A Note On High-Rises In London

Often lambasted as ‘eye-sores’ or criticised for their speedy construction – the high-rise apartment block has, nevertheless, become an integral part of most modern cities’ skyline.

the-shardSometimes being home to over a thousand people at a time, they range from the ugliest of grey monoliths to the most elegant of glass towers. Some of them grant views of entire cities, whilst others are simply dark holes – modern man’s cave systems, complete with paintings and whole cultures. 

One side of the coin is recent construction, The Shard an example of million-pound investment resulting in, what is now, the tallest buildings in London. Taking 3 years to complete, the building was opened in February 2013 and is now home to 72 floors of offices, residential suites – as well as the UK operations of Al Jazeera. Standing at over 300m tall, the building cost well over £400 million to contract and is almost completely owned by the State of Qatar.

rusland_courtDespite the building’s questionable origins, it has largely become accepted, in a city that celebrates any successful building that brings in tourism. However, one can’t help but wonder if the millions of pounds that it will generate in the coming decades will ever be seen by the thousands of Londoners already living within their own High Rises.

Although Britain was amongst one of the latest cultures to adopt the high-rise apartment, once the idea was accepted – many were invested in on a large-scale. Replacing the expensive and grand townhouses of the 18th and 19th Century, the grey concrete towers of the 20th Century were easy  and cheap to erect – allowing England to create inexpensive accommodation for it’s post-war population.

In the bomb-shattered capital, apartment blocks were quickly constructed to replace the decimated terraces that had come before them. By the time of the 2011 Census it was estimated that over 50% of all accommodation in London was comprised of apartment blocks. However, the tower blocks that dominated 21st Century London, were not the symbols of success and affluence that their creators would have hoped.

blitzWithin these monotone blocks – conflict, anger and resentment began to breed amongst it’s captive population. Why was it that people residing in these buildings resorted to petty crime, leaving the innocent parties as witnesses to a multitude of crimes each day?

Without realising it, the planning developers and architects of the 20th Century had created what would become the crime-ridden ghettos of the modern age. Trapped within the confines of concrete and glass, beaten down by poor Education and punishing taxes – the struggling population of London’s apartment blocks became the living embodiment of Orwell’s downtrodden proletariat. Unable to affect change in their grey lives, ruled by the screens of Big Brother and constantly being watched on CCTV.

Nearly 50 years after the construction of these early tower blocks in the UK, many of these buildings have already become like relics of the past – beaten and bruised over the decades, they stand – waiting for their inevitable demolition.

 

Windows Are The Eyes To The Soul (Of Design)

Glass is beautiful. It is not just there to interrupt brick. It is not just there to let in light (though that is one of its best properties). It is not just anything. It is a thing in its own right. Here are some of the best examples of the use of glass as a thing onto itself.

one.  Sports and Leisure Center in Saint-Cloud France

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Colour. Glass. Beauty.

two. Selgas Cano Architecture Office

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This wonderful office of The Selgas Cano Architecture group is hidden away from the world in a beautiful Spanish forest. The workers here are consistently tied to environment, they know the seasons and they feel them change around them. This is the power of glass here: To connect through the practical boundaries that living and working requires.

three. Sears Tower Glass Balconies

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A new addition to one of the most famous buildings in America these incredible balconies extend away from near the great buildings high peak at 1,353 feet. A nerve wrecking experience for most, and an impossible one for those who suffer from vertigo, they are an incredible feet of glass and engineering and a reminder of glass’s ability to transform the reality of buildings and the experience of being in a building.

four.  Farnsworth House by Mies van der Rohe

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When built the Farnsworth House by Mies van der Rohe it was a modernist master piece that set the standard of beauty, refinery and clean design for a generation.

five. Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art 

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My personal favourite because of how it juxtaposes with the older buildings next to it, making it look even more otherworldly and provoking what amounts to a conversation of style, of aesthetics and of architectural design between the two buildings. The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, MO have added this new outer wing to counter-pose its original Roman-style institution. The ‘Bloch Building’ is formed of frosted glass and pours light out into the atmosphere.

