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New twist on tower block design

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Experimental practice Luz Vargas Architects has produced its solution for affordable housing - a tower block design that offers an alternative to the 'scourge' of the low-to-medium-rise blocks currently blighting our cities.

London-based Spanish architect Luz Vargas said 'Grasping the Void' aims to move beyond the careless Corbusier copies that have dominated tower design since the '30s.

'Take a look at the average tower block from a distance, ' she said. 'Whether it is a solid from ground level up or lifted with space underneath, it looks flat, almost two dimensional. The square shape of the building appears flat because it is framed by blank and uninspired squares of empty sky.

'Typically, its ground floor areas are wasted and uninviting and there is a sense that the building, despite its bulk, does not relate or give context to the ground on which it stands, the air around it or the people who occupy it.'

Vargas' solution is a winding, twisting, curvaceous structure that 'embraces' the voids between buildings and incorporates them into the design. A dynamic structure and plan form provides private, individual environments and a combination of public and semi-public communal living space for occupants within the skin of the building. The building wraps and winds itself around the void which acts as a visual and social focus for the community. Each block of 10 flats can be built as a stand-alone structure or part of a series of buildings. Materials include steel for the principal structural skeleton, prefabricated timber ribs and pre-cast, pre-stressed concrete floor slabs.

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