On Oct. 4, the Moscow City Council reversed a decision by the board of adjustment and voted to build an 80-foot wireless communication tower. Good for them and the community, not least because the tower represents more than a mere matter of passing interest, but a function on whose availability contemporary reality has come to depend. More on that in a bit.

For now, however, it would be good to recognize the concern the board of adjustment had in the first place, namely that if not careful, towers could alienate the scale and feel of the built environment. Many have and intentionally so, such as the Washington Monument in Washington DC, an obelisk culled from ancient Egypt, broadcasting political power and built on the backs of slaves. Stationed at the intersection between the White House and the Capitol Building, the Washington monument stands at a whopping 555 feet, at least 400 feet taller than any of its ancient counterparts, also built in part by slaves. Yes, there was and remains nothing soft about the Washington Monument, only an expression of total domination.

Luckily not all towers are of that sort. Some have risen to inspire and celebrate human innovation, such as the Eiffel Tower. Hated at first by the likes of Guy de Maupassant, one of history’s most famous short story authors, but other literati as well, it soon became the symbol of structural and technological ingenuity. Built for the 1889 World’s Fair in Paris, it had no function but to dare people to match in power and creativity the marvel of the tower itself.

The tower in Moscow is not the Eiffel Tower of course, but it can capitalize on a golden opportunity to say something about our contemporary reliance on wireless communication. Good or bad, the internet has been the single most transformative invention of our time. So hooked and dependent on it we have become, we can hardly imagine a life without it.

Everything from scholarship, to the election of the first African American president was made possible through it. As one study showed, it was “the internet campaign that shaped the victory” of Barack Obama, specifically the way it made possible “immediate connection with the younger electorate, which was one of the most significant at the end of the electoral process.”

No classroom would be the same today without the internet, no health care, office and library, begging the question if we shouldn’t spend a commensurate amount celebrating it. What money we spend on building lecture halls and the like we should find an equivalent for in building beautiful and effective communication structures.

Instead of seeing in the tower a visual menace, the board of adjustment and city council should treat it as a work of art with which to inspire future inventions on par with the internet. Just as Gustave Eiffel, the engineer of the Eiffel tower, dared the global community to dream big, wrought iron, so the Moscow community should aim for a tower that could equally captivate, even if scaled down to fit a modest community.

We may find it interesting in fact that what saved the Eiffel tower from demolition is a function not unlike the one we have at hand, namely an antenna with which to broadcast news to the world. When the lease of the ground on which the tower stands ran out in 1909, it was time to take the monument down. Many fought the decision but to no avail, up until it was discovered that the tower could double as an antenna for radio transmission, a function it retains today.

What the Moscow tower does not need is a cross, being stationed near a church. Conflating religion with the instruments of broadcast, the internet no less, dredges up risky connotations. Nothing wrong with religion of course, but to attach it to a feature whose power stems largely from its ability to penetrate the inner sanctum of private life, is to proselytize and worse yet traffic in doublespeak, on the one hand a mere billboard signifying religious function, on the other a device with which to neutralize intellectual freedom.

Yeah let’s stay away from the cross for now. Let’s look to art and artists instead and turn the tower into a monument of collective inspiration.

Rahmani has been with Washington State University since 1997 and is an associate professor in the School of Design and Construction

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