The most fitting symbols are often accidents. When flames engulfed the Mandarin Oriental Hotel inside the titanium CCTV tower design by Rem Koolhaas in Beijing last February, it felt like a comeuppance borrowed from a Tom Wolfe novel. The fire occurred in the thick of the financial crisis, a time when celebrity architects like Koolhaas appeared headed for a mighty tumble.
Another case of accidental symbolism occurred at the art biennale underway in Venice, where a suburban home built as a floating sculpture capsized in a canal. Artist Mike Bouchet, is known for sardonic takes on middle-class American life, built a full-scale replica of a two-story suburban home that he intended to float in a canal beside the biennale for six-months. Bouchet rode on an upstairs balcony as the house was towed on a barge through the harbor to the heart of Venice. After the house was unloaded from the barge a pontoon failed and the house tilted like the Titanic and sank.