Now, I'm not against glass. It's an ancient and versatile material.
It's easy to manufacture and transport and install and replace and clean.
It comes in everything from enormous, ultraclear sheets to translucent bricks.
New coatings make it change mood in the shifting light.
In expensive cities like New York, it has the magical power of being able to multiply real estate values by allowing views,
which is really the only commodity that developers have to offer to justify those surreal prices.
In the middle of the 19th century, with the construction of the Crystal Palace in London,
glass leapt to the top of the list of quintessentially modern substances.
By the mid-20th century, it had come to dominate the downtowns of some American cities,
largely through some really spectacular office buildings like Lever House in midtown Manhattan,
designed by Skidmore, Owings and Merrill. Eventually, the technology advanced to the point
where architects could design structures so transparent they practically disappear.
And along the way, glass became the default material of the high-rise city, and there's a very powerful reason for that.
Because as the world's populations converge on cities, the least fortunate pack into jerry-built shantytowns.
But hundreds of millions of people need apartments and places to work in ever-larger buildings,
so it makes economic sense to put up towers and wrap them in cheap and practical curtain walls.