What have they been teaching people? Apparently, almost none of you had heard of the Jackson Millennium Building.
Written and produced by Kale Brown. Artwork by Kale Brown.
Starring Amy Y. (@achill3a) as the narrator of Jacksonesque and Elias Taylor as Kennedy Jackson.
Starring Josh LeCompte as Soper Realty board member Matthew McConnaugh and Alice Kyra (@magicalgirlkyra) as Soper Realty board member Kathleen Strike.
Starring Rebecca M. (@explosive_sheep) as Eileen Acton and Jesse Hall (@wastedarkcell) as Anonymous TectoVision Employee.
All music and sound effects used are available under a CC0 license. Music was ‘Sphere’ and ‘Dunes’ by Andrew Kn and ‘Rain Drops’ by svegvari. [LOUD EERIE NOISE] was ‘Sci-fi Ambient Drone’ by Niedec.
Visit us on Twitter at @sinkholepodcast or visit the website at sinkholepodcast.com.
INTRO: [Someone inhales deeply; their inhale has a distant, echoing quality to it. A strange, rattling sound grows in volume and speed before fading into eerie, warbling music. There’s a strange crackling sound. The voice whispers “Sinkhole.” The pitch and speed of the music drop, fading into the next track.]
[A low, slow hum fills the background. The melody is subtle and largely ambient.]
Okay, what are they teaching people? Every time I mention something I think is common knowledge, everyone freaks out.
Apparently, almost none of you had ever heard of the Jackson Millennium Building.
Please forgive me, mods, because one this is gonna go real off-topic. I’m hoping my history of good behaviour is enough to let me get away with this.
We’ll call it a JMB source post.
The JMB is… fucking impossible to explain. If I tried to tell you about it myself, it would sound like I was making shit up, so I’ve pulled together a couple of clips and I’m gonna cut them in for you.
The first one is from Jacksonesque, a documentary about the JMB from before the Sinkhole opened up. It’s about forty-five or fifty years old, but if you want to watch the whole thing, let me know and I’ll send you the data.
Documentary Narrator: In the year 1997, Canadian architect Kennedy Jackson began drafting the plans for a building that would go on to become synonymous with the concept of anti-humanist architecture.
Jackson’s previous designs, most infamous amongst them the ‘Peg-leg’ of Heron Fault, had been divisive, drawing harsh criticism for what many considered ‘borderline unlivable’ design choices while also being hailed as ‘possessing of an unrivaled imaginative spirit.’
Controversy plagued Jackson’s Millennium roject from its inception, first arising when it was revealed that the lot proposed for the construction saw frequent use by members of the surrounding community as an unofficial public park and had even been the site of several weddings. Residents of the area marched on the mayor’s office to protest the sale of the lot, garnering widespread support from concerned onlookers across the nation, but were unable to prevent its sale. In September of 1998, just two months after the purchase had been proposed, ownership of the lot passed to Soper Realty, the group which would manage the property after its completion.
Despite its controversial start, the project received generous contributions from investors well in excess of projected building costs- something that would turn out to be instrumental in preventing the project from ending up dead in the water.
While originally intended to complete construction in the year 2000, work on the Jackson Millennium Building was delayed by over a decade, with fire and safety inspectors calling the intended design “the spiritual successor to the Holmes Hotel” and “a neo-brutalist funhouse deathtrap.”
Prior to revisions, the original plans for the Jackson Millennium Building featured a number of design oddities: doors opened into rooms much higher or lower than those adjoining them; walls and floors were tilted, forming narrow, often difficult-to-navigate spaces; and certain areas of the building could not be accessed except by ladder.
Like the design of the building itself, Jackson’s explanation for this was both convoluted and inscrutable.
Kennedy Jackson: No, listen, I don’t think you’re getting me- there’s this fundamental concept in design, maybe it’s the fundamental concept of design, and that’s symmetry. Humans, we’re bilaterally symmetric and it sort of defines everything that we do: the structures that we create, the lives that we live, but… that’s not the whole of it! On the outside: one leg higher than the other, one leg shorter than the other- there’s a natural asymmetry, and on the inside, in the envelope, all bets are off. The place where the straight lines of the brutalist meets the natural asymmetries of the body- that’s the juxtaposition of the organic and the ideal.
It’s natural design.
[interview excerpt ends]
Documentary Narrator: While a revision of the original design was eventually approved for construction on the sole principle of not being provably in violation of local building code, the Jackson Millennium Building would go on to be described by its original inhabitants as “akin to wandering through an Escher painting just to get to the breakroom.”
TectoVision, the marketing firm which had leased the space from Soper Realty, sued for release from their five-year contract only eighteen months after first taking up residency in the Jackson Millennium Building, citing unsafe working conditions.
The Jackson Millennium Building, while acknowledged by city officials to be “thoroughly unpleasant and weird,” could not be found to be in contravention of any existing health and safety parameters, and therefore, the contract was upheld.
However, less than six months after the suit was filed, while litigation was still underway, TectoVision vacated the premises prematurely, leaving the Jackson Millennium Building vacant for the remaining three years of their lease.
In October of 2014, only eight months before the expiration of TectoVision’s five-year contract, the Jackson Millennium Building was involved in yet another explosive scandal.
[low-quality phone recording]
Matt: I think we can all appreciate the potential benefits on offer here- great location, excellent footage, and- like you said, Kathy- there’s certainly something to be said about the wow factor of the building’s reputation. No one is denying that.
But we need to consider this from a practical standpoint: after that fiasco with Tecto, what are our options?
We need to address the tenancy issue.
Clients are looking at the Jackson Millennium and seeing a productivity issue down the line. They’re seeing employees excusing extended breaks by claiming to have gotten “turned around” on their way back to their work stations, and if we don’t do something about that now, it’s going to be Tecto all over again. How do we fix that?
