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Boris rejects Prince's 'mid-rise' plea

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Boris Johnson has rejected Prince Charles’s call for a ‘mid-rise’ building boom to help solve London’s housing crisis

Speaking to the Evening Standard, the London Mayor said it would be ‘absolutely crazy’ to rule out building residential towers in favour of the five to eight storey revolution favoured by the Prince (AJ 27.03.14).

In the Prince’s Foundatin report, Housing London: a mid-rise solution, the charity called for ‘human-scaled streets, squares and parks’ to help house a generation it said was in danger of being priced out of the capital.

But speaking ahead of the launch of his own housing strategy (see today’s AJ news), Johnson said: ‘Everybody in an ideal world would like to see just loads of London terraced streets and squares but it is possible on many sites to build good, sensible high rise accommodation, beautiful homes with transport links, [it would be] absolutely crazy to rule out high rise in those cases.

‘You cannot simultaneously call for more homes for young people, which is what we need, and then attack really good higher developments.

Johnson added: ‘It would be really mad to build homes just three or four storeys high. We can do beautiful things and there is a huge demand to fill.’

Architects’ Comment:

Oliver Jackson, partner AAVA
‘It is perhaps a meaningless distraction to polarise the debate in this way – good quality site specific design will always be required tall or small. The exemplar schemes we see in the AJ are far from the norm and the quality of house building generally in this country is still depressingly poor.

‘Exclusivity is not the preserve of tall buildings, it is the lack of housing supply being the major contributing factor to soaring prices in the south east. Due to restrictions on local authority funding some planning authorities are so under staffed they are taking months to consult on pre applications and therefore planning applications can take years!

‘This is a major bottleneck in the throughput of developments. This coupled with the complete break down in any clear policy on affordable housing are major contributors to our housing crisis.’

Andrew Waugh, partner, Waugh Thistleton
‘The discussion about how we build our cities for a greener future is a vitally important one for the industry and government. There are few architects left who advocate an urban density achieved by fields of towers. A predominantly mid rise city of 8 to 15 stories brings the environmental benefits of urban density and the humanity of a more manageable scale. 

‘High rise is too often driven by vanity rather than practical concerns and the now dire need for housing in London along with a greater global responsibility for our use of materials and energy should make us look rationally at the kind of buildings we want and to create cities fit to live in.

‘In leading the profession in building in timber we have sought for and found solutions to matching the high rise ambition using replenishable materials however we have started to question why we should keep going up. Mid-rise, 8-15 storeys - these are the cities for the future, high density and low impact places to live.’

Andy von Bradsky, chairman, PRP
‘The Prince’s report is right to point out that high density does not mean high rise and mid-rise is a good solution. High density housing in 6-8 stories in many central London sites is sympathetic to the traditional urban form of London, allows for mixed tenure family accommodation, often squeezed out of high rise solutions, and is conducive to creating sustainable communities.

‘Well designed, they are popular, more saleable, easier to manage and can have lower service charges. PRP’s award winning Portobello Square project exemplifies this approach where the new development fits seamlessly into its sensitive urban context.

‘However there is no single solution to housing design in London and a range of typologies is required to accommodate its increasing housing need. High rise development for non-family accommodation can be justified over transport hubs and in central locations with good amenity and facilities.

‘There is a danger of too many high rise developments resulting in a loss of family accommodation and appropriate social housing.’


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Readers' comments (1)

  • Washington, a beautiful city, is 8 stories high. Ther is no reason to go beyond 5-8 stories. Small is beautiful. There is much greed behind high rise developers with big fees for big architecture by huge and impersonal studios.

    Eugenio Aguinaga

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