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LEVELLING THE HIGH-RISE

A portfolio and research report on readdressing the inequalities of social housing.

The place where you live can change the way you behave and whilst architects strive for the utopia of modern high rise living, the reality for many of the residents is a dystopia of poverty and social division.


What does high rise architecture say about social structure, class and wealth inequality in inner city housing and how can this be readdressed to reduce social segregation and isolation? It is vital that inner city living is inclusively designed to consider the needs of all demographics within communities.

 

The topic of this investigation focuses on the inequalities of social housing and in particular the architectural designs of high-rise builds in inner cities and how this has the potential for contributing to violence and social discord. I will examine what architecture says about social structure, class and wealth inequality in inner city housing and how can this be readdressed to reduce social segregation and isolation. “A new architecture can transform the moral and sentimental lives of human beings”. I will explore this premise further with how architecture has the power to change people’s life’s both for the better and for worse.  


The main area of interest is how urban planners striving for a vision of utopia have inadvertently created a dystopia for residents by disregarding the inhabitant’s health, wellbeing and living requirements resulting in anti-social behaviour.


My research and studio practice relate to theoretical studies on the inequalities of social housing. In particular, Jane Jacobs book ‘The Death and Life of Great American Cities’ which examines the flaws in urban renewal and the deconstruction of potentially healthy cities through urban planning. I also studied the novel ‘High Rise’ by JG Ballard which depicts the moral decent of residents living in a fictional forty storey tower block.

The relation of my project to this research is the consideration of emotional reactions of urban dwellers when designing inner-city housing. My research hypothesises that architecture impacts on social structure, class and wealth inequality in inner cities. 


The objective was to identify what creates social and economic division in inner city housing and if town planners and architects contribute to this inequality. Examining high rise living, my research explores the architectural intentions and the reality for residents. My proposal to level the high-rise is to redesign JG Ballard’s fictional forty-storey ‘High Rise’ to negate the oppression for the people inside and create a new way of living that connects not only the physical floor levels but also the human diversity of our society. 

 
 

PLANS AND SECTIONS

Final Design

 

RESIDENTIAL FLOOR

Floor 11

Jacobs rationalises that the high cost of occupying new builds limits diversity as only high turnover enterprises such as chain stores can afford the rent. More eclectic businesses such as local pubs and independent shops tend to use older buildings. I have considered this rather than the variance of old and new buildings as the provision of mixed private and social housing on each floor which will accommodate different incomes and be more inclusive.

EXPLODED AXONOMETRIC

 
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RESIDENTIAL SPACE 13TH FLOOR

2 bed, 3 bed and 4 bed flats

   

   

PUBLIC SPACE - 12TH FLOOR

Small Grocery Store, Swimming Pool, Spa, Bar, Cafe

   

   

PUBLIC SPACE - FLOOR 11

Main Grocery Store, Green Space, Restaurants, Bars, Cafe

   

   

PUBLIC SPACE

 
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PUBLIC SPACE

Floor 11

Green Space, Bar, Cafe, Restaurant, Grocery Store

 
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PUBLIC SPACE

Floor 12

Smaller Grocery Store, Spa, Swimming Pool, Walkway

 
 
 
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RESIDENTIAL SPACE

Floor 13

Private Housing and Social Housing. 

 
 
 

The significance of this research was to establish the elements of architectural and interior design in high rise buildings that contribute to and cause social division and crime.  This enabled me to level the high-rise and redesign this fictional building to negate the oppression for the people inside and create a new way of living that connects not only the physical floor levels but also the human diversity of our society.  My research contributes to the field by mapping the physical structures and layout of an example of post war Brutalist architecture and identify specific areas that contributed to the failure of the design and present how this can be improved and redesigned  to ensure that inner city living is inclusively designed to consider the needs of all demographics within communities.


It would be arrogant to assume that architecture alone can solve the inequalities of inner-city housing as other socioeconomic aspects must be taken into consideration. However, we must acknowledge that architecture can contribute to inequality and given that association we can hypothesise it can play its part in reversing the disparities. The privatisation of London’s council towers and the decantation of the original tenants to make way for people who can afford the inflated price is discriminatory and unfair gentrification. Modified buildings are not the answer to inequality without a national housing strategy that encourages the inclusion of affordable rental accommodation within any development. 

Unless considerations for the whole community are put before the property portfolios of a few our cities will stagnate under the self-interest of capital investment and profit. Architects and Designers have the tools to develop opportunities for communities to live together.  It is policy makers and politicians that need to start reading the research and be presented with new concepts to enable them to vision a better way. 

 

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