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A Rorschach Test for City Skylines

In a photo essay, Thomas J. Sigler interprets what the skylines of some of the world's most prominent cities say about their character.
August 24, 2012, 1pm PDT | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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Is your city a "Power Broker" or an "Oligopolis?" Thomas Sigler asks the skylines of some of the world's most famous cities to sit on his analyst's couch and comes up with some interesting diagnosis.   

For instance, he attributes the surprisingly low-rise nature of Cairo, Mumbai, and Mexico City to a historically unreliable urban power grid, "which means that elevators, water pumps, and other necessities of high-rise living were untrustworthy."

Another type are cities like Taipei and Kuala Lumpur that seem to suffer from tower envy; and construct a single oversized icon to put themselves on the map.

So what is an Oligopolis? "Found primarily in North America, the Oligopolis is marked by the clear dominance of a handful of prominent towers headquartering firms in the region's key industries," writes Sigler. "A key feature of these cities' downtowns is parking lots, a clear indication that CBD land isn't exactly in high demand. Examples include Pittsburgh and Houston, where CBDs turn into ghost towns after the districts' workforces have headed back to the ‘burbs for the evening."

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Published on Thursday, August 23, 2012 in The Atlantic Cities
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