The Palace of the Empire of Ether

One Wilshire is a bland office tower in Los Angeles that started life in 1966 as one of L.A.’s tallest skyscrapers. Its prestigious address and good view attracted powerhouse law firms. 15 years later, the real estate market slumped and One Wilshire slipped into decline. In 1992, when Bush deregulated the teleco industry, forcing the phone company to give competitors access to its lines at the central switching station downtown. Access didn’t mean space for equipment, and so MCI went looking for it: One Wilshire was soon transformed into a carrier hotel, the only one on the U.S. West coast.

onewilshiredesert.jpgKazys Varnelis sees this building as The Palace of the Empire of Ether, “a building crammed full of the hardware and global capital needed to keep the internet and telecommunications alive.”

Cyberspace has not liberated us from corporate dominion nor from the bounds of the material world. The building is owned by a politically powerful investment firm and is stuffed with cables, bales of copper wire, computer servers, micro-switches, LCDs and electrical conduit. The parallel electronic universe, unchained from physical structures, simply does not exist.

“Through One Wilshire, virtually all of the global market leaders share a physical investment on the West Coast,” wrote Robert Sumrell and Varnelis. “Being ‘plugged in’ is their literal need, not just an abstract notion.”

“Ether” delves beyond the guts of One Wilshire into the nature of architecture in and out of cyberspace. After all, “architecture” is the term appropriated by computer scientists to label their systems. Will the new usage unseat the old?

Telecom hotel One Wilshire will be at High Desert Test Sites on May 6 and 7.

Via Kazys Varnelis LA Weekly.