Thank you for reading. Any other suggestions for creative and beautiful use of glass are welcome in the comments below.

Streams

The urban environment is one defined as much by its physical streams of connection and absence as its mental ones. Where do people meet in the city? Where do people connect? What is it that drives some people together and some people apart? Why, even in the most diverse of cities, do people so often only mix with those of their own ilk? Do you know what I mean by this? Let’s for a moment look at two famous depictions of life in perhaps the most iconic western metropolis: New York.

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Yes, Seinfeld and Friends. According to science there were only 19 African-American speaking characters across all the nine seasons of Seinfeld. There are also not many in friends and most are waiters or in the service industry until they got guilty and hurried in a black love interest for Ross to get all the everyone of their back. So, is this a gross misrepresentation of one of the most diverse cities in America? Is this the white washing of the big diverse apple? Well maybe, but…

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… it also should be remembered that diversity does not necessarily precede actual mixing of different types of people, because cities have a structure beyond the walls and concrete that filters people into streams that you sometimes cannot even see. And in certain cities, at certain times, many people may well only actually mix with anyone outside of the demographic they grew up with on the street, or in shops, or (maybe) at work. This is probably less true now in American cities, but in the times of Seinfeld it is not at all unlikely that 4 young Jewish Americans from privileged background would be able to spend their lives in each others lives and in few other types of people. People are segregated into many streams as is shown by how advertisers will target specific of streams with apparent ease by putting themselves in certain physical, social and cultural spaces which they know are the cultural property of certain groups. You can reach out to students (http://www.campussolutionsinc.com) you can reach out specifically to any type of person. Cities should be built to destroy these streams, to turn us into a free flowing free mixing river. That’s the way to do it.

Participatory Co-Construction

Co-constructing is the process by which governmental housing organisations and tenants  of the area work together, both financially and creatively, to construct housing. This involves recognising that people know things about how they want to live, where they want to live, and how to find solutions to the issues surrounding housing in their area. This involves being able to relate and communicate outside of the industries that normally take control of these operations. This is what this involves, this and much more. How much much more? Well, much much more.

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More. That is what we are looking for here. More than what has been built and done before. More than the crap that people have been forced into before. More than housing that was poorly thought through, poorly built, and poorly explained. More than repeating the mistakes and excuses of the past. More than dull. More than drab. More than uninspired, uninspiring, unthoughtful, un-hopeful, careless bullshit. More than that.

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Many furniture producers now sell their furniture in all its composite parts (i.e http://www.finsahome.co.uk/) what does this mean? It means we can simply gather parts and people can construct the kitchen they want! People can have creative involvement in creating the spaces in which they are going to live eventually. This means they can choose, they can create, the can decide, they can do. And they can do the things that will make their lives easier and better. They can do this, if only they are given the opportunity. But we really involve the people who are actually going to be inhabiting the places we design. People devote their professional lives to trying to figure out what people might want. What will they want? How do they live? What is it like to be them? What it is that like? Well, that’s hard to figure out, maybe ask them. Maybe, erm, ask them. MAYBE, ERM, ASK THEM.

Welcome To Urban Design Renovation

Hello and welcome to my fine website. My name is Christov Kudaluchek and I hold urban design in high esteem. It is a worthy and important endeavour to study this topic this I believe very much. I have lived a long and interesting life in many different countries and under many different rulers and types of rule. I have seen all types of cities made in all types of ways for all types of people for all types of reasons. Cities can be oppressive, they can be liberating, they can hide and they can expose, they can be the most human but the least humane. They are a wonderful pile of human conflict and contradiction and creativity. They are an attack and a defeat. They are all of everything and I am fascinated by how they come to be.

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On this site I will discuss just that. Enjoy…