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“A machine that makes the land pay.” That’s how architect and Manhattanite Cass Gilbert defined the skyscraper in 1900, when the building type was — ahem — just getting off the ground.
But the machine doesn’t pay like it used to, at least not when it comes to commercial skyscrapers that hold office suites instead of apartments or condos.
That’s one reason I found myself climbing onto a thin gray carpet Wednesday morning and careening down a steel-and-glass slide that has been attached — like a transparent worm, a see-through appendage — to the exterior of the tallest building in Los Angeles, the 1,018-foot-high U.S. Bank Tower.
After a trip that began on the 70th floor and spit me out rather unceremoniously onto a terrace on the 69th, it became clear why Singapore-based OUE Ltd., which bought the tower in 2013, expects a steady stream of visitors willing to shell out $27-$33 to experience the slide and adjacent observation deck.
The ride won’t exactly be a threat to Six Flags. Nor would I say I’m in a hurry to try it again. But it was an architectural experience, however brief, of a kind I don’t think I’ve ever had.
It’s also not tough to figure out why this particular tower is now topped by a major tourist attraction, which will open Saturday to the public. Designed by the architect Harry Cobb, a partner in I.M. Pei’s prolific firm, the building was originally known as Library Tower, for its downtown location across 5th Street from the Central Library. […]