Beyond Buildings


Dominique Strauss-Kahn and the Movable Womb

Submit A Comment | View Comments

The saga of IMF managing director and French political star Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s arrest on Saturday reminded me of nothing so much as the cocoons of wealth and how isolating they can become. By keeping others at bay through layers of protection, you lose the kind of social interaction and supervision that serves as a check on your behavior. Space and its enclosure, in other words, can in itself create a breakdown in ethical behavior. I do not know whether that happened here (Strauss-Kahn is claiming innocence as I write this), but it does seem to be the latest bit of behavior that breaks the social contract by failing to recognize that there are behavioral limits even within the most cushioned spatial limits.


Credit: Business Travel Guru


The New York Times described Strauss-Kahn’s $3,000-a-night hotel room as consisting of a foyer, a conference room, a living room, a dining room, a bedroom and two bathrooms. The main point of all that space would be to keep neighbors away. He was the only one occupying all of this—until the unfortunate maid entered. After fleeing, he was plucked off the first class seat of an Air France flight as it was sitting at the gate. Those seats are pods, where you can recline fully and remain completely isolated from those around you.I imagine that these two scenes are typical of the great man’s life; wherever he goes, he lives in isolation, surrounded by enough space and walls to keep those that might be dangerous or just annoying (and thus detrimental to his all-important concentration) away. It reminds me of the one time I rode in a bulletproof U.S. Embassy car: I could not feel or hear anything of the outside world, and even its sights were dimmed by the tinted glass. No wonder American power seems so remote.


Credit: Sofitel


These sites are extreme versions of what many of us try to create for ourselves: places of security. We want to live in houses that are as big as possible, with as much land as possible, for privacy. We crave sound and sight isolation, designing our spaces to create those buffers. We prefer our air filtered, heated, or cooled, and our information organized by the screens around us. In our cars, we want good suspension and insulation from sound and danger. In our offices, the dream for many is still that corner office, with nobody next to you and a secretary in front to ward off visitors. When we travel, we aspire to business class seats with more space between us and others, and a smaller likelihood of screaming babies or chattering folk.


Ironically, one model for such isolation is the life of the hermit or ascetic. By removing all the world’s distraction, this person can come to his- or herself. Enlightenment comes from knowing one’s self, and knowing that one is nothing. In the case of big business, titans of industry and politicians supposedly deserve this state because it will allow them to perform better as enlightened leaders of vast resources.


The other model, however, is that of the ruler in his keep, who is so afraid of everybody and everything that he retreats more and more into a kind of self-imposed prison. It is a staple of Shakespeare plays and fairy tales.


In truth, I think these cocoons have become perks without ideals, rhymes, or true reasons. We often work better in teams and we are effective through social connections. We have to know our society and be part of it in order to act in it. The world is a stage on which we must act, and we cannot remain in the Green Room forever.


Retreating into a cocoon is childlike behavior. In hotel suites and first-class suites, everything is soft, rounded, and plush. You are fed without even asking. You are mothered and pampered. The quality of such spaces carries through to their materials and colors; humanlike color tones, soft curves, unnoticeable transitions, and a lack of hard edges to every cushy surface you touch.


It is easy to see how life in such a movable womb might make you think that your actions will have no repercussions. Everything gives in there, so why not people? As Dominique Strauss-Kahn may have found out, there are limits. Space cannot save you from your actions and responsibilities.



Comments (1 Total)

  • Posted by: Anonymous | Time: 12:36 PM Thursday, December 01, 2011

    Dominique Strauss-Kahn: New Book Claims Maid Wanted to Perform Oral Sex on Him, by Kirby Sommers Seriously, I just can't take this absurdity any longer. A new Dominique Stauss-Kahn biography to be released on December 8, 2011 shows the twisted mind of an egomaniac. In the book written by Michel Taubmann, Stauss-Kahn claims that when he stepped out of the bathroom naked and encounterd Nafissatou Diallo, he saw it as a 'proposition.' He claims that Diallo 'gazed' at his body and especially his 'manhood.' He then added that he 'agreed' to allow her to perform oral sex on him. Yeah, right, give me one of the hallucinogenic drugs Strauss-Kahn is obviosuly taking. So, at the age of 62 when most men need Viagra to get an erection, the sight of his flaccid penis and uneven sagging testicles made Diallo drop her feather duster and scurry onto her knees. According to him, she simply could not resist the temptation of taking the old flesh of a stranger into her mouth, willingly -- keeping it in her mouth until he reached orgasm. Read more at:

    Report this as offensive

Comment on this Post

Post your comment below. If you wish, enter a username and password though they are not required. Please read our Content Guidelines before posting.


Enter the code shown in the image

Username is optional


Enter a password if you want a username


About the Blogger

Aaron Betsky

thumbnail image Aaron Betsky is the director of the Cincinnati Art Museum, and in 2008 he was director of the 11th Venice International Architecture Biennale. Trained as an architect at Yale, he has published more than a dozen books on art, architecture, and design and teaches and lectures about design around the world. Aaron worked for Frank O. Gehry and Associates and Hodgetts & Fung Design Associates as a designer, taught for many years at the Southern California Institute of Architecture, and between 1995 and 2001 was curator of architecture and design at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. From 2001 to 2006 he was director of the Netherlands Architecture Institute in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.