Summer Reading Series #5: The Endless Column By Megan Dunn

Still from Sky Views (2001) Janine Randerson

Did you know?

The Sky Tower consists of 15,000 cubic metres of concrete, 2,000 tonnes of reinforcing steel and 600 tonnes of structural steel – including 170 tonnes in the mast.

The first surprise: they did not paint it. I thought concrete seemed a little too bald, too naked. Although on reflection what was I hoping for: terracotta?

Construction fact
The foundations go down more than 15 metres and are designed to spread force load.

Straight up

The Sky Tower has become part of Auckland’s essential view. Even I can’t remember the skyline without it. Built in the 90s, it spoke of Auckland’s aspiration to become an international multi-cultural destination before the development of the Britomart and the super-city.

Did you know?

The Sky Tower is the tallest man-made structure in the Southern Hemisphere: a Jetson’s beacon in the city of sails, casting out bungee jumpers and rays of light.

Construction fact

It took two years and nine months to build.

Roll back the clock

Can you remember the controversy about the proposed casino, how dole bludgers would spend their last dimes in the slot machines, the lower end of the socio-economic scale laid out on the roulette wheel, the relentless gallop of dice. In the end any fears that the casino would become an inflated TAB were brushed aside. The arguments against the proposed SkyCity were about as powerful as an Auckland earthquake.

Did you know?

In the extreme event of a magnitude 8.0 earthquake occurring within 20 kilometres of the tower, analysis shows that Sky Tower would remain standing.

Construction fact

I was at Elam when the Sky Tower opened in 1997. I didn’t go up.

Straight Up

Sky Tower has three circular public observation levels - Sky Deck, Main Observation level and Sky Lounge - from each of which you can get a 360-degree view of Auckland.

Did you know?

Janine Randerson filmed Sky Views in Orbit the revolving restaurant at the top of the Sky Tower.

Construction fact

The city is symmetrical; a Rorschach test. The window peels open in the centre of the screen like a black zipper. Ninety minutes of footage is condensed: as the video revolves faster and faster, it gradually appears to spin out of control.

Straight Up

Randerson filmed Sky Views in 2001, the year I left Auckland. A mirrored hand appears – the conductor? – disappears. A staccato scramble of mechanical ticks and whirrs; the video’s high-pitched soundtrack is an automated Siren’s call, like the voice of the Sky Tower itself. Occasionally a piercing dial tone interrupts the continuity of the view. The city spreads out like a cell beneath a petri dish. Growing. Cultivating.

Did you know?

On a clear day you can see approximately 82 kilometres (51 miles) from Sky Tower. That's as far north as Leigh Peninsula, as far east as Great Barrier Island, as far west as the Waitakere Ranges, and as far south as the Bombay Hills.

Construction fact

Day fades into night. Lilliputian high rises. Darting lights of cars. The city transforms into the all-spark, the metropolis speeds up, the zipper opens, closes, darkness rushes in: Orbit changes. The restaurant revolves counter clockwise, the faint murmur of a voice like a signal picked up from radio transmission. This is the money shot: the video spins to a stop. Jackpot.

Straight Up

Casino came out in 1995. Total Scorsese: a masculine mafia epic set in Las Vegas, back in the good old days when the circuit was still run by wise guys who knew how to skim, fuck and kill. I was captivated by Sharon Stone’s performance as Ginger McKenna, the glamorous ex-hooker who catches Robert De Niro’s eye. In her introductory scene, Ginger throws a tray of blackjack chips sky-high.

Roll back the clock

From the window of a long haul flight back home, the purple swizzle stick of the Sky Tower. Stats about Auckland on the in-flight screens; I had a tear in my eye.

I still remember the first stunned Christmas it was lit purple. Purple, why?

Did you know?

The Endless Column is Randerson’s vertical take on Sky Views. The video was filmed in 2003 from within the lift shaft. Up and down. Stay then stop. The soundtrack rattles and drops.

Construction fact

Three glass-fronted elevators can take 225 people to the observation levels every 15 minutes. The elevators travel at 18km per hour and the ride takes only 40 seconds.

Straight Up

Randerson’s video is expertly shuffled like a dealer’s hand. Caught in the shaft of the tower, the lift spits out views instead of coins. White lights edge the buildings at night. This is the cityscape that glitters in Ginger’s eyes. What does the lottery of the Sky Tower’s lonely point of view provide? Scale? Distance? Drama?

Did you know?

During construction constant verification was necessary to ensure Sky Tower was perfectly straight.

Construction fact

In 2012 we took Mum to Orbit. Bungee jumpers bounced past the windows while we waited for our meal to arrive. I sat away from the 360 degree panoramic sky views. I had forgotten about my abject fear of heights. The photos taken that day later revealed I looked nothing like Sharon Stone. The chips were down. It wasn’t just the lack of mink. The horizontal stripes on my dress were too wide.

Straight Up

During construction of the shaft, lasers positioned on the base pad of Sky Tower were shone up to the jump platform in a grid pattern to provide vertical readings.

- Megan Dunn

Endnotes: This collaged text was inspired by Janine Randerson’s videos Sky Views (2001) and Endless Column (2003). The format of the text contains direct facts about the Sky Tower from the website. The three headings Did you Know?, Construction fact and Straight Up are also all taken from the SkyCity website.

Megan Dunn has a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Auckland University. From 1997 - 2000 she was co-director of the artist run space Fiat Lux. During this time her video art was exhibited throughout New Zealand. In 2006 she completed her Masters in Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia, graduating with distinction. Her fiction and reviews have been published in Landfall, Art New Zealand, Pavement, The Listener and on various websites. She is currently on the board of CIRCUIT and her video work can be seen here.