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Experts: London doesn't need more skyscrapers

Senior architects say London proposals for 250 new tower projects risks a "return to the worst excesses of 1960s planning"

NEWS, Design

Opposition to the massive rebuilding of the London skyline with the proposed construction of more than 250 new high rises is coming from father and son architect team Quinlan and Francis Terry.

The city has been transformed in recent years with structures such as Renzo Piano’s The Shard and Rafael Vinoly’s controversial “Walkie Talkie” dominating the urban landscape.

But as part of a bid for one of the most sought-after sites in the UK capital, the Terry architects have drafted a proposal for an apartment “groundscraper” on the site of the Hyde Park barracks in the style of the Paris city blocks planned by Georges Eugène Haussmann in the 19th century.

It features a stone facade and mansard roof, with the emphasis being placed on smaller scale development. Other design professionals voicing opposition to the proposed skyscrapers include Paul Murrain, an urbanist and until recently an architecture adviser to Prince Charles and Nicholas Boys Smith, former adviser to the chancellor, George Osborne.

He has set up a lobby group against the direction development is taking under the banner “Create Streets”.

Critics have identified plans for 18,000 new homes around Battersea power station, which include schemes by Frank Gehry and Foster + Partners as key examples of the trend towards building skywards.

“I think we have the hearts of ordinary people on our side every time, but not the politicians or the architects,” said Quinlan Terry.

“That is sad because we have right on our side. Steel and glass don’t produce useful buildings that last more than 25 years. We are trying to create density in a grain rather than with a tower of 20 storeys and space all around it. If you look at Rome, Paris and Milan you have that dense urban grain.”

A report by Create Streets said most people are happier, less stressed and less likely to be victims of crime in conventional streets rather than large multi-storey buildings.

It also said they we’re more socially inclusive - while Boys Smith said Britain was in danger of returning to some of the worst excesses of 1960s planning.

“London’s population is rising fast but our response, a second generation of multi-storey tower blocks, many for social housing, is not the right one,” he said.


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Feb 14, 2019