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architecture

Norman Foster’s Crystal Island

IF YOU E-MAIL Norman Foster’s London-based architecture firm to request information about his design for Crystal Island, a project recently approved for construction in Moscow, you will receive, with no accompanying note, a terse list of “facts and figures.” Perhaps this response is appropriate. Overriding fatigue with the dimensional stats that have accompanied new waves of building in China, Dubai, and Russia, mainstream media outlets and hipster blogs alike obligingly repeat the numbers with apparent amazement, as the builders strive to outdo one another’s superlative expressions of size.

Crystal Island is to be the biggest building in the world. It is a building as microenvironment—a very, very big tent enclosing an enclave of apartments, offices, stores, theaters, a hotel, a museum, a school, and even “public space.” Its square footage is roughly equal to that of four Pentagons. It is

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