Pikettyscrapers: What You Call Those Expensive Supertall Buildings Nobody Lives In

March 12, 2015

Image: NYC’s 2018 future skyline via CityRealty

Supertall, pencil tower, megatall, superslim, skinnyscraper… As we struggle for new ways to describe all the glass and stone towers popping up in Manhattan, we’ve come to notice that not one person has come up with a way to describe all those skyscrapers being scooped up, floor by floor, by the superrichnever to be lived in. Now enter the Skyscraper Dictionary, a cheeky reference site (created because “The world needs one.”) that’s coined all the vocab you need to throw around next time you find yourself talking about NYC’s skyscraper boom. So, what do you call those super-luxury towers that nobody lives in? How about pikettyscrapers.

One57, Extell, Christian de Portzamparc

The name comes from French economist Thomas Piketty, who in 2014 published the wildly unread bestseller Capital in the Twenty-First Century.” Piketty’s book focuses in on the point that “the rate of capital return in developed countries is persistently greater than the rate of economic growth, and that this will cause wealth inequality to increase in the future,” which in laymen’s terms points to the fact that rich will get richer, and that we need tax reform or a tax increase to curb this. The Skyscraper Dictionary notes that in the built environment–particularly in New York’s–this idea has clearly manifested itself in skyscrapers, creating what they call a “Piketty line” rather than a skyline. They explain further:

Pikettyscraper is a skyscraper typology that is an expression of an extreme, and nowhere is this becoming more apparent than in New York City. In a recent comparison it was made aware that $100 million can buy you a penthouse apartment in Manhattan, as well as a full 1993 Philip Johnson designed office skyscraper in Detroit.


Piketty Line as a skyline typology takes its meaning from Piketty’s argument that unless capitalism is reformed, the very democratic order will be threatened, which resembles the protesting essence of the term picket line, which is a boundary established by protesting workers on strike.”

Of course, don’t go looking for pikettyscraper in Webster’s Dictionary. The creator of the Skyscraper Dictionary makes note that every term has been conceived specifically for his/her dictionary. With that said, some other terms worth checking out in the dictionary include: flopscraper, pied-à-ciel, and skyscraperist.

[Official Skyscraper Dictionary]


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    Skysiphon Skydrain Skysplinter