I have often noticed, from photographs, that Sydney’s urban landscape looks all the better for the way in which high buildings are clustered in the central business district. If you took the tall buildings in the above photograph and distributed them evenly across the urban landscape, which is rather what London has done with its tall buildings, then you would get an effect like a suburban cemetery but on a larger scale. Or you could compare it to the mouth of a poor old tired horse with large gaps between the rotting teeth.
I think cities should group tall buildings with a view to creating scenic effects and beautifully dramatic skylines. One way of doing this is by drawing roofscape contour plans, in a similar manner to landform contour plans. One could say that it costs no more to group the buildings beautifully than to group them haphazardly, but the grouping would impact on the wishes and desires of individual landowners. So is the idea totally unbusinesslike and unrealistic? Or is it something that cities will need to do in a world when they are competing with each other to become destinations for businesses and tourists and residents?
Patrick Abercrombie drew some interesting diagrams so show the urban morphological choices which, in theory, face urban designers. Underneath his diagrams you can see my idea of what urban roofscape contours might look like – and would look like if someone applied the idea of roofscape mapping to Sydney’s central business district.