By Mark Lee

With MIPIM UK coming to a close at Olympia, the talk of London’s continued property boom continues apace. Our clients across the capital boast remarkable stories of quick sales of premium apartments. Phase one at Almacantar’s Centre Point went in days, CIT had sold two thirds of apartments at Southbank Tower a year in advance, while at Canary Wharf they sold 200 apartments at prices between £350,000 and £1.25m in only four hours during the summer.

Sometimes it can seem like a task to get the issue of affordable housing on the table at all, but the international architects SOM have been exploring this very challenge and asked us to bring their concept to life in an animation.

SOM’s answer will surprise some: Don’t dismiss the high rise, but let’s reinvent it.

To some, the timing is interesting considering Glasgow has just demolished the last of its infamous Red Road Flats earlier this month. Eight, 30 floor, multi-storey blocks completed in 1969 with the aim of solving Glasgow’s housing crisis.

These were to be home to 4,700 people but became a modern day embarrassment.

SOM have developed a completely new take on an old problem; ‘Intelligent Densities, Vertical Communities’. They’ve looked at the growth of the London population, set to increase from 8.5m to 10m by 2030. Their designers have also looked at the density of the city in comparison to other ‘liveable’ cities like Barcelona and San Francisco. The conclusion is that London is not really that dense. Density isn’t so much the problem, it’s more the fact that Londoners don’t want to live in a high rise. Perceptions are poor, based on historical precedents.

The current ‘high rise’ stock is not fit for purpose. It does not suit the mix and diversity in socio economic backgrounds, such as families to empty nesters, young professionals to retired singles.

SOM’s inspired modular approach allows for different sizes and configurations, dependent on different needs: a studio space for a single person starting out, a three-bedroomed apartment for a family. In other words, it’s practical and could allow for the creation of a community and shared amenity spaces. It would also encourage the type of diverse mix that is required to allow these places to flourish. We feel this is one of the main reasons why the ideas have longevity.

As an agency, this is a topic close to our hearts, and one that our research and insight team are currently researching.  We recently completed a website project for Future Cities Catapult called CITIE, which looked at the most attractive global cities for tech start ups.

As people shift to the cities, and especially the super cities, how do we ensure that we retain and build that sense of place? Keep in touch @uniformtweets and on our website to read our thoughts in the coming weeks. 

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