You can never be too rich or too thin.
Well, one look at what’s become of New York’s iconic skyline might have persuaded Wallis Simpson, the late Duchess of Windsor, to change her mind.
Manhattan, you see, is in the grip of a mania for super-skinny skyscrapers.
And while I’m not the only one who thinks the pencil-thin penthouses look absolutely awful, they are fetching sky-high prices.
And that’s sparked a heated debate – are they marvels of ingenious engineering, or are they an unmissable statement of rising inequality?
Take the $58-million penthouse on the 61st floor of 111 West 57th Street in Midtown Manhattan, the thinnest tall residential building in the world.
It takes up two floors of the glass-clad tower that, quite frankly, looks like it would snap in a stiff breeze.
You can see the whole of the Big Apple from up there as the $800m “pencil tower” overlooks Central Park, and you can even see the lights of the city’s JFK airport.
New York has a rich history of fuelling crazes in residential real estate and homes in super-skinny skyscrapers – defined by a width-to-height ratio of at least 1:10 and rising to an inconceivable 1:24 in the aforementioned 111 West 57th Street, which measures just 60 feet by 80 feet.
And that in turn is pushing high prices towards stratospheric levels. The founder of tech firm Dell has reportedly just paid more than $100m for the duplex (two-storey) penthouse in the 75-storey, 1,004-foot-high One57, which is to be found at 157 West 57th Street.
That’s £8,000 per square foot, compared to the average of £250 in the UK.
New York is the epicentre of these so-called “spindle buildings” – they have endless nicknames – with 20 completed or under construction, though dozens of others are springing up, mainly in Hong Kong.
And that gives you an idea why certain places are ripe for them.
They are concentrated in cities where land is at a premium and so you have to go up, and in New York you can buy the unused “air rights” of lower, neighbouring buildings and reach for the skies.
There aren’t any in Europe, and nor are there ever likely to be as land is more readily available and many cities have a height cap.
In central Rome, no building can be higher than the dome of St Peter’s Basilica – the Vatican – while in Athens 12 storeys is the maximum height – with a very few exceptions – so as not to block views of the Parthenon.
But while the billionaires are queuing up to buy a home in the clouds, not everyone is happy.
Some don’t see thrilling examples of architecture, instead they see them as an embodiment of how the super-rich have floated up to heady heights from where they can literally look down on the rest of us.
Richard Florida, an “urbanist” at Toronto University, said: “These towers are the physical manifestation of the 1%.”
And many New Yorkers have started to complain that the new super-slim buildings are ruining the classic Manhattan skyline by being infinitely inferior to such classic skyscrapers such as the Empire State and Chrysler Buildings.
But it has to be said, when those skyscrapers were proposed and built, huge swathes of Manhattanites were dead against them.
Campaign group Stand Against The Shadows argue that streets and skylines are being transformed for the benefit of the uber-wealthy at the expense of local communities, as it’s felt the people who live in these new buildings – which often offer multiple exclusive amenities – don’t use neighbourhood shops and restaurants.
Also, as the group’s name suggests, there has been outcry against the shadows cast by these soaring structures.
The towers, clustered in Midtown just below Central Park, cast shadows more than a kilometre long into that dear, green place, plunging its meadows, playgrounds, baseball pitches and even parts of Central Park Zoo into darkness.
One thing you have to admit, though, is that the advances in engineering and construction that make these pencil towers possible are staggering.
The key is the development of super-strong concrete which makes it possible to build tall, narrow structures that don’t have all the floor space taken up by load-bearing walls and columns.
That said, winds at the top of tall towers are much stronger than on the ground, as I can attest having been blown about on the outdoor observation deck that used to sit atop one of the World Trade Centre’s Twin Towers, while there wasn’t enough wind to ruffle my quiff at street level.
As the wind moves around a tall building, its speed increases as it passes a corner, creating eddies which push and pull buildings sideways, making you feel as though you’re on a ship in less-than-calm seas.
Architects have come up with several novel ways of “confusing” the wind to prevent such turbulence, such as carving out notches at the corners and creating openings in the structure for the wind to simply blow through.
If you look at 432 Park Avenue, every 12 floors you’ll see two floors that have no apartments, only structural support columns so air can pass through undisturbed.
Also, these super-tall towers are equipped with “dampers”, very heavy steel weights of up to 800 tonnes that are hung near the top of the towers and sway back and forth as a counterweight to the wind.
But they wouldn’t have been built without the emergence of the super-rich in the United States, Russia, China and India.
Which makes it difficult to argue against those depicting the new skyscrapers as “vertical Versailles” in which the nomadic global financial elite can live in a high-altitude bubble.
But there’s always a silver lining. The construction of 111 West 57th Street helped finance the construction of affordable housing downtown, while the building frenzy creates thousands of jobs.
Also, New York’s new “mansion taxes” mean the money will flood into the city’s coffers.
New stamp duty rates mean the sale of apartments in the super-skinny skyscrapers will raise untold millions for the public purse, while each owner will pay an astronomical $20,000 a month in property taxes.
And, let’s be honest, unless you suffered from severe vertigo, you wouldn’t say no if someone offered you one…