Context: Skyrise, highrise and surprise

gold-coast-skyrise-q11Increasingly there is a trend towards the design of skyrise buildings in the inevitable push skywards which is the fascination of architects [and city fathers] worldwide: why? Because we can.

Beyond the temptations of exploiting the limits of technological possibility are a number of very real concerns about context which architects should be mindful of.

Each building contributes to the visual amenity and character of the urban fabric….and in the case of cities, located as Surfers Paradise, is on the edge of a spectacular coastline….to the landscape setting and ecology.

Each building’s context is unique. So there are no hard and fast principles applicable in all circumstances. [Truly great designers delight in confounding principles…so with some risk I say] Some general principles do apply in relation to the general impact of the height of a building on its context.

For example, a generous open landscape setting such as is present on the Gold Coast in Australia, visually permits a correspondingly generous height of built form. And a predominantly vertical city fabric is little impacted by an additional vertical built form – even if it breaks the previous skyline limits. However, this is only to say something of the visual impact of such developments. And of course there are many other considerations, not least being the impact of shadows etc on the useability of both the surrounding buildings and the surrounding streetscape and landscape.


11 thoughts on “Context: Skyrise, highrise and surprise

  1. Tom Turner

    Heck. It looks like Le Corbusier’s Plan Voisin, except that the ground level space looks as though it is being intensively and sensibly used, for tennis and swimming, instead of being designed as rolling parkland. But where is the car parking? – underground? Or are the buildings hotels? I can see that people want to have a good view and to be near the sea, but surely there is a more environmentally appropriate way of providing the accommodation. Maybe they just wanted to build an Aussie Miami.

  2. Christine

    The city is not so regular in layout as Plan Voisin. The carparking as you rightly guess is either underground or below podium level at the rear of the building. Most of the buildings you are looking at are residential apartment blocks – a sizeable number of which would be holiday apartments. [ ]Some are hotels..

    Also as you rightly guess the views are spectacular…and are often another way of whale watching…

    Access to the beach with its famous surf is a big attraction. As is the holiday atmosphere, great weather, street life and nightlife. The city is also an international yachting and cruising destination.

    The whole patterning, construction, location and form undoubtably have environmental costs. So, yes, I imagine there is much scope for improvement.

    Surfers Paradise does have similarities to Miami – however, it evolved according to its own logic from an historic beach destination
    [ ] with beach front holiday homes and two storey motels
    [ ]

    The surrounding hinterlands are renowned for their natural beauty.

  3. Tom Turner

    There can be no doubt that high rise accommodation has advantages: privacy, views, fast vertical circulation etc. But like you I can’t help thinking there must be a better way of doing it.
    There is a famous estate in London (Heygate ) which is soon be knocked down. It is actually rather fine: the buildings are sculptural and they had a very good landscape architect (Michael Brown) to deal with the external space. The big problem was that there were no concierges in the blocks and the residents were often low income families with children. I still can’t understand why they don’t convert the estate for ‘young urban professionals’.

  4. Christine

    Definitely a challenge for any design professional if they decided not to demolish![ ] There are ground floor dwelling units with private gardens that could accommodate families. Also there seems to be potential for roof gardens. One of Corbusier’s earliest ideas for this style of living was two storey apartments. Perhaps this typology would be more appropriate for the majority of the highrise dwelliings? The top floor apartments might perhaps remain as compact as they are – and be more suitable to urban singles and students?

  5. Tom Turner

    I think they Heygate estate could be modified or a different socio-economic group, unless there are structural problems.
    Le Corbusier had his heart in the right place when it came to gardens and landscapes but I wonder if, like Lutyens, he was not a person who used such places in his everyday life – and therefore did not understand them very well.

  6. Christine

    Do you mean that Le Corbusier didn’t understand gardens and landscapes very well or highrise living? He probably had some experience of gardens and landscapes, but he was undoubtably breaking new ground in imaging the possibilities for highrise living.

    In her book ‘Icons of Twentieth Century Landscape Design’ Katie Campbell says in his design for Villa Savoy (a single occupancy dwelling) Corbusier proposed a radical new approach to landscape design (p26);

    “Turning away from nature he substituted architecture for horticulture, replacing the garden with an outdoor terrace, transforming the garden path into an interior promenade and reducing the landscape into a series of framed views.”

    And for highrise dwellings (p26);

    “No longer invited into the garden to explore and experience nature first hand, Corbusier expected his clients to observe nature from the lofty heights of their glass and concrete towers.”

    I am not sure of the genesis of his approach to the landscape (and it seems ambiguous)…but it is certainly interesting in that his approach is a clear break from all that had preceeded him?

  7. Tom Turner

    Yes, I agree with Katie Campbell. Corbusier shows every sign of having enjoyed distant views of gardens and landscapes – but not of having wanted to spend time growing plants, holding parties, playing with children, riding horses or any of the other things one does in gardens and parks.

  8. Christine

    Yes. It is interesting that Corbusier’s focus on the ‘garden’ was intimately related to his ideas about architecture and urbanism. It is worth reading Corbusier’s recommendations on building support (piloti) and roof garden’s from this extract of ‘The Five Points Towards a New Architecture’ (1926).[ ]

    So he was more influenced by ideas of taming the car rather than enjoying the horse!

  9. Tom Turner

    I enjoyed reading Corbusier (for the first time for a long time) and was (1) pleased to find him so wise on the subject of roof vegetation (2) interested to find him so explicit on the application of a scientific method to design (one wonders how he would distinguish supporting and non-supporting elements in shell construction)


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *