The Sophisticated Hut

[bracket] | Andy Vann | Jordan Carver

The primitive hut can be understood as a foundational concept for architectural development, one predicated on providing a minimum amount of shelter from the environment. On the other hand, the globalized system of international finance and capital movement also deploys the shelter, although in a much more sophisticated and nuanced manifestation, serving however, essentially the same purpose. The dispersed factory and the economic zone have become symbolic of global markets, capital at its most efficient. This essay tracks and interrogates their flip side, the tax haven. Understood within the rubric of globalization as a site of modern labor and production, the tax haven embodies more than just an expansion of global markets, it embodies the ethos and aesthetics of financial and intellectual production.

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A Not-So-Primitive Hut: Tax havenry as a spatial practice

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[1] According to Dominique Strauss-Khan, former head of the International Monetary Fund, “More than half of world trade passes, at least on paper, through tax haven.”
[2] There is no one definition of a “tax haven” and in fact, the term can be problematic. But here we have used the term as defined by Nicholas Shaxson, from his book Treasure Islands, “A tax haven is: a state captured by financial interests from elsewhere.”
[3] Here systems of finance and banking are understood as a globalized site of production. See Saskia Sassen’s The Global City: New York, London Tokyo.
[4] Kocienwski, David. “G.E.’s Strategies Let it Avoid Taxes Altogether.” The New York Times. 24 March 2011.
[5] Google’s unofficial “Don’t Be Evil” motto was initially formulated as a cynical response to the perceived phoniness of corporate discussions on citizenship, values, and overall corporate responsibility at Google. For an in-depth telling of this allegory see Steven Levy’s In the Plex: How Google Thinks, Works, and Shapes Our Lives, 2011.
[6] Drucker, Jesse. “Google 2.4% Rate Shows How $60 Billion Lost to Loopholes.” Bloomberg. 21 Oct 2010. Web.
[7] For an longer discussion on the corporate culture promoted by Google through the organizational logic of the GooglePlex see Steven Levy’s In the Plex: How Google Thinks, Works, and Shapes Our Lives, 2011.
[8] Google’s unofficial “Don’t Be Evil” motto was initially formulated as a cynical response to the perceived phoniness of corporate discussions on citizenship, values, and overall corporate responsibility at Google. For an in-depth telling of this allegory see Steven Levy’s In the Plex: How Google Thinks, Works, and Shapes Our Lives, 2011.
[9] For more on the atrium as a symbolic space of global capitalism see Fredric Jameson’s book Postmodernism, or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism. While the atrium space at the Clarendon House is not at all comparable in scale or luxury to that of Portman’s Bonaventure Hotel, its seemingly obligatory, useless presence is still symbolically significant.
[10] Description of the interior layout for the Clarendon house relies primarily on analysis of the drawings provided by OBMI, discussions with Fraser Butterworth, and a brief visit by the authors. We were not allowed to venture into the office, and CDP declined our interview requests.
[11] The top floor of the Appleby offices was occupied solely by boardrooms and a kitchen, where invited chefs often provided meals for the meetings. Photography requests were declined.
[12] Outside the boardrooms of Wakefield Quinn were installed speakers emitting white noise to provide further privacy.
[13] One such office was that of Sovereign Asset Management within the offices of Wakefield Quinn.
[14] Francis Fukuyama’s 1992 book The End of History and the Last Man is a testament to the self-congratulatory nature of neoliberalism after its supposed triumph over socialism, or the territory “outside” of capitalist production. This “turning inward” is marked in architecture and urbanism by the burgeoning growth and symbolic significance of the interior as typified by gated communities, policed malls, and surveilled corporate atriums, all of which, in their defensiveness, nonetheless betray resonant concerns about the specter of the outside.