Saturday, 9 March 2019

Tall stories and tall storeys!

I think I have ranted before about the increasing number of very, very tall buildings that are going up in central Manchester, dwarfing the older buildings. Now, I know that some people do not consider Manchester a place of great architectural splendour but it has always struck me as having a quiet elegance all its own. And that older elegance, of all the big cities, should be treasured.

In New York they are concerned about new extremely tall buildings casting long shadows over Central Park. There the new buildings can be extra tall because contractors can buy the “airspace” above neighbouring smaller buildings and add it to their own.

Curious and devious ways of getting around by-laws.

If I have mentioned that in previous posts, I apologise form the repetition.

Travelling through London on the train to Gatwick recently, I was struck by the number of tall buildings there. Of course, London is the capital. You would expect it to have more tall buildings, but even so it seems a little excessive to me. And I read here that a record 76 tall buildings are due to be completed this year, three times more than last year!

Here’s an interesting bit of statistics and info about names of buildings:

“At the moment, London has 360 tall buildings. The tallest office tower rising in the City of London is 22 Bishopsgate – known as Twentytwo. It was started in 2008 during the financial crisis and nicknamed the Pinnacle and later the Stump after work stalled. “

And now I read that building work in Athens is aiming so high that it will obstruct views of the Acropolis. One report says that  “Unlike other major European metropolises, Athens escaped the phenomenon of the high-rise precisely because of the fear that multi-storey blocks would overshadow the capital’s greatest showpiece. As a result only one, a 28-storey bloc known as the Athens Tower, was constructed under the curatorship of Greece’s then-military dictatorship in the 1970s.”

Clearly, however, things have changed since then and building permits have been granted. But as people watched a posh new hotel going up and realised how tall it was planned to be protests began and permits have now been suspended. Greece’s culture minister, Myrsini Zorba, acknowledged the protests had to be taken into account. “A view is a cultural good and in no circumstance can it be turned into a privilege for the few. We ought to be responsive to the protest of civil society so that rule of law and a sense of justice are upheld.”

Protests are registered from international quarters as well. After all, some places are not just national heritage but world heritage.

Looking around Vigo, we see building work taking place again. Some tall buildings are going up here too. If they are intended to be residences rather than offices, I ask myself how many of them will remain empty, like the block a little further along our street, completed the summer before last and still showing no sign of occupation.

I have often wondered about the smaller buildings that remain in the “valleys” between streets of high rise flats. Do the people who live there feel overshadowed, or just overwhelmed? Mostly they seem to continue to grow their vegetables and keep their place in good order.

Wasn’t it Voltaire who advised, “Il faut cultiver notre jardin”?

The trouble is that if the surrounding building grow altogether too tall, it may become too dark to cultivate any kind of garden.

And then there are the places with optimistic names like “Vista del Mar”, “Buena Vista”, “Mirador”, almost certainly given those names when they did look put towards the bay. Now they only look towards other blocks of flats!

We feel quite privileged to have a seventh floor flat with a view of the bay!

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