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This House would build high rises for housing
This House would build high rises for housing
High-rise housing is usually defined as a residential building with five or more stories, most of the time encountered in urban or suburban areas. Using technologically advanced construction mechanisms, high-rise housing initially emerged in the 1950s and 60s as a solution to the post-war population boom and to the increasing number of people moving into already overpopulated urban areas. Dealing both with the problem of space management and efficiency, high-rise housing, for some, epitomized the modern lifestyle and the look of the post-war city.
Depending on the cultural, political and economic environment in which it was built, high-rise housing gained significantly different images in different parts of the world. In Western Europe and parts of the USA high-rise housing is often associated with welfare projects, immigrants and the poor – with a few exceptions where renovated high-rise buildings in the city centre have been transformed into luxury apartments for the rich and single. By contrast, in Eastern Europe high-rise housing occupies the majority of the housing market. In Asia, high-rise housing rarely carries the same stigma that it often does throughout Western Europe and the USA, being associated with significantly improved living conditions despite shortcomings such as noise, many neighbours and lack of private outdoors space. While critiques of high-rise housing abound, the question remains of whether this kind of housing can be improved in order to fulfil its initial promise as the housing of the future.
|Points For||Points Against|
|High-rise housing can form the basis of wider area regeneration||High-rise housing carries a stigma, rendering them undesirable in the property market|
|High-rise housing is beneficial to urban sociability||The alternatives to high-rise housing have proven to be preferable|
|High-rise housing is more environmentally friendly than traditional forms of housing||High-rise housing fails as a housing solution for the underprivileged|
|High-rise housing is a successful solution to the problems of urban migration and urban sprawl||High-rise housing has a negative impact on family relations|
Remember to choose a winning argument!
High-rise housing can form the basis of wider area regeneration
Under-developed areas of urban environments can be reinvigorated and repopulated through the demolition of low-rise projects and their replacement with high-rise complexes. Such regenerations drive both interest and footfall into areas, fostering an economy within an economy in the area. We can learn from the mistakes that Western Europe and the US made in the past, for example by ensuring that there are job opportunities and shops located near the high-rise developments to sustain that interest and encourage residents to stay in the area. Several recent publications on high-rise housing schemes emphasize the importance of residents being there by choice as well as low child densities, but if these factors are in place, success is likely1. Turning a decrepit area into a safe, booming and high-rise neighbourhood therefore removes the eye sore of a poor, low-rise slum and replaces it with the community and activity that high-rise housing provides. This increases the happiness of residents, stimulates economic activity in the area and keeps children busy and away from harmful influences.Improve this
Regeneration requires more than just housing development, it requires sufficient interest to draw people to the area. High-rise offers no such incentive; as Danish philosopher Jan Gehl is quoted as saying , 'above the fifth floor you're not part of the earth anymore, because you can't see what's going on on the ground and the people on the ground can't see where you are'1. Though hyperbolic, the sentiment is correct, the means to draw communities together is not to separate them vertically from the area itself and each other. The most famous example is that of Pruitt-Igoe in St. Louis; built as part of the post-war regeneration, it was completed in 1956 but was demolished just fourteen years later after being beset by disrepair, vandalism and crime2. For families with children, the high-rise complex did not offer them respite from poverty or crime, but merely gathered the ingredients for it together in one place. If area regeneration is desired, what is required are steps intended to entice people into the area, not simply move them there and hope that will thereafter improve the neighbourhood. Cause and effect are misplaced.
1Davies, A. (2010, April 12). Banging the high rise drum. Retrieved June 14, 2011, from The Melbourne Urbanist:
2Von Hoffman, A. Why they built the Pruitt-Igoe Project. Retrieved July 5, 2011, from Harvard University
High-rise housing is beneficial to urban sociability
Urban sociability can be promoted by high-rise housing that encourages chance meetings with neighbours through the sharing of mutual facilities, often in social settings. As such, they offer a distinct contrast with increasingly anti-social modern societies. Architect Lawrence Nield argues ‘in modern cities…one leaves home in an air-conditioned car, arrives in the parking space beneath the office, and then goes by elevator to the office floor. There is very little chance for deliberate or accidental contact. There is little urban sociability’ 1. A high-rise complex, in contrast, according to architect Carl Fender, ‘occupies very little land, so you get a lot of people…closer in to the facilities such as theatre, reception, gardens…and you have safety and amenity’1. Socializing is implicitly encouraged in order to offset the disadvantages of those shared spaces, the peace and serenity of a private garden in a residential house is offset by the social atmosphere of shared facilities.Improve this
Urban sociability is driven by our characters, not choice of housing. The nature of life in an urban environment is that there are people everywhere; if we is not social elsewhere in an urban environment, it is unlikely the omnipresence of people or festivities in a high-rise complex will encourage us to be more social. As Allan Davies points out, there is a misconception that 'merely being exposed to strangers and neighbours is an important determinant of the quality of depth of human interaction' 1. Urban sociability may be affected by proximity to others, but it is undoubtedly ultimately driven by 'the richness of interactions not on something as trite as how many people are seen in the street' (Davies, 2010). Generally speaking, as architect Philip Goad describes 'living in a tall building might be just the same as being anonymous in the suburbs, you can choose to be anonymous or you can choose to be part of a community'2.Improve this
High-rise housing is more environmentally friendly than traditional forms of housing
It can be more environmentally friendly as it can save a lot of space and energy, much cheaper to build than independent homes and in many ways easier to manage than the chaotic buildings and complex infrastructure, or lack thereof, that currently exists in slums and favelas. As developed Lorenz Grollo has stated there is a 'better, greener outcome when you get a bigger mass on the one footprint'1. The motivation for higher population densities also derives from a reduced need to travel which would in turn lower energy consumption and pollution2.
