and supremely expensive rooftop cooling systems (supplied by the tenants not trusting the owners to cool their equipment). Once a regular office building, its stairwells and risers are now filled with columns of conduit and its floors and ceilings are a tangle of multicolored wires coming together in enormous clusters of PVC flexible tubing. These emerge underneath the building into a maximum-security sub-grade parking structure, and then under city streets, into adjacent buildings and on to the rest of the world.
What makes the The Most Expensive Space in North America so powerful (and funny) is the implication that finally, here, we get to see the inner workings of an invisible technological order - an order, like these de-populated buildings, rumored to run by itself, independent of human agency. It is an ironic commentary on both materialist essentialism and the abstract, technocratic world-view in which information flows are the only “real”. Loos, Kraus and Wittgenstein, and indeed the Bauhaus, kept a place open for an extra element in design that went beyond the scope of any one object and participated in some wider cultural or spiritual aspiration. That place, in the 1920’s, was most often filled by political goals of progress in the realm of social justice. These days, collective belief systems are widely held to be totalitarian, but the notion of progress has endured in our concept of technology. The idea of technology has evolved since the 1920’s when the location of “essence” began shifting from the specific material artifact to its function, or to the processes surrounding its manufacture. Reaffirming that shift, the wires, conduit and cabling of One Wilshire are so obviously dirty and irrelevant, the residue of an archaic model of technology. But they are also the residue of something much cleaner and better: of information and data flow. Our current paradigm of technology supercedes past concepts by privileging the technocratic, abstract systems of engineering and management even beyond function or process.9 In this former office building, old-fashioned, tangible technology is presented as a fragment, not just of the worldwide telecommunications network, but of a new abstract, technocratic constellation from which systems can be extrapolated and must continue uninterrupted in order to keep the entire social order functioning.
9 Leo Marx “The Idea of “Technology” and Postmodern Pessimism” Does Technology Drive History (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1994), 242 - 249