Busily working on various tower proposals in the UK and abroad at the moment - tall buildings are clearly one way to tackle the population increase in big cities. With more and more people relocating to metropolitan areas high rise provide dense inner-city development. And the efficient use of limited space does not just make sense economically. If positioned close to public transport and located considering the urban strategy of the neighbourhood and wider city plan tower schemes are also sustainable and can be a major driver for local prosperity.
Tall buildings have their roots in 19th century North America where technical innovations, including the first lift, and the drive to use centrally located plots to their full extent resulted in floor plates being stacked on top of each other, mainly for commercial development. At the same time church spires were still the tallest buildings dominating the skyline of historic and naturally grown European cities like London, Paris and Hamburg. As such skyscrapers, although a common feature in each North American city are still discussed controversially in Europe.
Historic landmarks and their visibility in the city, in London for example, are protected and planning approval is pending the impact the proposed tall building has on identified views. In America the zoning laws guide the massing process and as I have recently experienced, an inner city green space can strictly regulate how tall your building can be to avoid overshadowing this precious amenity space. The city centre core (commonly referred to as downtown) is filled with large scale buildings and recreation spaces are really hard to come by – so you can see why this is to the benefit of locals and visitors alike.
Like any other structure this building type has its drawbacks. There are potential concerns relating to fitting into the local context and overshadowing as named above. Wind at the base of the tower could also be a problem. There is the need to service the dense development using the existing road network, not to mention the potential impact the construction of the skyscraper might have on the local infrastructure and neighbours. The good news – this can all be controlled and thought through ahead of time! For me it is all about the quality of the design and the engineering approach to the various challenges (or shall we call them opportunities) but most importantly we need to ensure that the tall buildings of today and tomorrow are knitted into their context creating a ground plane interface that everyone can enjoy.
Well, my lunchtime is over now but I look forward to your thoughts.