The movie Margin Call tracks, over one crucial day, the collapse of a fictional investment bank in New York City. It shows us the the city very literally from the perspective of the bankers — as a dreamy blur as from the back of a chauffeured black car at night, and, from inside their offices at dawn, as a soft blanket far below. In tracking the movements of its protagonists through the workday it maps the anatomy of an office building — the sea of traders desks, the glassy corner offices, the marble-lined executive washroom, and the lifeless, manicured plaza.
Very deliberately, I think, the movie doesn’t show us the building from outside. It’s curious because the office tower might be, with the exception of the single family house, the most resonant of architectural forms. The office tower remains, all over the world, a powerful symbol for New York, for America, for banks, for money, and for power. The absence of this very fundamental image in the movie left me longing for the Twin Towers. It made me realize how much I miss those buildings, which I’d always understood as the platonic ideal of skyscrapers. In the months after they fell, each time I crossed Sixth Avenue and turned downtown, I felt their absence viscerally, as a physical imbalance, as if a mountain had been ripped out and taken away. I’ve never lived or work downtown, I don’t know anyone who worked inside the buildings, and I don’t observe the anniversary of the attacks. But I miss the towers. Each time I think of a skyscraper I think of them.