1Dobbin, M., & Cooke, D. (2010, March 16). High-rise push to halt urban sprawl. Retrieved June 14, 2011, from The Age:
2Kunze, J. (2005, September 15). Page 13, The revival of high-rise living in the UK and issues of cost and revenue in relation to height. Retrieved June 20, 2011, from University College London
High-rise housing is not more environmentally friendly than traditional low-rise housing. High-rise buildings 'tend to be less environmentally efficient than low-rises'1, particularly in Asian environments where the use of air-conditioning units leads to mass energy consumption2. Residents are prone to relax in collective environments whereby they feel the load is being shared and their excesses might be offset by another's sensibilities. The personal onus on each individual to act responsibly to protect the environment is lost in such a communal setting.
1Dobbin, M., & Cooke, D. (2010, March 16). High-rise push to halt urban sprawl. Retrieved June 14, 2011, from The Age
2Niu, J. (2003, March 31). Page 1259: Some significant environmental issues in high-rise residential building design in urban areas. Energy and Environment of Residential Buildings in China , 1259-1263.
High-rise housing is a successful solution to the problems of urban migration and urban sprawl
High-rise housing is a successful housing solution when faced with the problem of population growth and urban migration. Urban migration, whereby populations flock to urban centres looking for work, leaves cities short on affordable housing, transport links and can either lead to inner-city poverty or urban sprawl. High-rise housing offers solutions to both problems by maximising the number of people that can live on a scarce, fixed amount of available land. In London, where transport and affordable housing are major problems, 'new tower blocks offer a way of alleviating both problems'1. In contrast, Melbourne, where the population is expected to rise by 3 million people by 2050, 'better use of available city land has been identified as a key to maintaining Melbourne's liveability, and halting urban sprawl'2.
1Society Guardian. (2002, January 2). Ups and downs of high-rise living. Retrieved June 20, 2011, from Guardian
2Dobbin, M., & Cooke, D. (2010, March 16). High-rise push to halt urban sprawl. Retrieved June 14, 2011, from The Age
Solving the arithmetical problem – housing a large number of people in a small space – does not constitute a successful solution. Quality of life is the key. High-rise housing does not solve the problems of urban migration and urban sprawl. In fact, in many cases, it appears to have exacerbated the problems for the cities involved. In the wake of World War II, a ‘mass, system-built production of housing’ produced a large quantity of housing that undoubtedly solved the problem of affordable housing but did little concerning the quality of life within them1. Hartliffe estate in Bristol, despite state-of-the-art security systems, had the highest crime rate of those studied in a recent study, demonstrating the inherent disadvantages of high-rise living even with improvements designed to curb crime1. To successfully solve the problems of urban migration specifically, migrants need more than just to be funnelled into projects that inevitably breed poverty and crime.Improve this
High-rise housing carries a stigma, rendering them undesirable in the property market
Because high-rise housing is so often associated with unsuccessful welfare programs, leading to a higher concentration of the poor, and certain immigrants groups in particular areas, it will always carry a stigma. Disconnecting this type of housing from this negative image has proven difficult even in places where there was a will and funding was available, such as the Netherlands or the UK. Despite name changes, renovations and even privatization or semi-privatization schemes, very few high-rise complexes managed to change their negative connotation and include a more diverse population among its tenants. While a few centrally located high-rise apartments have been successfully re-branded, the majority remain less desirable alternatives for those who could not afford more.Improve this
The stigma of high-rise housing has often had little to do with the living conditions within this type of housing: historically, there have always been areas, neighbourhoods and building types associated with poorer populations, and this is unlikely to change, at least in the near future. The concentration of poor and immigrant populations in high-rise housing is not necessarily a reflection of the inefficiency or negative social impact of this type of building, but rather a reflection of larger social problems such as inequality and discrimination, which will continue to be an issue independent of the existence of high-rise housing or not. Addressing these larger social problems with mechanisms other than housing subsidies alone, along with anti-discrimination campaigns, might help to improve the negative image that high-rise housing has earned in certain parts of the world.Improve this
The alternatives to high-rise housing have proven to be preferable
The world should slowly move towards safer housing alternatives that have proven to be preferable over time: single family homes or smaller building units that allow for more privacy, creativity and individual freedom. These units have traditionally proven to be the safest, cleanest, and certainly the most aesthetically pleasing housing alternatives. Building more high-rise housing will only deepen current problems and possible exacerbate them in the future. As the world is expanding and much of the developing world and transitioning economies are looking for development models (including housing models) one needs to be careful which models are promoted, for if high-rise housing is introduced as a solution to slums and favelas, then we may see the problems with which Western Europe and the US is dealing with now, multiplied and deepened by an even more challenging, discriminating and unforgiving social environment.Improve this
Even if in specific instances high-rise housing has been usurped, such instances are specific in location. In Asia, for example, there are few conceivable alternatives to high-rise housing. As such, the world has never had a single model of housing as the housing needs will always be very different, depending on topography, population, and land.
