Bad shadows from building up

Built in 1915, the 38-storey Equitable Building at 120 Broadway New York put neighbouring buildings in its shade.

The construction of Paris’s modern 56-storey Montparnasse Tower, of large proportions and monolithic appearance, resulted in the banning of buildings over seven storeys high in the city centre.

If you visit the Pembroke St entrance to the Elizabeth Rothwell Building at Waikato Hospital campus, you will sometimes feel a significant and unpleasant wind around this building. Gehl Architects explain this phenomenon in their report for Apeldoorn 2009 Public Spaces and Public Life (page 64, Conflicts with public life)

‘One of the problems with high buildings is the microclimatic conditions created at the base. When strong winds meet a tall free-standing building turbulence and fast down-winds will sweep the nearby streets in unpredictable ways. Fast winds lower the temperature of streets and public spaces, minimising the comfort for people walking or staying nearby and effectively preventing public life. Additionally, high-rise casts long shadows, limiting the recreational values of city streets and squares. However grand it may appear as both skyline and from within its apartments or offices, poorly placed and designed high-rise buildings can render public space useless as a place for public life activities. The inevitable result is public space with an absence of public life’.

from google

Tall buildings are a high risk venture; as an example, in the 1980s Hamilton built the Government Life building, which was designed to be the largest and tallest building in Hamilton. It creates a five o’clock shadow over Ward Street: do people find this attractive?

Victoria on the River is a focal point for people in the city centre and links the centre to the river, yet here again, a tall building casts an afternoon shadow over a great terraced seating area.

Image from VOTR a finalist for architecture award

Tall buildings create shadows. Do we want more shadows? We also need to ask: Do higher buildings deliver higher densities than mid-rise buildings? Do higher buildings create unpleasant winds for people at street level? Do tall buildings make the central city a place where people love to be?

Category: News

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