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editorial letters

Nicholas Grimshaw 's proposal for a 42-storey tower at Paddington Station appears to be a text-book example of the genre. It embodies Corbusier 's edict that land displaced by buildings should be replaced with gardens on the roof, and its scale seems appropriate to an urban landscape dominated by the gutsy scale of the nearby canal and railway lines. Tall buildings and major transport networks work well together in practical as well as aesthetic terms. Densely populated buildings need efficient public transport, and it should be possible for public transport to benefit from the profits generated by high-density buildings. In the light of Ken Livingstone's commitment to investment in public transport, perhaps the time has come to consider a skyscraper tax as a means of generating a GLA-administered public transport fund.

Far from discouraging tall buildings, the tax should be a means of encouraging a more enlightened attitude towards their use. The scarcity of tall buildings in the UK is not a symptom of the fact that people cannot afford to build them, but a result of prohibitive planning policies and a general public hostility to towers. Skyscrapers are perceived as a 'selfish' building type - self-referential, and guilty of creating lifeless unloved urban chasms. The much-derided 'object-building' is an inevitable result of a system where tower blocks tend to be commissioned by corporate entities motivated by a blinkered desire to build as densely and as prominently as possible on their own patch of land. If forced to invest in the land immediately around their buildings, developers would begin to give it more careful consideration.By relating the amount of the tax to the number of storeys in the building it should be possible to bring about a simple and easily comprehensible equation: the taller the building, the greater the investment at ground level. And once skyscrapers and transport investment are truly interdependent, tall buildings would start to be seen as a symbol of urban renewal.

After all, when Corbusier produced his blueprint for the Vertical Garden City, it was as a means of unifying the buildings, transport and landscape. The nature and status of the land between tower blocks was as crucial to his vision as the towers themselves.

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