Vertical Excitement

Posted: December 8, 2006 in Culture, Nomenclature, Skyscrapers

I came across a new term recently that struck a chord with me: vertical excitement. The term refers to the palpable sense of energy one feels, particularly on the streets of New York City, associated with the hustle and bustle of human activity. Why “vertical”? It refers to skyscrapers and suggests, I think, the dizzying disequilibrium of overstimulation and behind-the-scenes movers sitting in great halls of power (also known as power brokers).

I respond to the term because, as with New York City, the Chicago loop (where I work) is heavily populated by some very tall buildings. (Chicago and New York have had a skyscraper competition going since the early days of the 20th century.) During the workday, constant movement of people to and fro creates a vague sense of urgency and very little repose. My first job in a tall building was on the 17th floor, and it took me some time to get used to the visual illusion of Lake Michigan coming up at the horizon to meet me. I’ve worked as high as the 56th floor of a building, which offered a handsome view of everything around as well as the horizon some 60 miles off. I now work on the 24th floor and essentially have views of the adjacent buildings.

I also have a few poker buddies who host games at their apartments in those downtown high rises. They mostly have six-figure incomes and quietly compete for the best views and furnishings (a competition I can’t contemplate as I don’t earn so much and thus live away from the loop). It’s interesting, though, that looking out the windows from someone’s apartment (11th, 33rd, or 47th floor) at the Chicago skyline imparts that same vertical excitement as during the day at street level.

If you really want to breathe some rarified air, the best spot I’ve found is the Signature Room on the 95th floor of the Hancock Building. There you can get expensive meals and/or cocktails and enjoy a panoramic view of the city. Being so high up feels as though you are no longer rooted to the ground, like you’re floating above the fray, even if only temporarily. I’ve sat there sometimes for periods of two or three hours, staring like a goon out the floor-to-ceiling windows, and the vertical excitement never wears off.

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