Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Not again

Last week I had an epiphany. When I was flabbergasted by the endless high rises in Beijing, it was merely a sign that it had been too long since I visited New York. Something that I have now amended. It is an incredible city.

While I was there the Freedom tower, being constructed in the World Trade Center, reached 100 stories, having only 4 to go. When these have been added it will be the tallest building in America, at 541 meters height. This is seven times higher than the tallest building in Iceland, a mere 77,6 meters high 20 story office building in the greater Reykjavík area. The second tallest building here is Hallgrímskirkja, see photo, at 74,5 meters.

My American publisher, Minotaur of St. Martins Press, has offices in a wonderful building in NYC that might not be the highest, but is certainly one of the coolest. It is the Flatiron building in the Flatiron district which, as I told my husband is named after the trade of ironworking that was formerly the main industry of the area. Except it isn’t. This was absolutely wrong. The district is named after the building and the building is named after a clothes iron because of its distinctive wedge shape.

I was lucky enough to be invited to visit on of the corner or point offices. The space was to die for and the view breathtaking. It was pointed out to me that on one side, the windows overlooked an area of somewhat lower buildings and thus a whole lot of roofs. On most stood a wooden water tank on steel legs, much like the inhabitants of the buildings were some form of very low-tech aliens with spaceships poised, ready to evacuate. In such a modern city these offer the eye a strange condolence.

To build a high rise like those in New York, one obviously needs a whole lot of investment capital but even when this is secure, on its own money is not enough. Without solid bedrock to build on, the number of stories you will safely build is limited. Manhattan is a good example of this. The underlying ground conditions are such that at the south end of the island where the financial district is located, the depth down to solid rock is not much and the same applies to Midtown. Hence a lot of skyscrapers in the two areas, separated by a part with much lower buildings where the bedrock dips deeper into the ground. This can clearly be seen in the first photo on the top of the page, showing these particular sections of Manhattan. Follow the skyline of the skyscrapers in Lower Manhattan, past much lower buildings and up to Midtown where the buildings rise upwards again.

In Iceland we have lots of bedrock. But alas no capital. One or the other does not suffice. And then we have geological activity which does not help either. So 20 stories tops suit us fine. But it is nice to see what else is on offer in this big diverse world.

And if New Yorkers want to come see something they don’t have and probably don’t want anyway – we are experiencing a strange phenomenon that might indicate yet another eruption. This one is not so hard to pronounce although for Iceland it might be hard to swallow.

Askja is a volcano located in the east highlands of Iceland, north of glacier Vatnajökull. From settlement until 1875m a period of 1001 years, it was dormant, gathering its strength. The eruption in 1875 was tremendous and caused a large part of the population in the east of Iceland to immigrate to Canada. Following the eruption the land around the volcano collapsed and it is now a lake, the deepest one in Iceland. Another eruption occurred there in 1961. Take a look at the picture below. Notice the water. In this particular instance seeing the water is a bad thing. It should be frozen over and covered with snow, at bare minimum a whole lot of sheet ice. The lake is being heated up and certainly not from above. The same as preceded the eruption in 1961.

It seems as this century has not taken much of a fancy to Iceland. I was hoping it would only turn out to be the first decade but that does not seem to be the case. One can only hope that it is not the millennium that carries the grudge.

Although impressed by New York, Beijing and numerous other cities I would hate to have to move.    

Yrsa - Wednesday


  1. Yrsa, I love that image of the New York water towers being escape vessels for low-tech aliens! I will tell it often and always give you full credit.

  2. As the old song goes, Yrsa, "How 'ya gonna keep 'em down on Reykjavik after they've seen The Flatiron."