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Why London must dwell on its tall building policy

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The AJ is on the ball in its coverage of important debates enlivening the social/architectural scene (AJ 5 and12.7.01).

In a star-studded cast, Hellman, as always, hits the nail on the head with his wonderful 'near-the-knuckle' comment on tall buildings, and the dilemma they pose (at least for mayor Ken). He highlights delightfully and succinctly the preocccupation of some architects - almost always male - with size (and shape) as a demonstration of virility (no doubt shared with their capitalist clients).

English Heritage is correct to 'cross swords' with the RIBA over towers. Its reasons given in Clive Walker's multi-faceted article (AJ 5.7.01) are sound.

Towers are destructive of the human psyche, both for those who work in them and, more particularly, the majority of us at street level reduced to ants scurrying along in the microclimate they induce. For housing they are an unmitigated disaster, abandoned as a solution for London by the LCC/GLC in favour of highdensity, medium- and low-rise as long ago as the mid 1960s.

In civic design terms they are disruptive, destructive of that wonderful quality it took a sensitive Danish architect to recognise, impelling him to write that evergreen classic, London, The Unique City.

Of London's two cities, Westminster is to be commended for its policy on tall buildings.

Unlike the 'Square Mile', it cherishes its heritage and, by and large, respects the sensitivity of the cityscape. In contrast, the City of London appears to succumb to the crude clamour of big business, little recognising its unmatched legacy, bequeathed by Wren onwards; a legacy attractive not only to those living and working there but also to countless visitors.

What, then, is the solution?

Let us look no further than to how our ancient enemies have protected their beautiful Paris from invasion. Crying 'Non!', they extablished La Defense outside the sensitive city.

Before it is too late, let us swallow our pride and emulate their Gallic logic and see off the monsters to Canary Wharf and beyond. But let us not forget that man is naturally an earthbound creature designed by nature to live near the ground for maximum wellbeing. Towers are not desirable for dwellings.

John Bancroft, Haywards Heath, Sussex

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