“The difference is that the monumental architecture represents a higher level of abstraction and conception,”
the Architect says to his Client across a cleanly designed Eero Saarinen signature tulip table, a lunch of dirty martinis and finger sandwiches on a cold white tray between them. “At my firm we feel it’s essential to integrate that level of artistry, of theory, into our aesthetic. We want that luxury mix-used residential sky-rise with retail at street level and subterranean parking to exude concept,” he extracts the toothpick from his glass, “so the residents aren’t just buying exotic olives in the Whole Foods downstairs… they are a part of that olive. They feel the curvature of its structure, can walk through its center.” The Architect pops the oversized, overstuffed martini olive into his mouth and drops the naked toothpick to the tabletop below. The Client, a jeans and collared shirt with brown shoes kind of business man from out of town, grins and takes a swig of his cocktail.
From their quiet, modern, air-conditioned dining area on a comfortably gentrified corner of Downtown Los Angeles, the pair observes the bustling work force moving about the city street. The men are separated from the scene by thick walls made of glass that cause the taxis, men in suits, secretaries in tennis shoes on lunch hour, to carry with them the sheen of the clearly polished surface through which they are being viewed. There is a conglomeration of cones surrounding a manhole cover for no immediately obvious reason, but cars and people obey these inanimate objects and move obediently around them. One sedan comes to a sudden stop as the man behind its wheel leans forward while craning his neck upward. A woman on the corner drops her cell phone and points frantically to the air overhead. For a singular moment everyone and everything freezes. The Architect and his Client detect a palpable excitement and look to the street with curious, tilted heads. The body of a young man falls from the sky and crashes onto the asphalt without a discernible sound.
“The thing about Downtown,” the Architect begins to explain, “is that they are constantly filming.” He picks up a tiny sandwich and examines the multicolored layers before nibbling at its corner. “One day its 6th Street, and the next day there’s a sign up that would lead you to believe you’re walking down Lexington Avenue.” The Client sits uneasily behind an empty martini glass, unsteady eyes and stiff arms stuck to the armrests of a Philippe Starck chair, hands clamped about the daringly pleasant combination of such contrasting materials as wood and metal. The Architect continues without significant pause, “It snowed for a week in the middle of the summer. It gets tough to even know what’s real anymore. You second guess everything. Quite honestly, it’s easier just to assume its fake.”
The Client’s eyes jump around in an effort not to stare at the ceaseless parade beyond the pane. He tries but cannot look away and becomes fixated on the orange traffic cones still positioned around the manhole cover. When he can bare it not longer, the Client says in a breathy gust, “I don’t get it. I mean, why are those cones there anyway? Do you think that guy outside is an actor? Was he supposed to land between the cones or something?” The Architect faces the street and gives the scene a thorough examination. The body has been removed. He takes note of a van marked Coroner’s Office in thick, black, official-looking block letters. Its’ back doors have been flung open but no one is inside. Parked beside it is a white sedan, also marked Coroner’s Office but in a less authoritative font. Both automobiles are the utilitarian white of rental cars and fleet vehicles. There is a police squad car, a fire truck, and an ambulance. The city appears to be business as usual. A delivery man dressed head to toe in brown pushes a large cart full of packages down the sidewalk, obstructing the men’s view for a quick second.
The Architect turns his attentions back to the table, “I walked up to my Suite one evening to find the building engulfed in smoke and, I presumed, flames. The sidewalk was wet and there was a fire engine parked in front of it with the ladder from its cherry picker propped up against the outside of the upper story penthouse unit. I was about to break into a run when I saw that the side of the fire engine read ‘New York City Fire Department’ and I realized that all the firemen were wearing FDNY t-shirts. They were filming a crime show set in New York City. That was the last time I felt anything like that.” The Client squints to read the print on the sides of the vehicles outside and furrows his brow. The Architect waves to get the attention of a passing waitress; he positions his hand as though it is holding a pen and signs the air with a smile.