Relationships of Buildings in the City
I have the CBeebies’ ‘Furchester Hotel’ kiddies programme for starting a few thoughts going here. This is one of the favourite programmes of my two grandchildren who seem somewhat infatuated with the going on in this children’s’ ‘Fawlty Towers’. The programme starts with a cartoon scene of a fictitious city pedestrian concourse in which a sprawling highly colourful low rise Disney-like hotel sits, cheek by jowl, between a pair of plain grey mega high-rise office buildings. My reaction as a planner to the scene, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, was “that looks awful – it wouldn’t be allowed in real life!”
In truth though, the scene is replicated in many a large city where enormous buildings, sometimes of award winning architectural grandeur are placed alongside buildings of merit from yesteryear that tend to become like mere dwarfs to their newer neighbours. Somehow relative scale or appearance in the street scene doesn’t seem to matter.
One of the points that was drummed into planners when considering their responsibilities as ‘architects of the city environment’ was to try and ensure that buildings in the street scene related satisfactorily. Whilst, obviously, they might well differ one from another, the end result was to be a scene of some visual satisfaction that respected relative scale and heritage and brought about an enhancement and harmony to the environment.
So here’s the conundrum. In your enthusiasm to make sure your city ticks the boxes of greatness as a world or national leader you might be offered a mega development of breath-taking height, bulk and architectural quality, which will incorporate all the ‘must have’ features and facilities that the city fathers have only ever dreamt of. The development, however, would be sited on a vacant site within a historic part of the city that is characterised by a unique neighbourhood of older low rise conserved buildings that ooze quality. So how would you address the conundrum, if conundrum there is?