Kathy: I hear what you’re saying about the optics, Matt, about the fear of productivity lost, and I think I can offer a fix for that: it’s all about clear signage.
Colour-coded vinyl floor runners, frequent maps. Reassure future tenants that they don’t have to worry about their staff making excuses by taking those excuses away.
Matt: That… is a really excellent idea- really excellent, wow. Can we all just give Kathy a hand for that?
Just forward-thinking efficiency in action, this one.
Kennedy is going to hate it, though. He’s really going to hate it.
Kathy: Well, it’s not Kennedy’s building anymore, is it, Matt?
Tecto happened in Kennedy’s building. This is our building.
[low-quality phone recording ends]
What you just heard was part of a cellphone recording taken of a meeting between Soper Realty board members Matthew McConnaugh and Kathleen Strike. First released anonymously on internet message board fiendrama.com on October 3rd of 2014, it would take less than a week for the controversial sound byte to catch the attention of local tabloid journalist Elijah Suffolk.
Suffolk’s piece about the recording, titled Kennedy Jackson Who? Soper Execs Caught Talking Smack About Controversial JMB Architect ran the following Monday.
Less than twenty-four hours later, the internet was on fire.
Public outrage was two-pronged, with some appalled at the apparent disrespect with which Jackson had been treated and others pointing to Striker and McConnaugh’s exchange as a tacit acknowledgement of the issues posed to tenants of the Jackson Millennium Building by its unconventional design- the very same issues that had prompted TectoVision’s lawsuit less than three years before.
Corporate interest in the Jackson Millennium Building vanished overnight.
It would be six years before the property was purchased from Soper Realty by an unexpected buyer: Calliope Research, a subsidiary of multinational pharmaceutical corporation MagneVice Medical Technologies, best known for their role in the creation of controversial oral fertility medication Zoftroprox™.
After Calliope Research purchased the Jackson Millennium Building from Soper Realty, they found themselves embroiled in a legal dispute with its architect, who objected to their efforts to have the building renamed.
After a brief court battle, judge Augustus Park ruled that Kennedy Jackson’s position as architect was not, in fact, sufficient to prevent the building from being renamed by its legal owners and it was officially recognized as the Innes and Montgomery Institute of Research and Development.
[DOCUMENTARY EXCERPT ENDS]
So that’s the background on the building itself.
The second one is from an interview with one of the TectoVision employees that worked in the JMB back in 2010. It’s a lot shorter, I promise.
Eileen: Welcome to The Early Afternoon with Eileen Acton- I’m Eileen, and on today’s show, we sit down with someone from TectoVision, the marketing agency which made international headlines earlier this year when they sued for release from their tenancy contract with the Soper Realty, calling attention to working conditions within the Jackson Millennium Building many have called “staggering.”
As the suit is still ongoing, we will not be disclosing the identity of our guest today, and we ask that our in-studio audience refrain- now more than ever- from taking photos or recordings.
Please join me in welcoming our special guest. [turned away] Mark, please show him in.
[robust applause as someone walks in]
[applause dying down]
[compassionately] Thank you so much for joining us in the studio today. How are you feeling?
TectoVision Employee: [laughing uneasily] As best as could be expected, I guess.
Eileen: I’m glad to hear that. Now, I don’t mean to jump right into it, but we’ve got a lot of questions-
TectoVision Employee: [almost interrupting, a little wryly] Yeah, I’m sure you do.
[scattered laughter from audience]
Eileen: [laughing along] Alright, alright. [all business] So, what can you tell us about working in the Jackson Millennium Building?
TectoVision Employee: [muttered] What can I tell you?
What I can tell you is you couldn’t pay me to go back into the Jack. I’ve worked in a lot of buildings that weren’t great, but the worst of them didn’t even come close.
Eileen: So the suit alleges. Can you tell us a little bit more about what exactly that means? In a tangible sense, I mean.
TectoVision Employee: In a tangible sense? Uh… I don’t know if this is what you’d call tangible, but it was like… working in a funhouse? The acoustics of the place were a nightmare- half the staff was convinced it was haunted even though it was brand new. You could be talking to somebody standing in the hall and have a harder time hearing them than somebody three rooms down with the door shut.
[murmuring from audience]
Eileen: How strange! And why do you think that is? Can you give us your best guess?
TectoVision Employee: I don’t have to guess- it was something about the way the vents were positioned. You could be all the way over in 2F and somebody would say something in 2A and it’d sound like they were standing right next to you. We started planning around it- if me and Carlos wanted to talk logistics, we’d have to go over and tell the folks in the other room to can it or get lost for half an hour just so we could hear ourselves think.
And when folks got lost, they really got lost. That’s, uh… not a figure of speech.
[INTERVIEW EXCERPT ENDS]
You can still find photos of the inside of the JMB from during its construction, along with the plans for it, but for whatever reason, there’s almost nothing from after it was completed.
You’ll find a couple of blurry cellphone pictures from TectoVision employees, but nothing after that. Calliope was doing some kind of secret… pharmaceutical research? I don’t know, they were really secretive about it.
Actually, it’s spawned this whole conspiracy theory that Calliope opened up the Hole somehow, which is kind of hilarious. I recommend reading up on it a little, but not too deeply.
You will start feeling like you’re going insane.
Anyway… that’s the Jackson Millennium Building.
I’ve attached my PO box number to the post data. If you want to send me tapes, go ahead and send me tapes.
Stay safe and try not to fall into any holes.
[The ambient music fades into the next track.]
[An eerie, warbling music akin to the opening music plays, rising in volume and then slowing and quieting.]