The future is up: the case for tall buildings

Earlier this year, I overheard a discussion between two people regarding the proposed Peninsula Place development in the Royal Borough of Greenwich and caught one comment “that’s far too high, that’s not what we need.”

You see, the Peninsula Palace development is a proposal for a £1billion, 30 storey glass skyscraper in the Royal Borough of Greenwich. The suggested proposals include 800 apartments of which at least 200 would be designated affordable, 300,000 sq ft of offices, 80 shops, restaurants and bars, a cinema, performance venue and a 500 room hotel. Homes, shops, offices and social space – a possible answer for a growing need in London.

It dawned on me that we have come to demonise tall buildings regardless of the significant benefits they may offer. They are the enemy that citizens battle against, the dwarfing soulless towers that create an eyesore in our communities, that will obscure our view or darken our perfect afternoon sunlight.  However, with the ever-growing population of London, the lack of space, jobs and homes, and the need to be a world competitor, we must think big, or rather tall, if we want to provide innovative and effective solutions.

In the past, tall developments were dark and dingy, and were often hot spots for crime. These developments were ill-thought-out and poorly designed, often had little to no input from surrounding neighbours and were not scrutinised efficiently by local authorities. However, perceptions have changed and towers are now associated more with luxury flats than ugly brown buildings. Any responsible local authority will expect developers to provide long term, attractive and sustainable designs that add to the surrounding area.

Secondly, we are living in an ever more global era, and we must be able to compete with our neighbours to sustain our relevance. This is clear from Canary Wharf, without which we would be devoid of the iconic skyline which complements our position as a global financial centre. We need to provide space for growing SMEs and room for big corporations to grow further.

Thirdly, taller buildings can bring communities closer together. Most large developments will be required to supply communal and open spaces for the communities they foster. From shared gardens to play areas, cafes to shops, there will always be a spot to meet with neighbours and other members of the community.

And lastly, meeting our need without sacrificing our space. An option often hinted at by government and developers has been to realign and build on green belt land. Whilst I understand why others may feel there is a necessity to do so, the preservation of our parks and green space should not be sacrificed due to our fear of the unknown.

I’m not suggesting we have a Burj Khalifa on every corner, as beautiful as it may be. What I am suggesting is that we think upwards in the future; we recognise the need for more homes and more jobs and community hubs to match the ever-growing population in London, and we build accordingly. It is imperative that architects provide extraordinary long term sustainable designs, developers consult with the wider public to ensure they match the needs of local communities, and we, the public, approach them with open minds.

This article was written by Mabel Ogundayo, Senior Account Executive.

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