As the UK becomes more densely populated we will have to make a choice. Dig up more countryside to build houses, or build more high-rise apartments.
Though most city dwellers think high-rises are great, high-rises have generally gained a bad rep in towns. High-rises may have started out as a symbol of futuristic town living, but as a townie, I can tell you that they are seen as anything but now.
To make a sweeping statement, to a Brit, “a man’s home is his castle”. It is a private space that he can take full ownership of and put his own unique stamp on. If we look instead at the traditional high-rise, this couldn’t be more different. Sure you can decorate your inside space as uniquely as you want, but essentially, to everyone looking in your flat is always going to be an indistinguishable part of a bigger whole.
What I am trying to say is that the high-rise as we know it lacks many of the things that make a “proper house”. Sheds, wacky water features, giant palm trees in tiny gardens, fancy cars on the drive, gnomes, veg plots. These are the things that give a place character. These are the things that give us a sense of individuality and pride. A house isn’t just a place to sleep, it’s a blank canvas that lets us show people who we are. A house is identity.
So I think its time to say goodbye to traditional high-rise design. What we need now are homes in the sky. We don’t need one shape and size of flat within a high-rise, we need many. We don’t need fixed and formless exteriors, we need hanging gardens and veg plots 50 meters off the ground. We don’t just need cost effective and efficient places to sleep, we need buildings of character that allows us to visibly express who we are both inside and out.
But what else can we do to make the high-rise feel like a desirable and “proper home”? Well, if you troll through the work of environmental psychologists they will tell you that the two things that always seem to make us happy are plants and water. However we manage to do it, one thing is certain, if we are going to switch to living in the sky, we better find a way to bring our wacky water features and gardens with us.
To end on a positive note, of all the high-rise designs I have seen, the Bosco Verticale high-rise in Milan standouts out to me as the best illustration of what I have been talking about. With different shaped apartments and planted forest gardens towering up all sides, it is as beautiful as it is full of identity. With a generation of young people like me desperate to avoid the rent trap, there is a prime market for high-rise investors in towns. So, to all investors reading this I say one thing, stop building flats and start building homes in the sky.