My hotel room is on the eleventh floor, looking out over a landscape of downtown rooftops. I am struck by the difference between old and new buildings. The older buildings are crowned by an assortment of pitched roofs, spires, towers, and cupolas. The newer buildings are ingloriously surmounted by—mechanical equipment. In a few cases, the architects have attempted to camouflage the hardware, but these clumsy screens are not much of an improvement. Seen from above, the elevator penthouses, vent stacks, air-conditioning chillers, antennas, and satellite dishes lend the architecture a pathetic air, as if the buildings are so unimportant that anything at all can be dumped on their roofs.

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