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Skyscrapers

The Socialist J.C. Van Epen (1880-1960) wished to provide working people with improved living surroundings in inexpensively produced dwellings. These skyscraper designs or ‘Architectural fantasies’, may be seen as reveries on that theme, but he had reservations about his own creations.

In a 1926 lecture titled "The Working-Class Dwelling in Connection with Business Life," Van Epen daydreamed about the future. He imagined himself flying over the surface of the earth and seeing skyscrapers loom up before him. "I saw houses with no less than sixty stories one above another. [...] I wondered how that came about, and it was due to our entire capitalist system. The more stories there are, the more one can earn from that same area of land, and the laborer seeks the inexpensive, so the higher he lives the cheaper it is. Soon I will show you those skyscrapers, and they are splendid monumental buildings with huge shaded areas. From an artistic viewpoint, I think they are splendid ... but when I consider what it is like to live in them, I am glad that I live in my little house by the woods."

One of his skyscrapers rests on a wide base with a gateway in it. The terraces appear to have luxuriant vegetation, perhaps in an attempt to make the skyscrapers more habitable. He drew a halo around the top, to emphasize the visionary character of these buildings. Another skyscraper study has crystalline forms which recall the work of the German expressionist Bruno Taut, for whom crystals were a symbol of cosmic harmony.

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