Again, solutions need to be considered on a case by case basis, and in some cases high-rise housing may be a better solution than favelas, for there are many advantages to it if done properly. Similarly, high-rise housing can be more efficient when it comes to offering a relatively quick solution for people that do not have a roof over their head. What is better in the long-term is not always what is possible or even prudent in the short-term.Improve this
High-rise housing fails as a housing solution for the underprivileged
High-rise housing is often connected to unsuccessful welfare and social programs. Governments have used it as a housing solution for under-privileged groups that could only afford subsidized housing under special leasing or rent contracts. This use of high-rise housing unfortunately served to concentrate poverty and other problems often related to poverty, such as crime and drug use, in particular areas. This in turn has significantly affected the housing market by creating so called 'bad' neighbourhoods vs. 'safe' neighbourhoods, affecting everything from property pricing to local investments, employment opportunities and population makeup. According to the Guardian newspaper (UK), 'tower blocks are only really popular when they are located in fashionable areas', rather than those located in underdeveloped areas and filled with families 'against their will'1. We can safely say that the majority of these welfare programs have proven to be disastrous or inefficient at best, begging for a different solution: privatization, demolition or refurbishment.Improve this
High-rise housing cannot be said to fail as a housing solution when the alternative is no housing solution at all. High-rise housing provides a means to take underprivileged people off the street, or out of overcrowded homes and granted space of their own.
Though welfare programs can admittedly breed dependency, and reform is necessary to prevent such programs encouraging a turn to crime and drug use, this does not mean that high-rise housing does not provide an effective solution to homelessness.Improve this
High-rise housing has a negative impact on family relations
High-rise housing has a deep negative social impact both at the collective and the individual level. By limiting living space and access to outdoors private areas that have traditionally played an important role in supporting large families, high-rise housing encourages smaller, nuclear and single-parents families, breaking down traditional connections. It also has a deep impact on the individual by putting intense pressure on him/her to compromise, deal with noise, small spaces and lack of privacy. High-rise housing is also not ideal for children and families, breeding conflict, little investment in public spaces, few safe playing grounds and creating spaces that often isolate the individual affecting his/her emotional growth and ability to communicate and relate to others1. In Toronto, where a sprawling metropolis has led to a lack of low-rise homes, families are having to turn reluctantly to apartments. As an expert on the Toronto housing market notes, 'high-rise condo units tend not to be very efficient for two parents and multiple children'2. Children need room to run around and stretch their legs; parents need an escape from their children. High-rise living prevents this, and inevitably drives stress levels up.
1Society Guardian. (2002, January 2). Ups and downs of high-rise living. Retrieved June 20, 2011, from Guardian
2Van de Ven, L. (2011, June 30). Market News: High-rises outpace houses. Retrieved July 5, 2011 from Market News
Social solidarity, at the level of the collective as well as the individual, is meant to change. Social relations have historically changed over time, and the nuclear family emerged before high-rise housing even existed. With or without high-rise housing the tendency to move towards the nuclear family would have probably been the same. As for the negative impact that high-rise housing has on the individual, pressure, noise and less access to private spaces are the reality of modern living. Because the modern individual is more used to being assaulted by different kinds of stimuli from an early age, psychologically speaking, he/she is also a lot more adapt at dealing with the pressures at hand or taking them as unavoidable inconveniences. As noted by a study in Sydney, 'young Australians are just as happy living in and buying apartments as they are houses'1. This in part due to the fact the private space lost by high-rise living is more than made up by the collective space gained by families1. As such, though families are forced to live closer together, they have more collective space, whether it be parks and facilities, close-by in which to separate and find their own space.Improve this
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