‘So let’s build 500 Shards’

Proposed Blackfriars tower along Thames in London. (Create Streets)

Proposed Blackfriars tower along Thames in London. (Create Streets)

I’ve posted about Create Streets before. The London urbanist organization’s Paul Murrain, who once worked with Andrés Duany on downtown Providence, has written a thoughtful and passionate “J’Accuse!” – called “London Deserves Better Than This” on PDF at the website linked above – against skyscrapers in the ancient modern global city.

Here he raises his voice against the ignominious idea that skyscrapers solve population problems in growing cities:

And finally of course we hear the facile argument that tall buildings solve a housing crisis. If that were so, presumably every high-rise city in the world is free from housing need. Rubbish.

But if I’m wrong and height in and of itself guarantees housing supply of the right kind in the right place, then let’s build 500 Shards and put them at every cross road, roundabout and Tube station in London. That should do it and think how happy I’ve just made some members of the RIBA. But I’m not sure the consumers who genuinely need housing will thank me for being up in the clouds particularly if there are three more Shards on the other three corners.

Screen Shot 2015-04-23 at 8.34.01 AMImagine God taking his seat of authority on such a skyline. Not a pretty picture. But then imagine building 500 of the Cathedral at Salisbury. Not a pretty picture, right? And yet a pretty picture all the same. Not that 500 Salisbury Cathedrals are wanted, but you get the point. Nor are 500 Shards wanted – and yet that, or something all too near, is being proposed in London over the next decade or so – over 200 towers of 20 floors or more have been proposed or received planning permission to rise.

It is Murrain’s point that the density benefits of skyscrapers can be had at far lower ranges of height without scraping the eye of man or the arse of God. He (Murrain) points out that London remains largely a city of two and a half to four story buildings. Raise that to six, he says, and … Shazam! You have density equivalent to so many Shards!

Create Streets has a website filled with grist for the mills (speaking of great places with high density potential) of urbanists and classicists – by which I mean people who are as tired of the way buildings rise as how high they rise.

Tip of the hat to Catherine Johnson for passing this along to TradArch.

The Shard. (ideasgn.com)

The Shard. (ideasgn.com)

About David Brussat

For a living, I edit the writing of some of the nation's leading architects, urbanists and design theorists. This blog was begun in 2009 as a feature of the Providence Journal, where I was on the editorial board and wrote a weekly column of architecture criticism for three decades. Architecture Here and There fights the style wars for classical architecture and against modern architecture, no holds barred. My freelance writing and editing on that topic and others addresses issues of design and culture locally and globally. I am a fellow of the Royal Society of the Arts, and a member of the board of the New England chapter of the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art, which bestowed an Arthur Ross Award on me in 2002. I work from Providence, R.I., where I live with my wife Victoria, my son Billy and our cat Gato. If you would like to invest your prose with even more style and clarity, please email me at my consultancy, dbrussat@gmail.com, or call 401.351.0457. Testimonial: "Your work is so wonderful - you now enter my mind and write what I would have written." - Nikos Salingaros, mathematician at the University of Texas, architectural theorist and author of many books.
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One Response to ‘So let’s build 500 Shards’

  1. Broomakx says:

    Reblogged this on Broomakx.

    Like

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