The excitement is building,"states the website for the second-annual Condo Expo on May 19 and 20 at the downtown Westin Hotel. It's all about excitement and joy: the joy of growth, of big investments, of exerting architectural power, and of making what may very well prove to be the final step in Seattle's journey to the big city. Who in the world would miss the opportunity to be in the middle of this madness? Nine thousand units are waiting to move from the planning stages to the streets of the city. Condo towers that are not even built have already sold out. Billions of dollars are doing what billions of dollars love to do: circulate—moving in quick steps from buyers, to realtors, to banks, and back again to buyers, to realtors, to banks. Don't stop the dance.

Granted, as a Marxist (or a Maker's Marxist), I'm opposed to the way the present economic system distributes wealth, but even I love to see the spectacle of capital, its disco-ball whirls of shimmering desires, its magic dust intoxicating the air and loosening the morals of beautifully made-up women and men. But, sadly, none of this sorcery was at this year's Condo Expo. It might have been at the inaugural one in 2006, but not in 2007. Did the organizers somehow sober up already and return to the basics, the disenchanted bottom line? Lots of curious people (interested hipsters, married homeowners, ambitious immigrants) came to the expo, but none seemed to stay for long. The event itself didn't make the effort to stun us into submission. All of the cash being pumped into the Seattle downtown area did not explode into what we wanted to see and feel: an orgy of 21st-century wealth.

Why was the event so calm, so sexless, so dull? And where were the models of the "excited" buildings? And what about fancy simulations of the condos? Or how about something total outrageous, like an actual chunk of a condominium hanging in the middle of the midsize space? The best thing the event offered was a computer-generated animation of the future cityscape on a flat screen, which was hardly impressive because the same animation, Cityscape 2010, is available on the web at

For those who missed it, I'll revisit the event: The main hall, on the third floor of the hotel, is organized into neighborhoods and cities. Here's Belltown, there is South Lake Union, and over there, Bellevue. In each neighborhood there're a number of tables for soon-to-be-completed or completed condos. There are lots of pamphlets and water bottles (not wine) on these tables. People walk from table to table, gathering pamphlets with the indifferent air of being in a forest walking from tree to tree, gathering mushrooms that have no magic in them.

On one of the walls, there's a huge image of the newly appointed symbol of Seattle's emerging condo culture: Alexander Calder's Eagle in the Olympic Sculpture Park. The park, like Whole Foods, is a much-talked-about amenity of Belltown and South Lake Union living. There's also a miniature of Hammering Man and the Pike Place Market sign—neither of which (much like the originals) inspire any sense of excitement. The music, however, is an elegant mix of electronica and instrumental hiphop spun by a DJ near the middle of the hall. This is the only life in the event, but the sexy music is not in harmony with this joyless place.

In another room, 200 seats are filled with people looking at a dry real-estate agent. He's dishing out the facts about growth ("Over the past decade, the population has expanded by 70 percent, and in 2010 there will be nearly 600,000 people living in Seattle") and about the kind of economic climate that's generating this construction boom ("The job market is hot"). He also shows on a screen the new buildings going up and where they are going up. "This area is where a number of ultra-luxury products are under construction. Here is 1521. It's in the Market District. You can also call it the Gold Coast." Seattle now has a Gold Coast! Amazing! But, really, why is the speaker showing us this new, glittering district on a small PowerPoint projection? The condos in 1521 are starting at a million bucks. Shouldn't a building designed for some of the richest humans on earth be presented with a dazzling hologram? Something, anything, that will make our mouths water for money we will never have.

"[W]e're celebrating the year of the condo," says Melissa Vail Coffman in Seattle Business Monthly. The magazine has a table outside of the main hall; it is operated by a man who is halfheartedly handing out free copies. By the bored look on his face and the heaviness of his gestures, I'm certain he has no clue that we are celebrating the year of the condo.

At the end of the day, why was this expo so lifeless? The boom is for real; billions of dollars are going in and out of it. So why would an event that's supposed to reflect this high energy be so flat? Is it possible that Seattle has been caught by surprise? That we have yet to grasp what all of this construction ultimately means? Are we suddenly made timid by the gigantic genie we have liberated from the bottle? Are we, in our reserved Seattle manner, trying to pretend that what's happening isn't actually happening? Whatever the case may be, there is no going back, no tricking this genie back into its brass prison.

"Like it or not—and how can you not?—Seattle, you've arrived. You're sitting at the big table," declares an anonymous author in the condo-buyer-guide section of Seattle Business Monthly. An expo celebrating the fact that we have arrived, that we are becoming denser by the minute, and that we possess a dramatic skyline—such an expo should be loud and obnoxious with drunks falling from tables, balloons going "pop," and the bubbles of champagne flowing from a gigantic fountain in the shape of the AVA tower. recommended