The Ruin of London – Free Ebook

it’s in the nature of cities to change all the time London has shed skins more times than a giant Python over hundreds of years but many of us who love and accept change have recently been getting very nervous indeed about what’s happening to England’s capital city London is presently in the throes of an unprecedented building boom there are four reasons for this wealthy people from the troubled or unstable bits of the world see London as a safe haven to park their money in and buy a bolt-hole property developers are itching to make some cash the Mayor of London wants to show that he’s attracting investment and tackling the housing shortage and there are significant political points to be scored for supplying a large number of housing units irrespective of whether these are luxury penthouses or places for ordinary Londoners to afford and London’s local boroughs are desperate for extra revenue to fill the holes left by the Great Recession the result is an unprecedented number of new mostly residential towers that are springing up pretty much everywhere and decimating the skyline of London turning it into a bad version of Shanghai or Dubai most of the schemes are poorly conceived inadequately designed and badly built and are being erratically scattered across the landscape destroying vistas and sight lines at every turn the new developments come in all shapes and sizes it is however the towers to find a structures of 20 stories or more that by virtue of their visibility are the biggest problem of all there are now 260 towers in the pipeline in London many of them up to 70 stories high only the sleepiest suburban boroughs are going to be left alone the most amazing aspect of all this is that the frenzy has so far gone mostly unnoticed by the general public your average Londoner is only just now beginning to wake up to the fact that soon a 40-story tower is going to be looming over his or her district walking along the Thames has become a game of spotting the latest architectural monster and remembering its moniker the perhaps no greater symbol of human idiocy and greed than the walkie-talkie which has perhaps done more than any other building to destroy central London it’s a peculiar quirk of our time that the developers responsible land securities and the Canary Wharf group together with the architect Rafael viñoly should be walking free and that our society places more energy locking up a shoplifter than a group of people who have committed a major and lasting crime against beauty much the same holds true for the near criminals responsible for the shard we’ve become so embarrassed to talk in plain language about beauty and ugliness we’ve fallen so far in love with a postmodern relativism that we just don’t dare to declare but what’s happening to London is a clear desecration London is emulating Shanghai Dubai Hong Kong and Singapore in a highly misguided search for the tallest and most fun building but architecture should when it’s going right never be fun developers defending their huge towers talk about putting London on the map about the need for new glamour and they appeal to our fears of being left behind but if avoiding becoming like Dubai is the price it should be one we’re all eminently willing to pay for the negatives don’t stop at height quantity and location the unbelievably shoddy architectural quality of most new towers their narcissistic volumetric expression their unfortunate cladding all are alien to London’s traditions while their inability to successfully meet the ground and enhance the public realm have resulted in a blight large swathe of the city so where do we go from here London does need new housing of course but there is so many alternatives to the towers the answer is fairly simple we should make London a lot denser than it already is by putting up a range of buildings that are between six and eight stories high and built out of materials that fit into their context we know how to do this it’s happened in many parts of London very successfully already we have examples that look like new versions of the old terraces of Islington or Chelsea but for this to happen the following needs to be in place firstly architects should remember that like doctors they have a duty to the public good whatever cash property developers tempt them with then the mayor’s office needs to realize that the creation of beauty is a vital economic imperative and that future generations will damned them for what they are doing currently and lastly planning departments should gird themselves to be firmer with vested financial interests and stand up for all Londoners because of some very silly decisions being taken by people who aren’t really evil but merely aren’t thinking straight London is on the verge of being ruined for the next 300 years it’s almost too late but not quite if we can turn outrage into action this is a start you

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