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Skyline: AJ delivers five key recommendations to Boris Johnson

The AJ this week submitted five detailed recommendations to London mayor Boris Johnson as the Skyline campaign moved into a new phase

The campaign has sparked an impassioned debate in the national media since being launched by the AJ and the Observer newspaper in March.

The AJ has published a series of features by tall building experts discussing how London’s planning system could be reformed to ensure the hundreds of proposed buildings over 20 storeys tall in the capital are built to the highest standards and in appropriate locations.

Out of this have come five recommendations, which on Tuesday were submitted to the mayor and the inquiry into ‘Tall buildings and London’s skyline’ being held by the London Assembly’s planning committee.

The recommendations

  • Introduce a presumption against tall buildings
  • Order a review of all tall building policies
  • Produce more detailed masterplanning for opportunity areas
  • Fund a 3D computer model of London’s emerging skyline
  • Establish a skyline commission

But the mayor has suggested that architects’ criticism of London’s emerging skyline is motivated by their ‘embarrassment’ over their own tall buildings.

Questioned by Labour member and chair of the planning committee Nicky Gavron last month, he told the London Assembly: ‘I notice there is a group of people in the newspapers who write these portentous articles and they always have some architect who joins in the criticism

‘That architect will always be someone who is the father or mother, normally the father, of some prodigiously enormous building that they themselves are personally a little bit embarrassed by. What they do is divert attention and criticism from that building by attacking all the other ones.’

However, the thrust of the campaign was backed this week by expert international group the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat.

A council spokesman told the AJ: ‘In general, the goals of the Skyline campaign and those of the council are aligned. We support a rational approach to designing tall buildings that are close to public transport, harmonious with their surroundings and yet distinctive.’

Referring to the situation in London, he added: ‘There seems to be a lack of metro-wide guideline consistency, such that some districts have very good tall buildings and some do not.’

Readers' comments (6)

  • Planners should also be obliged to consider the effect of wind on high rises, not on each building individually, as now, but on its relation with its neighbours. Currently there is no study of the effect of high clusters, much to the detriment of poor ordinary mortals who have to inhabit the earth around them.

    Pauline Gaunt

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  • Debate is of course important and ultimately will be beneficial. The AJ is taking up a lot of copy on this issue and although the recommendations are interesting I cant help by wonder who is best placed to give expert views on this issue. The issue is not as simple as height, density etc. - its not just an architectural or planning issue, its one of society, psychology and base human needs. There is a chronic housing shortage, there are limited models of providing space for new homes, I hear NO to highrise and NO to building on green belt, we cant all keep saying no to everything so lets find out what the best way of doing things are, at a human level, before rejecting ideas. Where is the sociological research? Too many opinions, not enough science?

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  • Interesting comment Chris and you're right to say this is a complicated issue and that London's housing need is extremely pressing. On the other hand, AJ is the leading weekly for architects so it's absolutely right and proper we come at this from that standpoint including looking at alternative high-density forms of residential development. Getting into sociological or scientifc research may well be part of the answer but that isn't what we could or should contribute.
    Will Hurst,
    Acting Deputy Editor
    AJ

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  • Quoting Prof John Page - "However, in my design world which is dominated by solar radiation logic, I view sky scrapers as the daylight stealers of contemporary urbanism. "

    These is a lengthy but rather one sided CIBSE debate over at :-
    -
    http://www.linkedin.com/groups/Thinking-outside-box-thinking-beyond-75555.S.5846153958170587140

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  • So, another round of London stuff then. Maybe somebody could add some skyline related CPD to the CPD portal. After all it looks like nothing has been added for over a year.

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  • Dr Julie Futcher - architect
    Not all tall buildings are bad - in fact in the right place they can be extremely useful, but more often than not they cause more problems than they solve; We are trying to get the effects of tall buildings on the surrounding setting to be considered - but this is proving hard work, as many dismiss the outcomes of tall buildings on the environment as limited and issues around energy management can be resolved through the application of technology.. Tall buildings have a significant and direct impact on their surroundings – we are trying to open the debate to include these interdependent energy/thermal relationships…

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