Cities need Goldilocks housing density – not too high or low, but just right

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Cities need Goldilocks housing density – not too high or low, but just right
The view from New York's tallest residential skyscraper, One57 on to Central Park / © Christina Horsten/dpa/Alamy Live News
Cities need Goldilocks housing density – not too high or low, but just right
The view from New York’s tallest residential skyscraper, One57 on to Central Park / © Christina Horsten/dpa/Alamy Live News

The trend for elite towers that reach ever skywards isn’t healthy for a sustainable community or for a balanced quality of life

In London, Boris Johnson brushes aside opposition to a new development scheme at Convoys Wharf that might threaten the remains of the Royal Dockyard at Deptford. He says: “We need to build thousands of new homes in the capital and proposals to do that at Convoys Wharf have stalled for far too long.”

In Toronto, where I live, theatre impresario David Mirvish (whose dad owned the Old Vic) is knocking down four designated heritage buildings to build three 85-storey Frank Gehry towers. But as Chris Hume of the Toronto Star notes, “There are two types of heritage, let’s not forget: one we inherit; the other we bequeath.”

In New York, sleek new towers for the tenth of the 1% are rising through previously sacrosanct height limits. These are hugely expensive to build, but get such high prices that there seems to be no limit to how high or how skinny they can go. Critic Michael Kimmelman sums up the problem in one sentence: “Exceptional height should be earned, not bought.”

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