No, skyscrapers are not phallic symbols

I don’t know what’s phallic about that

Unintentional (OR IS IT???? Yes) hilarity over in Qatar, where they’ve designed a new stadium for the 2022 World Cup – and yes, it is ridiculous that Qatar have got the 2022 World Cup. Anyway, the Al-Wakrah stadium, as designed, looks not unlike a vagina. Apparently it’s actually “based upon the design of a traditional Qatari dhow boat”, but, I mean, come on. The Guardian wonders whether it might have been a sly feminist joke, and I profoundly hope that it was, although I doubt it.

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I was slightly annoyed, though, by the trotting out of the old canard – which I’ve seen on Twitter as well – that skyscrapers are “phallic”. I mean, I suppose they are, in the sense that they’re often roughly the same proportions as an erect penis. Basically a cylinder. But the implication that they’re designed like that, out of a conscious or subconscious desire on the part of male architects and town planners to declare to the world that they have a 250ft ferroconcrete schlong – a vast, urban koteka – just seems, to me at least, deeply silly.

Think about it. You want to build a building in a crowded city centre. You want to provide lots of whatever: office space, apartment space. Since ground space is at a premium, it’s going to cost much, much less to build upwards than to build out. So do you: a) build a 50-storey skyscraper which might look a bit phallic but gets a lot of rooms in there or b) build a gigantic bungalow?

Of course, if when people point out that skyscrapers are phallic they don’t mean there’s any psychological equivalence there, and that they just look a bit penisy, that’s fine, albeit a bit teenage-humour – “Hurh hurh, he said member”. But if they’re trying to say “people only build skyscrapers because they want to glorify the male sexual organ”, then they’re being bizarre. And also, how does the Shard fit into that theory? Bit pointy, surely?

• All right: as Ed West pointed out to me on Twitter, every rule has its exceptions



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